Selling Features vs. Selling Benefits: The Big Difference

By , February 25, 2015

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of retail business owners last month. We discussed a variety of different topics and I explained how it could help them make their businesses more profitable. One of the more interesting points of the evening was very well received and I felt it was worth sharing.

It’s something that you’ll benefit from, even if you’re not a retailer. So I’ve decided to email you the basic details and hope you’ll make use of it in both life and business.

I began my talk by asking the audience this simple question: “We all know what selling is. But do you know the difference between selling features and selling benefits?”

There were a few good answers called out by the attendees, but none were entirely accurate. So here is what I told them.

People, by nature, are always asking themselves: “What’s in it for me?” Whether it’s a potential customer, a boss, a child, or a friend you are interacting with – they’ve often got their own interests in mind. No matter what you’re trying to get them to agree to, they may resist your advances. So you’ve got to make a little sales pitch of sorts. You can choose to sell them on the features or you can choose to sell them on the benefits.

Here’s the critical difference.

A feature is a technical fact about a product or service. But the feature alone won’t fully tell you how you’ll actually benefit. For example, if an appliance salesman told you to that there are three types of ovens on sale, you’d probably ask what the difference is between them. He may tell you that one oven has convection technology; one has heated coil elements; and one has a rustproof coating. That is called selling features. What he told you won’t motivate you or say how you’ll actually benefit from this unique feature.

Now let’s replace that feature-based salesman with one who sells real benefits.

You’d ask him what the difference is between all three ovens. Firstly, he’d ask why you need an oven and how you plan on using it. Based on your answer, he’d tell you that one oven bakes food faster and saves you time; one oven uses less energy and lowers your gas bill; and one oven is rustproof and never needs cleaning. If you’re a working mom with no time to spare, he’d suggest you choose the first option. If you’re on a tight budget or hate cleaning things, he’d direct you toward the other two.

All because he knew how to ask the right question, inform you about the feature that would work best for your lifestyle, and then land the sale by suggesting you buy it to simplify your life.

As you can plainly see, talking about benefits is much more powerful than talking about features.

Benefits allow the recipient to paint a picture in their mind of how they’ll actually benefit from their purchase: fresh cookies, baked quicker, using less gas, making no mess. Sounds worthwhile, right? Wouldn’t you rather buy that sales pitch, compared to a scientific-sounding sales lecture about “convection technology,” which tells you nothing about its importance or how it will help your daily routine go smoother.

This concept applies to more than just ovens, though. If I wanted to sell somebody a mattress, I’d keep in mind that the consumer doesn’t want to buy a product; they want to buy a good night’s sleep. If I want my child to eat his potatoes and broccoli, I wouldn’t tell him that he has to eat because it’s healthy; I’d say how he’ll have more energy to do better in school. This concept applies to every area of life – but especially the workplace.

Here are some Ptex Practical Pointers to help you focus more on pushing benefits and less on pushing features.

Ask Good Questions: In order to sell benefits, you’ve got to understand what the other person considers a benefit to be. That begins by asking good questions to understand what they want and why they want it. The reason why a teenager wants a car is very different then why a senior citizen wants one. Figure out the underlying motive, and then push the benefit that’s most relevant.

Tell More Stories: When showing the benefits of a service or product, think of it like telling a story. Describe a situation in which the feature was actually a benefit to a person, and use that as a bridge to make an “emotional sale” to the person listening – they now become just like that person in the story.

Use Bold Pictures: As a general rule, pictures will show benefits better than words do. There’s a reason why so many auto body shops advertise “before” and “after” photos of the cars they’ve repaired. The final benefit is there, in full color, for the public to see and identify.

The reality is, it often happens in business that we get fixated on features. Whether you’re trying to convince a client to accept the proposal or a teammate to accept your idea, it’s only by pushing the benefits – clearly addressing the how’s and why’s of their everyday needs – and using that information to assertively close the sale, that you’ll start boosting your business numbers and achievements.

It can make all the difference.

Onwards and upwards,

Meny Hoffman

P.S. Looking to motivate and train your team? I’m available to come down in person. Feel free to reply to this email and talk to me about it.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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