Salespeople are often told to sell benefits, not features. But the distinction can sometimes feel blurry. Is the product’s ability to scale with a prospect’s growth a feature or a benefit? What about its best-of-class quality? Or its ease of use?
Understanding the difference between features and benefits is crucial to a rep’s success.
Features bore prospects, but benefits convince them to buy. Fortunately, there’s a simple test salespeople can use to tell the two apart.
How to Sell Benefits Rather Than Features
The Difference Between Features and Benefits
The easiest way to tell if something is a feature or benefit is to ask yourself how universal it is.
Features are generic, while benefits are personalized. If something is a feature, every customer can take advantage of it. A benefit, on the other hand, usually applies to a specific subset of customers -- sometimes, a single customer.
Here’s an example:
Feature: “Our platform automatically records your meetings. The editing tools make it easy to remove background noise, clip unnecessary sections, and flag key sections of the recording. Once you’ve finished editing, you can send the file to all the meeting attendees with one click.”
Benefit for Buyer #1: “Since your company values transparency, I’d like to show you our recording feature. Every meeting is automatically recorded. At the end of your day, it’ll take two seconds to send the audio files to each group of attendees and upload them to your company server. Everyone on your team will have full clarity into your meetings.”
Benefit for Buyer #2: “You’ve mentioned how much time you spend after every meeting writing a summary for your stakeholders. With our platform, you can get almost all that time back. Every meeting is recorded. You can send the audio file as is, or easily clean it up, cut it down, or call out important sections, with our editing tools. The entire process will take 5 minutes rather than half an hour.”
How to Reframe Features as Benefits
Reps cannot properly explain their product’s benefits without knowing their buyer’s goals, challenges, and desires. As the above example shows, what appeals to one prospect might not resonate with another.
Asking the right discovery questions is necessary but not sufficient. Once salespeople have properly assessed their prospect’s situation, they must map each feature to their prospect’s needs. The link between capability and problem or desire turns a feature into a benefit.
It may be helpful for reps to ask themselves, “So what?”
For example, let’s say a salesperson is pitching her user research firm’s services to the head of product at a startup.
Her original statement might be: “We handle every stage of the user research process, from finding participants and designing questions to analyzing the results and creating a report.”
She asks herself, “So what?”
That question leads the salesperson to add: “You’ve mentioned how quickly your team needs to move. By outsourcing the user research process, you can take products from idea to launch at least two weeks faster -- which will give you a huge competitive advantage.”
Answering the silent “So what?” in their explanation forces salespeople to personalize their messaging.
When Explaining Benefits, Quality Beats Quantity
Salespeople are often tempted to explain every feature of their product. Yes, prospects want to get their money’s worth -- but they usually don’t equate more features with higher value.
When a rep throws the kitchen sink at the buyer, two things happen. First, the buyer feels like the salesperson doesn’t truly “get” him or his situation. He’s invested time and energy into answering the rep’s questions, so why is he getting a one-size-fits-all explanation?
Second, the salesperson inadvertently deemphasizes the details that truly matter to her prospect. If she spends five minutes on two points, she can highlight why those items are so important. Yet if she spends that same five minutes on four points, she can’t explore them to the same degree. Rather than learning about two things that really interest him, the buyer gets a rushed discussion of two things that interest him and two things he doesn’t care about.
The takeaway? To successfully sell benefits, salespeople must leave out the information that doesn’t pertain to their prospect. Before they provide a new detail, they should ask themselves, “Will this aspect of the product help the buyer achieve their goals or alleviate their pain?” If the answer is no, they should skip it.
Prospects usually don’t pull the trigger unless they can see how the product will improve their lives. To make this vision clearer, reps should focus on selling benefits instead of features.