Home > Presentation > Sales Myth No. 1: Sell The Benefits

Sales Myth No. 1: Sell The Benefits

I just watched Grant Leboff's video for the second time. It's titled "Sales Myth #1: Sell the Benefits." It can be viewed at http://www.salespractice.com/forums/t-8845.html

Here's are my problems with Mr. Leboff's concept:

1. He says "the oldest myth in selling is you sell the benefits and not the features." I disagree that this is a myth; and I disgree that you shouldn't present benefits to prospects, especially after you've determined that the prospect needs or wants those benefits.

2. As "proof" of his thesis, he equates benefits with (1) overselling; and (2) creating customer objections. Benefits have nothing to do with overselling; and, if anything, understanding what benefits your prospect want to achieve will help prevent objections.

3. He says benefits selling "makes you sound the same way as everybody else." That's silly, imo. The goal shouldn't be to sound different or the same as everybody else; it should be to utilize sales methodologies that work.

4. He says "benefits never get you to the root of the buyer motivation." He's right. But what he doesn't understand is that they're not supposed to. The needs and wants investigation is supposed to get you to the root of the buyer's motivation; a "benefit" is something you present during a presentation, AFTER you've identified prospect needs. He's got terms mixed up topsy-turvy to make an argument that doesn't hold water.

5. He tells a story about an Italian restaurant; but he's confusing "branding" and "unique selling propositions" with "benefits selling." His story has nothing to do with selling, but has to do with marketing. Yet, he uses it as evidence of why "benefits selling" doesn't work.

Viewer beware! Misinformation lurks throughout the 'net! - by Skip Anderson
F.eatures

B.enefits

I.ncentives

I say sell the Incentives because they are what motivate the customer to buy!!!

It is great that the copier has a stapler. (Feature)

It is greater because it will staple multiple page copies by itself. (Benefit)

It is greatest because you can be more productive doing a more important task than stapling. (Incentive) - by Sell4alivn
Sell4Alivn:

FYI: What you are calling an "incentive" is what I call a "benefit." A "benefit" is the realized benefit of owning a product or using a service. - by Skip Anderson
I was just regurgitating what I was taught many years ago.thmbp2; - by Sell4alivn
I say people don't buy Features and Benefits, they buy a solution to a problem they have. If you learn how to create a "solution" to their problem that they 'can't live without' and they are the decision maker, they will buy it from you.

That is not selling features and benefits.

You probably don't agree with me, however. - by Paulette Halpern
I say people don't buy Features and Benefits, they buy a solution to a problem they have. If you learn how to create a "solution" to their problem that they 'can't live without' and they are the decision maker, they will buy it from you.

That is not selling features and benefits.

You probably don't agree with me, however.
Hi Paulette. I don't know who your "you probably don't agree with me" comment is directed to, but I would like to share a few thoughts (and questions):

1. Paulette, isn't it possible for a customer to buy a product's benefits, and at the same time buy a "solution to a problem?"

"Solving a problem" and "buying benefits" are not mutually exclusive concepts, are they? Can't a customer (and salesperson) do both at the same time? My opinion? They're not opposites.

2. Isn't it a product's benefit that provides the solution?

Let's take this a very simple, even ridiculous, level: If you need to cut a steak and you don't have a knife, you have a problem, right? And the benefit of a knife is that is is sharp and will slice through meat so that you can eat it, right? So if I'm a knife salesperson and learn that my customer doesn't have a way to cut steak, I could present my product solution to him, and during the presentation, I would present the benefit of my product. Paulette, is that sound sales methodology in your opinion?

3. A comment: I believe customers are not always buying to "solve a problem." In fact, their over arching need (what I call the "Super Macro Need" is to feel good. And you can "feel good" without solving a problem.

There are macro needs (using my terminology), that customers want to meet. For instance, one of the macro needs is "To Take a Stand." If you're a consumer and you're tired of foreign countries controlling the U.S. oil supply, you just may go out and buy an electric car to take a stand (this may or may not solve a problem, in fact your purchase of an electric car probably won't solve anything except your need to "take a stand.").

Another macro need is "To Be Generous." Sometimes customers buy from people they like (or contribute money to them in a fundraising effort, for instance) because they like the salesperson (or fundraiser, or waiter, or whatever) and want to be generous. They bought from person "B" instead of person "A" because they really liked person "B"...that's not "solving a problem" it's "being generous." I gave a really big tip to my hair stylist last week. That didn't solve a problem. But it made me feel good. And I was being generous.

What do you think, Paulette and others? - by Skip Anderson
I believe people buy for one of two reasons: to resolve a problem (or avoid having one) or for pleasure. The stronger buying motive is resolution of a problem either currently happening or the fear of it happening.

The more a problem is perceived and quantified as to 'what the cost to the company is' then the greater the likelihood that someone will 'spend money' to fix it. Viola, a sale....for the product or service to provide the remedy.

Lets take your steak and knife scenario. If I am NOT hungry, and am uninterested in eating the steak, whether I have a knife or not is unimportant and not a problem. If however I am starving, then I might pay ANY amount of money for a knife to cut the steak, so that I can eat it. However, if I was really hungry, I would just use my teeth, and eat it without the knife, as the cavemen did. Showing you a different point of view.

I don't share your opinion that people buy to be nice or just generous. A philanthropist sees a problem and knows he can have a positive impact with his generous donation. He thrives on the attention and knows his money is doing good work.

If I had a 'need' to buy a car, and I was considering 2 different vehicle types I might choose one that 'was better for the environment (your version would be took a stand on something)....but if I have no need to buy a car, I have no situation under which I would 'take a stand'. I don't believe people do it, just to make a point.

You may not share my point of view. I have believed this for years, and in all my sales environments, I have trained sales people to identify the problems their product or service solves and sales have increased.

That is one of the magical pieces of the Sandler Sales System. - by Paulette Halpern
Paulette, I agree with most of what you wrote. But you didn't answer my questions. So I'll try one question again:

Isn't it possible for a customer to buy a product's benefits, and at the same time buy a "solution to a problem?" - by Skip Anderson
They are buying the solution to the problem. The benefit to them is that the problem 'goes away'. - by Paulette Halpern
So Paulette, then you're saying it isn't possible for a customer to buy a product's benefits, and at the same time buy a "solution to a problem" is that correct? - by Skip Anderson
Here is a scenario.....I need a car because my car is running up expenses with costly repairs as it gets older and is not reliable. Lots of dealers can sell me a car with 'different benefits and features'....I will find the one that solves my problem the best way for me. They all will have F&B's, only one gets my business, which in the end will solve the problem "I" have. - by Paulette Halpern
So Paulette, then you're saying it isn't possible for a customer to buy a product's benefits, and at the same time buy a "solution to a problem" is that correct? - by Skip Anderson
What I am saying, is that I train a selling system that focuses on 'solving the problems that a prospect has, so they believe they have found the best solution for their needs'. That is the selling strategy of Sandler Training.

You may not want it to sound that way, and if your way works for you and your clients that is fine.

Small to large companies have been utilizing the Sandler Training strategy for many years.

I don't focus on the benefits or features, but rather on solving the company's problem and what it will take to 'solve the problem'. The presentation or fulfillment, will take care of the rest. - by Paulette Halpern
I don't focus on the benefits or features, but rather on solving the company's problem and what it will take to 'solve the problem'. The presentation or fulfillment, will take care of the rest.
This looks like an excellent approach Paulette. thmbp2;

I listened to the video and what Grant was saying made sense to me. It sounded like he was talking about selling general benefits like everyone else not specific benefits unique to the customer. - by Mikey
The goal is to 'close' the sale. People like to feel that their needs are being met in a 'customized' solution, rather than an 'off the shelve' solution.

That is how you set yourself apart from the competition who is also trying to land that client. If you sound like your competitors, then the only differentiator is 'price'. - by Paulette Halpern
2. Isn't it a product's benefit that provides the solution?
This is a tough one. :dun I've seen people use a dime as a screwdriver to get into a file cabinet but I don't think of that as a 'feature' of the dime but it was a solution to the problem. :dun - by Thomas
Thomas,

The FEATURE of the dime is that it's thin. The benefit is that it will tighten screws.

This is useless info in selling, however, unless you have identified prospects who needed a dime to screw in screws! - by Skip Anderson
What I am saying, is that I train a selling system that focuses on 'solving the problems that a prospect has, so they believe they have found the best solution for their needs'. That is the selling strategy of Sandler Training.

You may not want it to sound that way, and if your way works for you and your clients that is fine.

Small to large companies have been utilizing the Sandler Training strategy for many years.

I don't focus on the benefits or features, but rather on solving the company's problem and what it will take to 'solve the problem'. The presentation or fulfillment, will take care of the rest.
Paulette, why won't you answer any of my simple questions? I know you want to promote your Sandler franchise, and that's fine, but I think it's fair for me to ask you these simple questions based upon your responses in this thread. But you won't answer them. How come? - by Skip Anderson
Thomas,

The FEATURE of the dime is that it's thin. The benefit is that it will tighten screws.

This is useless info in selling, however, unless you have identified prospects who needed a dime to screw in screws!
I messed up feature and benefit. :bl

I do see how selling "benefits" without knowing what problem someone is trying to solve would look like overselling, cause objections and make you sound like everyone else who was doing the same thing. - by Thomas

I do see how selling "benefits" without knowing what problem someone is trying to solve would look like overselling, cause objections and make you sound like everyone else who was doing the same thing.
Absolutely, Thomas, I agree. Spewing product or technical information is a waste of time and can ruin a sales opportunity. Personally, I'm a huge believer in selling to needs.

But imo, that doesn't mean that as sales pros we shouldn't present features and corresponding benefits to our prospects during the presentation phase of the sales process. People buy for the benefit it brings to their lives...and that benefit is dependent upon the specific prospect's needs. - by Skip Anderson
What I am saying, is that I train a selling system that focuses on 'solving the problems that a prospect has, so they believe they have found the best solution for their needs'.
I learned this the hard way - on the street.

People buy for the benefit it brings to their lives...and that benefit is dependent upon the specific prospect's needs.
The video looked like it was about general "benefit selling" not benefits based on specific prospect's needs. - by Thomas
I learned this the hard way - on the street.

The video looked like it was about general "benefit selling" not benefits based on specific prospect's needs.
Hey Thomas, did you read the first post in this thread? - by Skip Anderson
Isn't it possible for a customer to buy a product's benefits, and at the same time buy a "solution to a problem?"
They are buying the solution to the problem. The benefit to them is that the problem 'goes away'.
That looks right. thmbp2; - by Thomas
Hey Thomas, did you read the first post in this thread?
I did. I have seen the benefit selling he's talking about and I didn't like it either. thmbdn2; - by Thomas
I did. I have seen the benefit selling he's talking about and I didn't like it either. thmbdn2;
Thomas, please define "benefit selling." - by Skip Anderson
Thomas, please define "benefit selling."
When the salesperson pushes the benefits he thinks are important without ever asking me. What's worse is when they give you a hard time when you say you're not interested.

"You're not interested in earning more money?" shk2; - by Thomas
The school of hard knocks to learn that 'people buy solutions' to their problems rather than 'features and benefits' is very common. The tuition (in terms of lost sales revenue) is very high, but the lesson is invaluable.

People that are seriously looking for a 'better way' to sell vs 'the typical feature and benefit' approach have a way to learn it through Sandler, if they want to.

It is not easy to learn, but it 'takes you to the bank' more often; it minimizes the amount of unpaid consulting you do, and shortens the selling cyle along the way. - by Paulette Halpern
When the salesperson pushes the benefits he thinks are important without ever asking me. What's worse is when they give you a hard time when you say you're not interested.
Thomas, with all due respect, you're not describing "benefit selling." You're giving an example of "not identifying customer needs." What you describe has nothing to do with benefits. I wholeheartedly agree that salespeople should sell to needs.

Paulette: I've tried to professionally debate the topic of this thread with you in this forum. I've asked you a number of questions, and given you several opportunities to answer, but you haven't answered a single one. All you want to do is promote your Sandler franchise.

To respond to your last comment Paulette: Yes, customers buy solutions. Of course I agree with that. And what gives them a solution is the "benefit" of a product or service.

Paulette, since you won't play ball, here's my final entry in this thread:

- - - - -

Paulette, Grant Leboff’s video, and the Sandler system says: “customers don’t buy features and benefits.”

I don’t have anything against Paulette or Grant or Sandler. But their statement is an amazingly broad, bold, one, and it is incorrect. I wholeheartedly disagree with it.

Customers buy benefits. There is no question about that. Anybody who disagrees with that doesn’t understand what a "benefit" is. That has been my assertion from the first post in this thread: Leboff is misusing the word “benefit” in his video. What he should have titled his video is: “Salespeople shouldn’t dump products on customers without knowing their needs.” Then, I would be 100% supportive of it.

By the way, here’s my definition of benefits, taken from the glossary at Salesopedia.com:

“Benefit: the value of something from the customer's perspective”

And here’s another dandy definition, of "features and benefits selling" from businessdictionary.com:

"Selling technique in which the seller ties every feature with a benefit that the customer wants or thinks is necessary."

And finally, another "benefit" definition from businessdictionary.com:

"Desirable attribute of a good or service, which a customer perceives he or she will get from purchasing. Whereas vendors sell features, buyers seek the benefit."

(Thomas: please note: none of these definitions talk about ramming a product down a prospect's throat. That's because doing that is a separate issue entirely).

Now, really, how can anybody deny that customers buy "benefits" if you use the correct definition of "benefit?"

- - - - -

Sandler is aggressive in saying “Customers don’t buy features and benefits,” just as you have been in this thread, Paulette.

Interestingly, in large letters on the most prominent area of their homepage, Sandler says this: (7/31/08):

“Contact a training center today and learn how your business can BENEFIT from our expert assessments
.”

Hmmm. So Sandler and Paulette (a Sandler rep), are telling us that their training is based upon the concept that customers don’t buy benefits, yet their website wants potential customers to contact them to learn how they can benefit from using their assessments.

Am I the only one that sees a ridiculous inconsistency here?

Furthermore, a quick search of the Sandler web site shows the following:

1. From a pdf download titled “Why Salespeople Fail,” Sandler says (on page 6): “Sandler hopes what you discover here will encourage you and your organization to continue to explore the benefits of Sandler sales training.”

Hold it, Paulette and Grant, and Sandler! I thought, according to your sales methodology, customers don’t buy benefits? In fact, on page 19 of the same document, Sandler states: “Prospects do not buy features and benefits…

2. On page 28 of the same document, Sandler says: “Sandler’s trainers lead every session as they take you on your own personal journey of discovery and enrichment. Meanwhile, you reap the benefit of Sandler “best practices” gleaned through workshops with clients from every type of organization and industry.

3. Elsewhere on the Sandler site “The SMS program examines the manager’s role in building and leading a team that excels by: 1) identifying prospects who will become good-fit customers; 2) selling to their needs, and, 3) forming long-term relationships that benefit buyer and seller alike.

4. In a May press release available on the Sandler website, Sandler says:The company provides a full range of sales and management training programs, with powerful coordination and customization benefits throughout its extensive franchise network.

So, Paulette and Grant and Sandler: You're telling us customers don't buy benefits. [IMG]file:///C:/Users/Skip/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.gif[/IMG]

- - - - -


There are boatloads of sales experts that tout selling to benefits. Here are few articles I found with a quick search:

http://thesaleshunterblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/sales-training-tip-181-sell-benefits.html

http://www.newagemarketingtips.com/sellingbenefits.htm

http://www.practicalselling.com/articles/benefits.shtml

http://loririchardson.typepad.com/salesprocessdiva/2005/06/rule_1_sell_ben.html

http://www.evancarmichael.com/Business-Coach/406/Sales-Training--How-To-Sell-Features--Benefits--The-Power-of-Targeted-Communication.html

So is Leboff's assertion that "Selling Benefits" is "Myth #1" accurate? You decide. My decision is a resounding NO.

And with that, I end my participation in this thread and leave any additional debate or comments to others in the SalesPractice community!

Skip
- by Skip Anderson
I agree that people ultimately buy perceived "solutions to their problems" rather than "features and benefits". I get what Grant is saying in the video too. Like Paulette I realize that some probably won't agree with me. To each their own.
- by Jolly Roger
Some additional concepts on the issue: People are not buying the product or service; they are buying the intended outcome of using the product or service. How a product will take care of the problem the customer has, will come out in the 'presentation'.

Salespeople become so caught up in, even fall in love with, the "unique selling points" of their product or service--code words for features, benefits and advantages--that they pay scant attention to the outcomes the products or services are designed to achieve. Prospects care about outcomes before they care about or consider "unique selling points." Unless they believe you understand their problem(s) fully, they don't about the F&B's of your products.

Marketing and Sales are not the same; marketing might crack open the door of 'interest'; 'selling' gets them to say "Yes", because the propsect discovers someone who they believe can solve their problem the best.

I work with people who are experiencing high turnover in their sales force and it is causing declining sales. Using assessments, helps a company make sure that the right people are doing the right job, to minimize turnover and get better sales results. In the end, the result is sales growth. The problem was declining sales due to high turnover. - by Paulette Halpern
Wow! What an excruciating effort to define the concept "benefit".

Here's a thought which I haven't picked up on thru the thread, how can it be an "assumed" benefit? For something to be a "benefit", the SR needs to know something about the prospect's specific needs. "Lots of dealers can sell me a car with 'different benefits and features'....I will find the one that solves my problem the best way for me." Different features perhaps but without understanding your specific situation, (without probing specifically) what different benefits are imaginable? I've walked onto the car lot and been accosted by SRs flogging a 2-seater but with 2 kids, that simply was not on-the-table.

As you probe, you uncover myriad topics which are juggled until you get to a point of clarity. Typically what has happened is you've uncovered benefits of your offering. "Benefit: a sufficiently positive advantage/improvement to be acknowledged by your prospect."

At this stage, (if you're SPIN-trained) loop back to find more situational details, problems, implications, etc. Or, you begin to direct the discussion towards uncovering more appealing benefits of your offering (not a "features spray"). Once you've gained a comfort level that you have sufficient to rationalize the sale, you re-cap the agreed upon benefits and work towards the close.

KEY: It's NOT always needs, problems, or pain which are the foundation for a decision to buy. If you're an astute SSR, you'll recognize opportunities which imply meaningful advantages for your offering (massive ROI, future business direction, competitive edge for your prospect, etc.). These topics might not have been on the horizon ...

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Interesting thread.
I must admit that in my last company we always talked about solving customers problems. Even Tommy Hopkins often refers to sales people as PPS = Professional Problem Solvers, but I think he is also referring to the logistics of deliveries etc.
I must also say that when I am selling, I am always asking myself "what's in it for them" and the answer to that question is not always a problem. The answer could be to dominate the market which could create a whole string of other problems, albeit good problems.
Something said earlier in this thread reminded me of a famous old marketing saying "sell the sizzle and not the steak" and that is often the ultimate benefit, the customer feeling good.
That's my two pence worth.
Greg
(PS I'm a newbie) - by Greg Woodley
WOW

First off Skip, you're like Jesus... hands down I've loved every since word you've typed in this room and I think you're spot on.

The only other thing I can really add is that people who aren't selling the benefits of their product, aren't discovering what the customer values and thus limiting their pool of prospective customers.

Using the knife salesperson as an example, if throughout the discovering process that the customer doesn't eat steak, a good sales person will reframe their product to benefit the customer. Every product has more then one use. - by MrCharisma
Sell solutions because customers buy solutions not benefits. Benefits don't always translate to solutions in the mind of the prospect so you'll want to demonstrate to the customer how the benefits of your product will satisfy their needs. - by Bulldog
Sell solutions because customers buy solutions not benefits. Benefits don't always translate to solutions in the mind of the prospect so you'll want to demonstrate to the customer how the benefits of your product will satisfy their needs.
BD, Skip asked this earlier and I wonder what you think... isn't it a product's benefit that provides the solution? - by Thomas
BD, Skip asked this earlier and I wonder what you think... isn't it a product's benefit that provides the solution?
Yes, if the customer sees the product's benefit as the best solution for them. - by Bulldog
Yes, if the customer sees the product's benefit as the best solution for them.
Isn't the point of a sales person to show how a products feature will benefit them? - by MrCharisma
Isn't the point of a sales person to show how a products feature will benefit them?
It depends upon your perspective. There is a term, probably still used by some...."dog and pony show". That expression discribes all the 'show and tell' a person could do in his presentation to show the prospect how good his product could be for him.

No one likes to be 'sold', but people do have a 'need' for products and services that solve problems or resolve issues they have. The goal of a representative of a company in talking with a prospect is to get the prospect to believe that they can solve their problem better than someone else (or doing it in house themselves). Get the order and go to the bank.

It is important to have all the product knowledge you can about your service/product and your competitors. It gives you all the confidence in the world, but giving your product knowledge 'too early' in your conversations with prospects doesn't help you get the deal. It can instead, turn you into helping the competition get the business. - by Paulette Halpern
Yes, if the customer sees the product's benefit as the best solution for them.
I think I understand. Thanks. thmbp2; - by Thomas
I agree with Skip on this, most people do not understand the real meaning of the word benefit - the word benefit comes from two French words - Bien Fait (from the verb faire) Bien means well or good the verb faire means to or to make so benefit means how well it does the job it's meant do. The feature is the mechanics which provide the benefits. So in offering a solution in solution based selling the benefits are how well your product or service provides a solution to the problem. - by colly
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