Product Features vs. Product Benefits

What are the differences between your product's features and your product's benefits?

Learn how to use your product's benefits to advance the sales process.
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How do you know when to use a product's features or product's benefits during the sales cycle?

2007 David A. Peterson

Average sales reps tend to accidentally mess up these two words in the sales cycle. The words are - features and benefits. In fact these two words are so loosely used by the average reps that they often say them together really fast, almost as if they were one word "features&benefits."

In reality they are two very important but two very different words. Knowing when and how to use them in the sales cycle can make the difference in converting a prospect into a customer.

Features are unique characteristics that your product has to offer a prospect. They are often listed on the retail box or placed on sales pamphlets that are left with the prospect. Many times they are bullet point after bullet point of exactly what your product or service provides. 

Without Features your product would look just like everyone else's product in the marketplace.

Benefits are what the unique characteristics of your product can actually do for a person or business. Benefits are how your features will help the prospect conduct their business in an easier, faster, or even more profitable manner. 

If Features are line after line of unique characteristics that your customers may need, then Benefits are the hooks that catch the customers and makes them want  your product over your competitors.

During a typical sales cycle of open, probe, pitch, and close you will undoubtedly hear the needs that your product's features can fill. Average sales reps will seize on the feature that can best help the prospect. They will then pitch the appropriate feature that fills the need.

Example #1:

Prospect: "Jimmy thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate that you call month after month trying to get my business. But as I told you countless times before I need the new computer you are trying to sell me to be at least 3Ghz."

Average Sales Rep: "Mr. Smith as I have mentioned before my new dual core computer runs at 3.5 GHz and has 2 GB of Ram. It has the fastest video card produced and comes with dual monitors for free."

Prospect: "Jimmy I just need to shop around."

Average Sales Rep: "Please do; you will find our product is the best. Do you mind if I follow-up with you?..."

What happened? Why didn't Mr. Smith buy the new computer? All of the features that he needed were there. They were all uncovered correctly in the probing section of the sales cycle. Still - no sale?

The opportunity for the average sales rep is to realize that prospects do not buy on features alone. They need to be convinced that A: They actually need those features, even though they said they needed them, and B: That those features can do something that can help the prospect advance his/her business. 

Professional sales reps take a widely known secret and use it on every call. Prospects do not buy on features alone they buy on the benefit that those unique characteristics provide.

Example #2:

Prospect: "Sammy thanks for hearing me out. I need the new computer you are trying to sell me to be at least 3 GHz."

Professional Sales Rep: "Mr. Smith I understand the need for computing speed in today's marketplace. The features of my product go above and beyond what your business needs. However my product will also benefit you by allowing you to be much more productive which should in turn allow you to leave the workplace at a normal hour. Not only will you be able to leave work on time but your stress level will probably drop in half with this much computing power."

Prospect: "I certainly want better working hours and less stress. So you can give both of those to me...?"

The point of the two examples is that prospects rarely buy on features alone. Features just fill the prospects needs. Professional Sales Reps realize that they have to make their prospects want their product and their product only. So they make their prospect want their product by showing how the benefits will actually improve that person's business or in the case above improve their life.

Really, who doesn't want better hours, or better working conditions? How about something that saves them money? It's not the features that will make the sale, it is what those features will do for the individual you are selling that will allow the deal to progress.

You need both features and benefits in the sales cycle. Typically you will be defining a customers needs in the probing cycle. You will be evaluating which of your product's features would best help fill the customer's needs while you are probing. 

Then during the pitching section of the sales cycle you will restate their needs and make them want your product.  How do you make them want it? By showing how your product benefits them as an individual. By painting a picture with the benefits the prospect will actually want your product over your competitor.

If you are an average sales rep start listening to your pitch. Did you list out all of the features of your product during the call? Or, did you paint a picture of how those features will benefit the individual you were talking to?

It's not "features&benefits," it's identify which features they need then provide them the benefits of those features!


David Peterson

David Peterson

Author of: 

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