Highlight the features, emphasize the benefits

The majority of people are looking for a solution when they are on the hunt for a product or service.

The majority of people are looking for a solution when they are on the hunt for a product or service. If they do not see that in the messages you are communicating, then it is you who has the problem and the one who needs to find a solution. With not too much effort here’s how you can turn things around.

Time after time we are taught, in the world of marketing, the importance of not just highlighting the features but emphasizing the benefits. If prospects can’t readily identify with the benefits you provide, they are likely to move on stopping with the first company that relates to what their needs may be. Your first objective or goal then is to do or say something that will attract attention.

The best way to do this is to first identify what their problems are and then clearly articulate how you can provide a solution. Remember anyone and everyone who purchases a product or service does so because it will satisfy a need or solve a problem.

Sounds pretty basic but so many companies and entrepreneurs highlight product or service features and then forget to tell the customer how these features translate into benefits. Often these two words — features and benefits — are confused and loosely used in sales pitches.

Understanding the difference is the key to successful selling.

Features quite simply are the characteristics that establish just what your product or service is. In the case of products they are often listed in bullet form on the side of the box. As for services they are usually itemized on a page in a pamphlet.

Benefits on the other hand show exactly what your product or service can do to satisfy a need. They show how your product or service can be used to save time, reduce stress or make the prospect’s job easier and in some cases more profitable.

I’ve said this before: for the most part, customers don’t care about you, they care more about what you can do for them. If you don’t know what is important to your customers then it does not matter how many features you list. Listing features assumes that your customers can translate them into benefits. You are asking them to do all the work when the reality is that customers want you to do the work. They want you to show them exactly how they will benefit. They want you to show them how purchasing your product or service will solve their problem or fill their needs.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do to help focus on using the benefits to make a sale.

First, make a list of every feature your product or service has to offer.

Second, now ask yourself why each feature is included in terms of offering a benefit.

Third, in looking at the benefits, ask yourself how they will connect with the needs of your target prospects.

Four, develop a number of benefit statements that you can use when speaking to different customers. Remember not all of your customers have the same needs. Take a lesson from the car manufacturers. When selling family SUVs, dad may be interested in power and a sporty road handling feel, while mom may be more interested in safety and convenience, so they build their sales messages accordingly.

And last but not least, try to include some emotional appeal in order to motivate them to reach for their wallets or the order form which of course will be a benefit to you.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at joesmith@shaw.ca.

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