How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Features and Benefits
One of the basic rules of selling to sell on benefits that customers will gain from using the product rather than the list of features that it has.
A common scenario in selling (particularly in retail) is for the sales person to extol the virtues of the product they are selling by demonstrating the assorted features that it has. In a hi-fi system, for example, this may include showing off the graphic equalizer, talking about the power output, detailing the signal-to-noise ratio, etc.
A big problem with this is that the customer might not appreciate what is being said. They might not want a graphic equalizer. They may want a higher power that that on offer. They may be confused by talk of signal-to-noise. And as a result, they politely say 'no thank you' and move on, leaving behind a frustrated salesperson.
Another variant of the features trap is when the customer comes in with a checklist of the features that they want. Anything that does not have all features is immediately rejected, whilst products with extra features are ignored. When they have narrowed down their choices to a set of products that have all the features they want, then they choose solely on price, which again is bad news for the salesperson.
Benefits are what the customer gains by using the product. When using a hi-fi system, they get to hear beautiful music, faithfully reproduced in their living room, with sound as real as if they were in a live concert.
Selling on benefits thus sells to what they really want, not what they say they want or what you want to sell. With benefits, you can get them excited and emotionally engaged. With features, you can only get nodding heads and logical agreement.
Features, when discussed can also be talked about in terms of benefits. With a graphic equalizer they can compensate for booming resonances, further refining the sound and improving the experience. With great signal-to-noise, they can turn the sound up and hear a pin drop, not a nasty hiss.
To feature and benefits the intermediate position of attributes or advantages is sometimes added.
Attributes are intangibles that are associated with the product, not the person (and hence are not yet benefits).
Thus, for a hi-fi amplifier:
Some products have many attributes whilst others have far fewer. One way of identifying attributes is to look on the product specification. Customers often have attributes on their checklist (rather than physical features or benefits).
Attributes are a useful stepping-stone between the physical product and the benefits that the person actually receives and can be used in a sales pitch as such.
In most descriptions that cover features and benefits, but not attributes, the attributes are usually described as features, although the non-tangible element means they are easily confused with benefits.
Advantage (version 1)
NOTE: The 'A' in this acronym is sometimes used to describe advantages. An 'advantage' is a comparison of some kind.
The advantage that a product has may well be in comparison with what a customer has already. You can thus ask a customer what they do or use now, then show how the product you are selling offers advantages over the current method.
Advantages may also be presented as a comparison with competitor products. If the customer talks about a competitor product, you can show the advantages that your product has over the competitor product (and perhaps how there are more important for your customer).
As well as advantages, you can talk about disadvantages of their current approach or competitor products. Be very careful with this, as you may easily appear as critical of things they value and hence provoke objection and argument.
Advantage (version 2)
A second version of the word 'advantage' is an assumed or undeveloped need that the sales person has identified but the buyer does not yet recognize.
The job of the salesperson here is thus to convert advantages into the benefits that are recognized and desired by the customer.
And the big