Prospective customers are more likely to value your offering if you communicate its benefits, instead of just its features. But not all perceived benefits are valuable to every customer. Learn how to identify and communicate the unique benefits that will help each customer meet their objectives.

The Problem

Since the concept was first introduced in E.K. Strong’s 1925 book The Psychology of Selling and Advertising, sales and marketing advice encourages salespeople to emphasize benefits over features.

Features describe your offering, while benefits describe their impact on the user. For example, if you were a car dealership, you would want to emphasize that vehicles with all-wheel drive (a feature) make it safer to drive in the snow (a benefit).

The belief behind explaining benefits, instead of features, is that the customer can better imagine how the offering will be valuable to them.

This advice often overlooks an important nuance: “benefits” don’t make the offering seem more valuable if the customer doesn’t need or desire that benefit. It’s not beneficial if it solves a problem they don’t have. To continue with the vehicle example, the benefit of a vehicle being safer to drive in the snow is unlikely to be valuable to someone moving to Florida next month.

The Solution

In the sales classic, Spin Selling, author Neil Rackham uses the term “advantages” to describe how a feature addresses a problem that a customer may or may not have (an implicit problem). Rackham uses the term “benefits” to describe how a feature addresses a specific problem stated by a customer (an explicit problem).

When communicating with an individual customer, aim to share benefits as described by Rackham: those that solve an explicit problem for that specific customer. This is why sales conversations begin by identifying a customer’s situation and problem; beginning this way gives you the information you need to propose solutions that most benefit that customer.

Communicating benefits has a measurable positive impact on high-dollar sales. Communicating advantages after you’ve identified an explicit problem wastes valuable time and risks the customer perceiving that you’re more oriented toward your own offerings than to their needs.

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