Posted 26th September 2011.
I'm sure you've read many articles about the difference between Features and Benefits, and the importance of focusing on Benefits in discussions with your potential clients.
The trouble is, most of these articles are wrong.
Not completely wrong. It's just they don't go far enough.
It was brought home to me recently when I was preparing for my webinar on Tuesday with Craig Elias on Resistance Free Selling
Craig calls what I'm about to explain “setting the context” and “avoiding your clients having to do mental gymnastics”. Here's what we mean…
Normally when you learn about Features and Benefits, the explanation is that:
- Features are the factual attributes of your product or service – what it does, how fast it goes, how many knobs it has, the steps in your process.
- Benefits are what your clients get from those features. The results they achieve by using your services, what it means to them.
All well and good.
But here's the big question: benefits to whom?
You see, far too often we get the so-called benefits of our service by listing the features (what we do) and noting what our clients should get from them as a result.
What we fail to take into account is that these are just potential benefits. Things the client might get. Or might value.
Specific clients might not get those benefits. Let's say you're a consultant who improves the throughput and decreases the downtime of production plants. The benefit the client gets is more output from their factory.
Except that if the factory is currently running at well below capacity, increasing the capacity isn't going to give you more output.
And sometimes clients might just not value the benefit. I worked once at an airport where a fellow consultant showed them how to change their processes so they could get 1 or 2 extra flights in and out per landing bay every day. Unfortunately, as the airport was putting in planning permission to build a new terminal and citing lack of capacity as the reason why, that was certainly a benefit they didn't value at the time.
So while you can identify the potential benefits of your services in isolation, in order to know whether they're real benefits for your clients, you have to know their context. You have to know what's going on in their business.
As Craig says, you can't rely on them performing mental gymnastics to figure out whether your potential benefits will be of value to them. You have to do that thinking for or with them.
When you're marketing you need to focus in on a picture of your ideal target client, your narrow niche, to figure out what the potential benefits actually mean to them.
And when you're selling, you need to ask your potential clients questions about their situation, what problems they have, and what the impact of those issues is.Then you can see which of your potential benefits has real value in their specific situation and which to focus on discussing.
It's this transition from potential to real benefits that makes the difference between your clients seeing you as a salesperson pushing something he's not sure he wants to a trusted advisor helping him with his biggest issues.