Every time you can add value, price becomes less important.

Photo courtesy of Klaff’s

I recently had two jobs that made me more aware than ever that too many companies and salespeople really do not understand the importance of learning to “sell” the features and benefits of their products and services.

The first job was an all-day showroom-selling workshop for a third-generation, family-owned Arkansas-based plumbing wholesaler with seven branches and three showrooms. I used the ASA “Essentials of Showroom Selling” workbook I wrote as a guideline. I went through the steps in the selling process and we did some great role-playing. However, when we covered the section on “Presenting Your Products and Services,” I recognized once again that the folks could recite the many great features about the fine products they sell, but they struggled when it came to relating the benefits the customers would receive from the features being described. These folks are not alone. Unfortunately, most salespeople also fall short in this very important area.

The second job I’m still working on is consulting with one of the country’s leading decorative faucet manufacturers. These folks have a great-looking, diverse product line. They fall into the mid to low high-end price range and have six or eight competitors that offer a similar product line, pricing and service. This fine, family-owned company does a good job of marketing the many features of its products and services, but like most manufacturers, it falls short in relating what the benefits of these features are to its end users.

Since I perceive this to be a problem shared by most folks in our decorative plumbing and hardware industry, I thought I’d try to explain the difference between features and benefits and why it’s so very important to learn how to sell both sides of the equation. Those who learn the difference and start doing a better job selling the benefits will see their sales increase. I guarantee it!

The True Meaning

A good place to start is with a definition of both terms. I’ll use a couple definitions to help get the message across. The “feature” is many times described as the mechanical aspect of the product or service. The “benefit” is how those features will enhance the life of the customer.

Think of the feature as facts! Think of the benefit as information that compels your customer to buy the product. A feature is a characteristic of a product. A benefit explains what the customer has to gain by buying the product.

It’s easy to make a list of product features, but it takes a bit more work to convert each of those features into benefits. The key is to be able to tell your clients exactly what each feature means to them. We all know that all clients constantly ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” or “That’s a nice feature, but what’s it going to do for me?”

Think of a benefit as to why a product is good. A benefit is something you should list in sales and marketing materials (i.e., it is why your clients should buy, not what they are buying).

I’m constantly reviewing marketing brochures on products from several manufacturers. In my opinion, the brochures do a great job reciting the many features of products, but they do a less-than-good job relating how those features translate to benefits for the end user. To say a faucet has a PVD finish is a great feature, but it doesn’t tell the customer anything. You have to explain what a PVD finish is and why it is important to the client: It has a lifetime finish, lifetime warranty, will not tarnish, etc. 

To say a shower valve has a “rite temp” valve is nice, but it won’t mean anything to your customers until you explain what it means to them personally: constant temperature and anti-scald. When manufacturers fall short in putting customer benefits next to features, it is up to you to fill that void.

Implementing The Plan

Each product you carry has a list of features. Get your team together and make a list of the benefits to go with them. More important, relate the benefits to your clients. You will add value to the process. Every time you can add value, you make price become less important.

Start doing at your showroom what we do in my selling workshop. Do some actual role-playing on presenting your products. Have one person play the customer and another be the sales consultant. Go up to a faucet wall and have the salesperson recite the featuresandbenefits of the products. Do the same thing with whirlpool tubs, vessels, water closets and all other important products in your showroom.

Feature                                                                 Benefit
Third-generation, family-owned                      More personal; not a big conglomerate
75 years in business                                         Here for you in the long-term
Largest wholesaler in Arkansas                      Buying power – extend benefits to you
Largest, nicest showrooms                              Best selection
Best-trained salespeople                                 Eliminates problems;
                                                                                Easy, fun buying experience  

You should also develop a sales pitch that recites the many features and benefits of your company. Here’s an example of what we developed for the wholesaler in Arkansas.

Get your team together and develop your list of company features and benefits (values) and be consistent in presenting them to your potential clients. Use them in ALL of your marketing: ads, websites, social media, brochures, etc. Most important, be sure every employee knows how to “brag” about your company. People like winners - so be sure to tell folks that you are one!

Here’s a nice, comfortable phrase you can use when talking with clients and want to relate what the features and benefits are. Tell them what the feature is and then say, “And this is what it means to you.”

Two often-used phrases that help explain the difference between features and benefits are:
    1. “Features tell. Benefits sell.”
    2. “Features are about the product. Benefits are about the user.”

You and I have been confronted by too many pushy salespeople. They want to keep rattling off the features of their products, but they forget the selling process isn’t about the product. It’s about the customer.

Man's Best Friend

There is an old story I love involving marketing and selling. A large manufacturer of dog food decided to come out with the “best of the best.” It put years of study into coming up with the most nutritional food. It developed the best packaging and distribution. It spent loads of money on advertising and marketing, yet the best of the best did not sell. 

So the company called together the wholesalers and the marketing team. The CEO asked the gathered crowd if the company had the most nutritional, best-looking, best-packaged and best-advertised dog food ever put out there. Everyone agreed that, yes, it did. The CEO asked the next obvious question, “Why isn’t it selling?” A hand went up in the back of the room. A new sales rep from some small, remote territory said, “I believe I know why sales are flat.”

The CEO responded, “What could it possibly be?” 

The rep replied, “The darn dogs don’t like it.” 

So what’s the moral of the story? The company had built in all the best features and benefits, but failed to check whether its customers liked the product. Please be sure in your selling process that you know what is important to your clients and then concentrate on those things.

You as salespeople have to be less focused on yourself and more focused on your clients. Forget the commission involved. Forget the spiff being offered. Forget your monthly sales goals. Concentrate on your customers! Focus on them. Give them what they want and what’s important to them. If you do that, all the perks will automatically start to come your way.

Good Selling!