Category: Sales

Jan 29 2014

Features and Benefits – Are They The Same?

features vs benefits

Customers Buy Benefits

“Pick up that ashtray from the table and sell it to me.” Those were my instructions for the exercise. I was at my first sales training for a summer sales job. We were getting into the real “stuff” of selling that morning. We were learning how to sell cookware. The company was about to unleash 150 or more of us college students to start knocking doors and setting new sales records. It was my chance to show the other students that I knew how to sell. After all, I was a college student… I knew everything!

An ashtray? How hard could this be? I picked it up, admired it for a moment, then started describing it in great detail to the class. I talked about the beautiful color highlights, the smooth glass-like finish, the fine detail of the etching around the bottom. For the next 90 seconds, I described every possible detail. I handled it as though it was a piece of fine art. I was convinced even the non-smokers in the room would want to start smoking just to be able to use such a beautiful ashtray!

And then the moment of truth. Our instructor asked if anyone in the room felt compelled to own the ashtray. Two hands went up. Only two. I thought I was in a room full of zombies. How could they NOT want such a cool ashtray! My sales pitch was flawless. I didn’t say “um” even once.

OK, so maybe I didn’t know everything. As it turns out, no one cared what I was saying. I was listing all the features of the ashtray. – the color, size, weight, etc. None of that mattered because I didn’t tell them why those features would benefit them. While I was rattling off features, they were thinking, “Yeah, so what. What’s in it for me?” They saw no benefit for themselves.

That’s a huge lesson for any salesperson or marketer trying to sell a product or idea.

Customers Buy Benefits, Not Features.

A typical computer salesperson goes on and on about how much memory a machine has, how big the hard drive is, the speed of the processor , and on and on. Most people will stare blankly while they try to figure out what it all means. Those are features. They want to know what it means to them. How will it benefit them? They want to hear the machine will run fast. They want to know it has plenty of room to store their massive music library. They want to know they can run several programs at the same time without the machine blowing up. They Want To Know The Benefits!

The next time you find yourself describing a feature, use this simple “SO THAT” formula:

This product has {feature}, SO THAT you can {benefit}.

Simple, isn’t it? There really is a difference between features and benefits. Your thoughts?

Apr 06 2010

Selling Is A Waste Of Time

Do you like being sold? I bet you don’t.

Do you like having someone tell you what you need? Probably not.

How do you feel when a salesperson tries to tell you what’s best for you? Most likely you will feel insulted.

Then why do so many business owners do this to their customers? Why do we do the very things that make us mad? Do you use the excuse “because it’s always been done that way”?

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to selling, when instead, I should be finding out what people want and trying to get it for them.

Selling Is A Waste Of Time!

Fine. So what is the alternative? After all, you’ve always been told nothing happens in business until something is sold.

Here’s a formula I learned from my mentor when I was building my entertainment business. There was a joke around magicians that he was “the busiest magician that no one ever heard of”. He used these steps to quietly build his empire. It worked for me. I still use the principles today in an entirely different industry.

  1. Find out “where” your prospect is today.
  2. Determine where they would rather be.
  3. Ask them what will happen if they don’t don’t change their situation.
  4. Get a commitment that they are ready for a change.
  5. Offer a solution to help make the change happen.

Now you’re not “selling”. This approach is more like an interview process. The key is that when they explain to you what their problem is and what the consequences are, they not only tell you, but they also convince themselves. Then you determine if you can help them. When you talk to a friend about a problem they’re having you ask a lot of questions, don’t you?

A veteran salesperson will say I’m wrong and likely accuse me of oversimplifying the sales process. They will tell me “You don’t understand my industry… it’s different”.  Really? I’m ready to hear why.

It starts with a simple change in the way you look at the sales process. If you think sales is about twisting arms, poking eyes, and badgering people into buying your ideas, you may get a sale now and then. I doubt it will last. If, on the other hand you approach sales as an interview process to determine and then solve a problem, your prospect will believe you and be happy to “buy” your solution.

Do you sell your customers, or do they buy from you? As always, your comments are welcome.

Apr 02 2010

Close The Sale With A Standing Ovation

standing ovation
n. an enthusiastic outburst of applause during which those in the crowd or audience rise to their feet.

A standing ovation for an entertainer is the ultimate acknowledgment from his audience. Every performer craves it whether or not they like to admit it. The big “O” is the grand prize in show business.

The final moments of a performance are critical for success. It’s the feeling you leave with your audience that will make or break a performer. It’s good business! When someone who didn’t see the show asks “How was it?” or “Was he any good?”, without hearing anything else about the show, if he finds out there was a standing ovation, nothing more need be said.

It’s no different with traditional business. When you complete a sale the last moments are what your customer will remember. The last thing that happens in the sales process, the feeling the customer is left with will be remembered above all else. It makes sense to build up to the applause, to keep them coming back.

I’m fascinated by watching magicians and how they boost their chances of getting people to their feet with applause. There are tricks of the trade to close a show. It should go without saying that a performer either deserves an ovation or he doesn’t. If the show is terrible, clever tactics to get applause mean nothing. As a business owner you deserve praise from your customers only if you provide a service that delivers on your promises.

A magician structures his act to ensure as exciting a climax as possible. Only then will applause-getting tactics be of use. Your business must operate in a way that gives your customers as many benefits as possible to create a feeling of trust at the time of the sale.

Let’s assume you have a good product that solves a needed problem. You also have a support system in place to take care of your customer after a sale. Now we can borrow some tricks from the magic world. Ken Weber in his book Maximum Entertainment talks about ways to get applause.

Don’t Leave The Stage Immediately

A good performer takes a bow and stays for as long as the applause is peaking. Only when he hears the slightest lessening of applause will he leave the stage.

After completing a sale, your customer wants to know they made the right decision. They are more concerned about YOU. Did you really solve their problem? Are you going to be available if something goes wrong? Be sure to stay long enough to answer any follow-up questions.

After A Bow, Extend Your Arms To The Audience

This technique borders on being insincere if done poorly. After bowing, the performer extends his arms to the side, palms up. It’s the motion you would make if you were actually asking your audience to stand… but instead of the full motion, the performer just starts it slightly. His hands will only move about an inch or two without being obvious.

In your business, see if you can get your customer to tell you why they bought your product without coming right out and asking. An easy way to do this is ask which feature they’ll be using first. When they answer they will repeat the benefits and what is meaningful to them. If you did your job correctly by selling benefits, it will be easy to confirm for themself why they made a purchase.

Acknowledge The People Who Stand

A performer give immediate attention to the first person or two who stands with applause, extending his arms directly to them and says “Thank You”.  It’s contagious. Other people will want to join in.

If you have testimonials from previous customers, thank them and share their story with your new buyers. In a group sales settings, always let existing customers talk about your product. It creates excitement for your new prospects.


Going for the standing ovation after a sale is a sure way to start an ongoing relationship. As long as you have a worthwhile product or service that does exactly as promised, why not try to get some praise? It’s what they will remember most.

How do you get applause in your business? Please share some of your tips in the comments below.