Across the varied and unique sales strategies that exist to encourage interested consumers to purchase a product or service, feature benefit selling is perhaps the best approach for business owners who wish to frame their product in a way that customers will both understand and respond to.
This article will explain the difference between features and benefits, and it will provide sales professionals with the guidance needed to incorporate a feature benefit selling strategy into their approach.
To simplify the concept of features vs benefits, we can think of features in relatively plain and commonsense terms: features are attributes of a product or service that do not identify any general benefits for the customer. For example, product features are the technical details of a product, such as four-wheel drive for an automobile.
Benefits, on the other hand, are more consumer-specific.
Benefits identify the specific functionality and advantages of a product or service on the real lives of users. Benefits can be used to attract prospective customers through marketing campaigns. Benefits answer the question so what? for the potential customer. An example of a product benefit is the efficiency of using four-wheel drive during a snowstorm, since this is a possible reason a customer might buy this product. Thus, sales approaches which utilize feature benefit selling are often the most successful.
A feature benefit matrix is a document used in feature benefit selling that is often set up as a grid. The feature benefit matrix is a helpful resource that highlights the differences between features vs benefits and that can be used to develop sales strategies. The first column in a feature benefit matrix lists the features of a product or service, while the next two to three columns identify examples of benefits. Additional columns may include calls-to-action. This format allows sales professionals to identify the benefits of their product’s features in one, consolidated overview.
|Feature||Benefit A||Benefit B||Benefit C||Call to Action|
|Rechargeable batteries||Saves money due to a lower lifetime cost||Convenient to recharge||Sustainable for the environment||Buy now!|
In the buying and selling process, there is constant tension between how salespeople want to sell vs how buyers want to buy. Salespeople must keep this tension in mind, and they should be proactive in their sales approach and think like their ideal customer to encourage more sales and attain business goals. Likewise, salespeople should consider different sales approaches to boost sales for different types of customers. There are three levels of sales approaches that one can consider when evaluating a target audience:
- Feature Selling
- Feature/Benefit Selling
- Feature/Benefit/Value Selling
A good salesperson needs to know the differences between these approaches and know which approach to apply in a given situation.
Salespeople typically sell by highlighting a product’s features throughout the sales process. Armed with all the particular details about their product or service, they go on and on about the features offered. For example, salespeople might use phrases such as:
- “It’s the newest . . .”
- “It’s the smallest . . .”
- “It has no competitive rival . . .”
- “With our new MD-60 feature, you will just love how it works . . .”
- “Our analyst has twenty years of experience . . .”
Many salespeople have no idea that feature selling is the least effective sales approach, and in focusing on features alone, they do not take advantage of all the good things their product or service does. Because a customer cannot connect themselves to a feature—by definition, an abstract quality at a remove from the customer—it is almost always more valuable to the potential customer to give examples of benefits connected to product features. One exception to this rule might be when dealing with a customer who is already convinced of a product’s benefit and has an extremely high intent to purchase a product or service.
Salespeople who use Feature/Benefit (FB) selling describe a feature of a product or service and identify benefits of that product for prospective customers. Understanding the difference between features vs. benefits is valuable for sellers who want to use Feature/Benefit selling. To give a few examples, phrases to draw in customers in Feature/Benefit selling include:
- “This is our newest feature, and that will mean 20 percent less work for you.”
- “It is now half the size it used to be, so you won’t need those special tools anymore.”
- “It now comes in forty more colors, so you won’t be limited in your selections anymore.”
Feature/Benefit selling comprises over 90 percent of all selling. This strategy gives more detail relevant to the customer’s life by focusing on the product’s benefits rather than only the product’s features.
The most proactivesalespeople use Feature/Benefit/Value (FBV) selling, which is the most effective sales strategy. FBV selling emphasizes both a benefit and a value for every unique feature of a product or service. When attempting to attract customers, it is useful for sellers to consider the answer of their target audience to the question: What’s in it for me? (WIIFM). Real world examples of this marketing strategy are:
- “We have a new level of premium service (feature), and what this means to you is between 20 and 30 percent quicker response to your problems (benefit), saving you up to 10 percent of your current costs (value).”
- “Our new product is 20 percent faster (feature), which means up to 35 percent less time your people will be spending waiting for the machine to get started (benefit), saving you 10 percent overall in manufacturing costs this year (value).”
- “By allowing you access to this new service (feature), you will be able to get your product to market in one-third of the time (benefit), and with 10 percent less risk (value).”
Feature/Benefit/Value selling differs from Feature/Benefit selling since it allows the salesperson to sell effectively to more senior executives in upper-level management, especially through its focus on the WIIFM of the target market. In contrast, FB selling utilizes product descriptions and benefits to convince consumers to appreciate the functionality of a product or service. FB selling is easier, since the seller does not have to find out what the value to the buyer is. Thus, only the specific features and benefits are highlighted in the marketing or sales message.
It is vital to focus on sales strategies that mutually benefit the selling company and the consumer. FB selling involves considering the customer’s so what? and using solution-based sales to sell big ticket items. On the other hand, the FBV selling strategy focuses on ideas and resources that will help business customers make more money.
FBV selling allow sellers to gain an advantage over competitors. In addition, FBV selling helps proactively induce transfer of ownership, since the seller is working with customers to determine the real worth of the solution they are offering. FBV selling is difficult to insert every time, but this tool allows the seller to address the customers’ real problems.
Sales professionals interested in selling benefits, rather than products, should use a feature benefit selling strategy to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns and to make stronger, longer-lasting connections to their customers. Going forward, keep in mind that communicating the particular features of a product is the least effective approach to sales: beyond features, sales professionals need to help their customers understand how the product or service in question would benefit them. By understanding the target audience and using concrete language adapted to the customer’s profile, sales professionals can use a feature/benefit approach to improve their sales and the lives of their customers.
About the author
Skip Miller is President of M3 Learning, a ProActive Sales Management and Sales Training Company based in the heart of Silicon Valley.