Somehow, we think features and benefits are important. Every beginning sales course talks about how we present Features And Benefits (When I first started, I learned how to present Features-Advantages-Benefits—FABs). Our product marketing and marketing teams load us up with content and presentations with endless lists of features and benefits.
Visit any web site, and one is inundated with features and benefits. We see the comparative tables showing features and benefits on one axis and the comparison of our solution with various alternatives—and we know our solution always checks off all the boxes, the alternatives don’t. Ironically, when you visit the websites of those alternative solutions, their comparisons always show them checking all their boxes and the alternatives, including us, don’t.
These are all games we play in pitching our products and focusing on features and benefits.
But the problem is, not all features benefit the customer.
This is the first place where Features and Benefits discussions fall apart.
Customers may not care that we have certain features, they are irrelevant and the benefit is irrelevant. Let me take an extreme example, say we offer our product in four colors, while the competition only offers their product in black (Think back to Henry Ford: “We’ll give you a car in any color as long as it’s black.”) The feature is 4 colors, the benefit is you can match your office decor, you have colors that are soothing and restful to your employees.
The customer responds, “I don’t care, all our employees are color blind so that’s meaningless to us.”
Features and benefits are meaningless if the customer doesn’t care about specific features or benefits. Yet, too many sales people will rattle off all the features and benefits they offer, forgetting the ones they should be focusing on are the ones the customer cares about. If they only care about one benefit, then the only features relevant to them are those that produce that benefit.
The second area Features and Benefits are meaningless is we have to translate them into specifics that are meaningful to the customer. Just the fact that we enable the customer to reduce operational costs and improve profitability is meaningless to the customer. (Plus the competition is saying the same thing). How much will we reduce expense, how will profitability be improved, how long will it take, when will they see results. Without making the benefits specific to the customer and their situation, we aren’t articulating our value in ways that are impactful and relevant to customers.
Features only benefit the customer if they produce value the customer cares about. When we’ve narrowed our focus to those relevant features, we must articulate benefits specific to what the customer should expect to achieve.
Absent this, we are not creating value with the customer.