It's benefits, not features that clinches the sale...
sell the "sizzle" not the "steak"!

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Selling the sizzle - not the steak

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It's benefits, not features that clinches the sale

When a friend of mine buys a new hatchback car, one of the features he looks for is if it has a low boot (trunk) sill - so that his small dog can easily jump into it! There's no way that a car sales person could guess that without asking my friend precisely what he wants from a car. So - a key hint to sales people: you have two ears and one mouth; use them in the same proportions. Ask questions and listen more than you talk.

But even if the sales person knew that my friend wanted a car with a low boot sill (a feature of the car), it's the benefit that my friend is buying - the fact that his small dog needs only to make a little leap.

'Selling the sizzle, not the steak" - the benefits, not the features - is a basic selling principle that's been around for thousands of years. We all know that people buy a 1/4-inch drill so that they can make a 1/4-inch hole. But I'm always amazed at how many businesses, large and small, keep on plugging the features of their product or service, rather than the benefits.

  • Engineers list the technical specs
  • Lawyers list all of the services they offer
  • Software houses plug the bells and whistles of version 6.3
  • Airlines describe their full destination lists
..and so on. Look at any six adverts in a business magazine, and I'll bet that at least three fall into this trap.

Of course features need to be described. That's one way of convincing prospects that you can deliver the benefits that prospective customers want. However, if you concentrate only on the features, the prospect may well yawn and say "So what?" Is your business guilty as charged? Here's 3 ways to check:

  1. Look closely at your sales literature - including sales letters that you write. How many times are features described without stating the benefits of that feature?
  2. Check your sales peoples' reports (verbal as well as written). How many times do they state what features the prospect wants rather than the real needs of the prospect, the benefits that s/he is looking for?
  3. When you are in a sales situation, just listen to yourself. Are you so carried away with the excellent features of your product or service that you are not taking the trouble to find out what the prospect really wants?
If you haven't done so already, make a list of all the features (large and small) of your products and services and then put an associated benefit against each one. To turn a feature into a benefit, simply add the words "which means that.." and complete the sentence. Start with a short list of, say, 50 features (yes, 50!) - then extend it to 100. Involve other people in this exercise and you'll come up with 200. Surely, enough benefits to fit any sales situation!

We've helped our clients put more sizzle into their steak using this approach to sales!

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