Selling Power Magazine Article

Customers Buy Benefits
Charles Surasky
People don't buy a car to own a good-looking sculpture made of steel, plastic and glass. They buy cars to get to work safely, to travel in comfort, to impress the world or to express their good taste.

Yet many salespeople focus their presentations on their product features rather than the benefits of owning the product. When salespeople focus on product features, they speak the manufacturer's language which is of little interest to the buyer.

For example, the new Cadillac Seville STS has a V8 Northstar engine that delivers 300 horsepower. A salesperson might be very excited about these advanced technical characteristics, but what do the terms "STS," "V8" or "Northstar" mean to the average buyer? Customers don't buy any of these features, they buy what these features do for them.

Benefits describe how product features will be useful to the customer. When salespeople focus on benefits, they speak the customer's language. Benefits lead people to think "I want this!" The right benefits can justify the purchase.

For example, one feature of the Northstar engine is that it requires a tune-up only after 100,000 miles. The benefits to the customer? Save time, save on repair costs, enjoy a smooth-running car, enjoy the security of a high-quality engine...

Good salespeople ask the customer key questions long before they talk about features and customer benefits. Why? Because later in the conversation they will match the benefits to their customer's needs.

For example, a salesperson may ask, "What characteristics are important to you?" or "What do you enjoy most about the product you are using right now?" If the customer says, "I want a safe car," the salesperson may turn the 300 horsepower feature into an active safety benefit like, "with this engine you will have an extra edge where you can quickly pull away from a potentially dangerous situation." If the customer says, "I like convenience," the salesperson can highlight the 100,000 mile tune-up feature saying, "you'll be pleased to know that as an added convenience, you won't have to think about tune-ups for the next 100,000 miles."

Remember that customers won't buy unless they realize that they are receiving more value from owning the product than from keeping their money. Most prospects don't care about product features. They care much more about the benefits they will receive from the product. Good salespeople speak the customer's language. They know that features can only explain the price, while benefits explain the value of the product. Good salespeople learn from the customer what justifies the purchase. What justifies a purchase? The salesperson's ability to match the benefits to the customer's needs.
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