Home > Management > Grant Leboff Snipes from the Weeds re. Selling Benefits

Grant Leboff Snipes from the Weeds re. Selling Benefits

I just sat thru the clip by Grant Leboff, "Benefits Don't Work". The impression was if you analyse what has worked, identify some interesting/contrary catch phrases, then, write a sales training book which supports your stance ... you can call yourself an "author"!

Grant states unequivocally that "benefits are platitudes" and that selling the benefits puts the SR in with the masses. On this point, his theme seems to be that all of the competition is harping on the same benefits! How can a SR speak to benefits, if he hasn't uncovered specific needs (to which the features of his offering relate) ... so if they're genuinely "benefits" how can they be the same for your competition?

He states that seeking "needs" is an concern. He goes on to say that selling benefits takes the SR away from the root of what motivates the buyer.

He seems to finish the clip with "understanding the buyer's motivation" as the path. I hope this isn't another sales training book about emotions ruling the mind of decision-makers!

I really must dig my heels in and ask, "what colour is the sky where this guy has been selling?"

I'm Xerox bred and my 30+ years of selling benefits is in direct conflict with everything in the clip.

In every instance where I've probed for needs with a B2B prospect, then, matched those needs to a feature, I'm presented with a "benefit" which appeals to this specific decision-maker.

By the way, I don't look for "pain" (or other emotions). Rather, I'm seeking genuine business needs which apply to the specific prospect. These can be future directions which have not as yet been tabled internally.

It's this sort of misleading grandstanding illustrated in Grant's approach that has fundamentally kept me away from reading sales training tripe. In my years of sales management, I have NOT placed a single sales training book "under the tree". I'd rather give out AMEX coupons for a free lunch!

Good luck & Good (benefits) selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
I listened to the clip again and it still sounded like he was talking about selling generic benefits --- "If I don't know you and I tell you all these promises, all these things that you've heard a million times before they're just water off a ducks back..." - by Mikey
Grant states unequivocally that "benefits are platitudes" and that selling the benefits puts the SR in with the masses. On this point, his theme seems to be that all of the competition is harping on the same benefits! How can a SR speak to benefits, if he hasn't uncovered specific needs (to which the features of his offering relate) ... so if they're genuinely "benefits" how can they be the same for your competition?
How often would you say salespeople launch into a presentation without first uncovering a prospect's specific needs? - by Liberty
Grant states unequivocally that "benefits are platitudes"...
Where in the video does he say "benefits are platitudes". - by Marcus
Marcus, at the 3:23:34 point ... sorry I couldn't resist it. If you listened to the clip, you hear it clearly. Grab a piece of paper and run through the sound byte writing down each instance of Grant's put-downs.

To someone with my background, it's somewhat insulting. It's especially galling when you consider how successful companies like Xerox have been selling benefits since the mid-50's!!!

I understand that he is selling something. I also understand that he's trying to grab peoples' attention. Once again, though, it's the newbies will suffer from such grandstanding ...

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
How often would you say salespeople launch into a presentation without first uncovering a prospect's specific needs?
Uncovering a prospect's specific need isn't a requirement in all sales situations. In some, definitely not all, sales situations working from a prospect's probable interest or problem works just fine. - by Houston
How often would you say salespeople launch into a presentation without first uncovering a prospect's specific needs?
I'd say it happens all the time. I think presenting before understanding the needs of the prospect is one of the biggest and most common sales mistakes. This is probably what Grant Leboff is talking about. - by Mikey
I listened to the clip again and it still sounded like he was talking about selling generic benefits --- "If I don't know you and I tell you all these promises, all these things that you've heard a million times before they're just water off a ducks back..."
"Telling you all these promises" has nothing to do with "selling benefits." Therefore, Leboff's argument doesn't hold water. Since when does a person who "sells benefits" not make any effort to "know" the prospect? It's a ridiculous video with a ridiculous premise. - by Skip Anderson
How often would you say salespeople launch into a presentation without first uncovering a prospect's specific needs?
"Selling benefits" doesn't have anything to do with NOT uncovering needs. A top performing salesperson must do both...it's not an either/or proposition. - by Skip Anderson
Marcus, at the 3:23:34 point ... sorry I couldn't resist it. If you listened to the clip, you hear it clearly. Grab a piece of paper and run through the sound byte writing down each instance of Grant's put-downs.

To someone with my background, it's somewhat insulting. It's especially galling when you consider how successful companies like Xerox have been selling benefits since the mid-50's!!!

I understand that he is selling something. I also understand that he's trying to grab peoples' attention. Once again, though, it's the newbies will suffer from such grandstanding ...

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat
Totally agree, Pat.

Skip - by Skip Anderson
"Selling benefits" doesn't have anything to do with NOT uncovering needs. A top performing salesperson must do both...it's not an either/or proposition.
My interpretation, based on the examples given in the video, is that Grant is referring to salespeople selling benefits without first understanding the prospect's needs. - by Liberty
My interpretation, based on the examples given in the video, is that Grant is referring to salespeople selling benefits without first understanding the prospect's needs.
We shouldn't have to "interpret" what he means by his video...his language says what he means. As salespeople, we have a lexicon of generally accepted terms and meanings, and if he's using a different meaning for the word "benefit" than the generally accepted use, then he shouldn't do that.

I think what he SHOULD be talking about is "product dumping," which is spewing a bunch of technical or product info (features) on a prospect without regard to the prospect's needs. I think his video should have used those terms and talked about that issue rather than a ridiculous assertion that "benefits are platitudes."

But "product dumping" doesn't have anything whatever to do with "selling benefits." Customers buy products and services to get the benefit they get from those products and services. Period.

We all need to "sell benefits." And we all need to understand the great thoroughness the depth and richness of the prospect's particular needs.

In this forum I've seen various people write about:

- Cold calling sucks
- Cold calling is dead
- You shouldn't ask for the sale
- Trial closes are a waste
- Building rapport is not necessary
- Open-ended questions are a waste
- You don't need to prospect, just participate in social networking on the web
-and now, "benefits are platitudes"

And, imo, all those statements are ridiculous.

Now I'm waiting for someone to write a post (or post a video) about how a Presentation is unnecessary in selling. Argh.

Skip - by Skip Anderson
As salespeople, we have a lexicon of generally accepted terms and meanings, and if he's using a different meaning for the word "benefit" than the generally accepted use, then he shouldn't do that.
Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 101):

What's a benefit?

"While everybody agrees on the definition of a Feature, no two writers on selling seem to have the same definition of a Benefit."
Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 102):
Which Definition is right?

Type A Benefit
. This type shows how a product or service can be used or can help the customer.

Type B Benefit. This type shows how a product or service meets an Explicit Need expressed by the customer.

We chose the Type A definition because it was the most common one used in the better sales-training programs. Most readers of this book will have been taught to use the Type A Benefit. In contrast, the Type B Benefit was our own definition.
Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 103):

How important is the difference?

In our research test we found that the Type A Benefit is quite strongly related to success in smaller sales but is only slightly related to success in larger sales. (We'll see why in later in this chapter.) In contrast, the Type B Benefit is very strongly related to success in all sizes of sales.
- by Liberty
Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 101):

Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 102):

Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 103):
So Liberty, I guess you're saying that salespeople shouldn't sell benefits, even if you use the SPIN selling definition 1 or the SPIN selling definition 2.

I disagree with you. - by Skip Anderson
So Liberty, I guess you're saying that salespeople shouldn't sell benefits, even if you use the SPIN selling definition 1 or the SPIN selling definition 2.
What I'm saying is that quite often salespeople start talking about or selling Benefits (Type A) without first uncovering/ understanding/ knowing a prospect's specific or explicit needs. I'm not referring to dumping technical or product information (features), I'm referring to talking about or selling non-specific benefits the salesperson assumes the prospect is interested in such as increased profits, reduced costs or improved productivity.

Based on some of the comments Grant made in his video I would interpret his definition of Benefit to be similar to the SPIN Selling definition of Benefit (Type A). The excerpt Mikey posted earlier provides insight into what definition Grant may be using; "If I don't know you and I tell you all these promises...". This is obviously not Benefit Selling where a Benefit is similar to the SPIN Selling definition of Benefit (Type B).

Imagine two different salespeople selling two different products visiting the same prospect on the same day. Both salespeople start talking about or selling the same assumed Benefits (Type A) (ie; increased profits, reduced costs or improved productivity) without first uncovering/ understanding/ knowing that prospect's specific or explicit needs. Can you see how that prospect might feel both salespeople sound the same and are making the same promises? Can you see how those same promises can become platitudes in the mind of the prospect?

Should salespeople sell Benefits? In my opinion this isn't a yes or no question but instead a question of best practices as illustrated in this Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 103):

In our research test we found that the Type A Benefit is quite strongly related to success in smaller sales but is only slightly related to success in larger sales. (We'll see why in later in this chapter.) In contrast, the Type B Benefit is very strongly related to success in all sizes of sales.
- by Liberty
What I'm saying is that quite often salespeople start talking about or selling Benefits (Type A) without first uncovering/ understanding/ knowing a prospect's specific or explicit needs.
Yes, and salespeople do that with features, too, unfortunately. So what you're saying has more to do with a deficiency in identifying needs than it does with presenting benefits. I couldn't agree with you more that many salespeople don't spend sufficient time and energy on uncovering and understanding and knowing a prospect's specific needs.

So I wish Leboff would have said "The Biggest problem in sales is that salespeople don't uncover and understand prospect's specific needs" instead of saying "Selling benefits is the biggest myth in selling."


Imagine two different salespeople selling two different products visiting the same prospect on the same day. Both salespeople start talking about or selling the same assumed Benefits (Type A) (ie; increased profits, reduced costs or improved productivity) without first uncovering/ understanding/ knowing that prospect's specific or explicit needs. Can you see how that prospect might feel both salespeople sound the same and are making the same promises? Can you see how those same promises can become platitudes in the mind of the prospect?
Yes, I can see how promises can become platitudes, but that's not because of benefits, it's because of (1) incorrect assumptions of need; and (2) Presenting solutions before understanding the prospect's need. It has nothing to do with "benefits".

I could make the same argument as Leboff does, except about closing:

"The biggest myth is sales is that you should ask for business."

Then, as evidence that this is correct, I could use the following scenario:

"Imagine a salesperson walking into a prospect's office and at the first meeting, introducing himself, and then asking for the business...'should we go ahead and place the order?' says the salesperson. Now the prospect feels pressured and uncomfortable. See? Closing the sale and asking for the business is bad."

There's a time and a place and a proven strategy for asking for the order. There's also a time and place and a proven strategy for presenting benefits. So "benefits" isn't the problem; "closing" isn't the problem. The problem is misuse of either of these tactics which create a result other than what the salesperson desires: a happy customer.

Should salespeople sell Benefits? In my opinion this isn't a yes or no question but instead a question of best practices as illustrated in this Excerpt from SPIN Selling (page 103):
Of course salespeople should present benefits. And they should create rapport. And they should ask lots of questions. And they should ask for the order. And they should ask for referrals. And they should do dozens of other things, too, but all of them in the right way and the right time. The problem isn't with any of these methodologies, the problem is in not using them correctly.

Let's not give "benefits" a bad name. Customers buy because of the benefits products/services give them. - by Skip Anderson
This is why I don't buy/read/listen to materials from so-called "sales experts": they make outlandish statements to grab attention!

It's no different than I told my 6 year old son, "... don't let facts stand in the way of a good story ...".

In this case it's Grant's perogative to make these outrageous statements which have undoutedly attracted buyers. The bad news is that many newbies will base their sales approach on this misinformation.

I have personally witnessed young SRs assuming the benefits of their offering (ie. not having probed effectively) and, then, wondering why they're in the parking lot!!

Good luck & Good (benefits) selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Leboff was referring to the model of selling benefits vs. his emphasis, which is modeled after a medical physician's approach.
(Hence the title, 'Sales Therapy')

First the Doctor asks you some questions to find out about your condition. Then he asks some more questions to determine if his prescription would actually be beneficial. (He uses the great example of a Doctor probing to discover what the illness is; then determining a good remedy, only to find out that the remedy he had in mind would jeopardize the safety of his heavy-equipment-operating patient. So the Doctor modifies his prescription to be taken at night, at smaller doses, for a longer time...

Resist a knee-jerk reaction to his teaser videos. They aren't intended to give away the store. So they aren't comprehensive and fully illustrative of his approach.

Suffice to say that his stance on benefit selling is that people don't buy benefits, they buy solutions to problems. His book gives a good roadmap to uncovering those needed solutions.

His book is 21st century thinking for a 21st century customer. The danger in ignoring his advice is that if you don't read it, your biggest earnings will be behind you. - by BERTSKI
I have a question for both Pat and Skip, and it is not intended to put either of you on the spot. Your answers would be meaningful to me, and hopefully to others here.

You both serve the needs professionally of sales organizations looking to gain from your knowledge and experience. You both have gathered some insight on Leboff through his clip and discussion here. And--as professional service providers, like Leboff, you both sell your services.

My question is this. If you found yourselves in a competitive situation with Leboff, in pursuit of a worthwhile client, how would you individually compete with him? - by Ace Coldiron
Leboff was referring to the model of selling benefits vs. his emphasis, which is modeled after a medical physician's approach.

First the Doctor asks you some questions to find out about your condition. Then he asks some more questions to determine if his prescription would actually be beneficial. (He uses the great example of a Doctor probing to discover what the illness is; then determining a good remedy, only to find out that the remedy he had in mind would jeopardize the safety of his heavy-equipment-operating patient. So the Doctor modifies his prescription to be taken at night, at smaller doses, for a longer time...
My disagreement is that, in my view, good selling should not require a choice between presenting benefits and asking lots of questions to identify and understand your prospect's needs. Both are very important in selling.

Both Leboff and you appear to have the opinion that it these matters are an "either/or" choice (as evidence, you used the term "vs." in your explanation). I disagree.

Indeed, I have written copiously in this forum and in articles and I speak frequently on the need for salespeople to do a far better job of identifying customer needs during the selling process. I'm passionate about it. But I don't think people should do it at the expense of giving a good presentation or at the expense of closing or at the expense of developing trust & rapport, or at the expense of any other important sales act.

Note: You used the term "beneficial" in your explanation, so I assume the physician in your story is concerned with the benefits to the patient.

Resist a knee-jerk reaction to his teaser videos. They aren't intended to give away the store. So they aren't comprehensive and fully illustrative of his approach.
I understand the P.R. value of a teaser video. But I don't think it's a knee-jerk reaction for me to state that Leboff's premise, that selling benefits is a myth, is hogwash. Presenting benefits of your product within the framework of the prospect's unique and current needs is not a myth. It is effective selling. The problem isn't with salespeople who present benefits, it's with salespeople who only spew feature after feature, without explaining the benefits of those features to the prospect.

Suffice to say that his stance on benefit selling is that people don't buy benefits, they buy solutions to problems.
And this is where I disagree with him. People do buy benefits to solve their problems. If you need to save money on gas, you buy a fuel efficient vehicle. The benefit of buying a 40 mpg car is that is will help you save money. If you need a sofa fabric that coordinates with the orange color in your wallpaper, the benefit of that particular sofa is that is looks great with your wallpaper, just as you said you wanted.

And I believe there are other reasons people buy rather than solving problems. For instance, my client who collects watches. He doesn't buy them to solve a problem, he buys them because he loves quality watches. - by Skip Anderson
I have a question for both Pat and Skip, and it is not intended to put either of you on the spot. Your answers would be meaningful to me, and hopefully to others here.

You both serve the needs professionally of sales organizations looking to gain from your knowledge and experience. You both have gathered some insight on Leboff through his clip and discussion here. And--as professional service providers, like Leboff, you both sell your services.

My question is this. If you found yourselves in a competitive situation with Leboff, in pursuit of a worthwhile client, how would you individually compete with him?
I would use the same selling process I teach my clients (which includes presenting benefits). - by Skip Anderson
I would use the same selling process I teach my clients (which includes presenting benefits).
As a student of strategy, it would be interesting for me to see how that would play out. In effect, one proposal centered on an Identifiable Difference against another, or others, more in line with the popularly accepted beliefs.

All hypothetical of course, and for that I apologize. Thanks for the response. - by Ace Coldiron
Skip, The idea Leboff is getting at is that sometimes the customer doesn't know they have a problem. This is where the questions both of you endorse come in. He clearly disdains a blanket presentation style of sales interview. He argues against the transactional model of selling. That is key, for in his method, you put the customer relationship first. This means you might end up saying, "Sorry, we aren't a good fit for you."

It is also really helpful to remember that this book is written for the small business owner. It is not written for the corporate salesman who turns over the relationship with the customer when the sale is made. It is for the small business owner who has to live with and care for the customer for the rest of the business relationship.

"Leboff's premise, that selling benefits is a myth, is hogwash."

You have to understand that Leboff sees people's motivations, most of the time, as not gaining benefits, but avoiding loss. He claims 'benefit selling' is integral to the transactional model, not the relationship model.

Benefits are saying, 'here is why we are great'. They speak more to the company selling it than to the customer and his needs and problems.

But importantly, whether people are buying to avoid loss or gain reward, they always buy to solve problems.

Do you go to a restaurant because it is billed as having good food? Perhaps, but really you go there because you want to show a loved one that you really care.

You really should read his book. Even while disagreeing with him you might pickup new thoughts... - by BERTSKI
Skip, The idea Leboff is getting at is that sometimes the customer doesn't know they have a problem. This is where the questions both of you endorse come in. He clearly disdains a blanket presentation style of sales interview. He argues against the transactional model of selling. That is key, for in his method, you put the customer relationship first. This means you might end up saying, "Sorry, we aren't a good fit for you."

It is also really helpful to remember that this book is written for the small business owner. It is not written for the corporate salesman who turns over the relationship with the customer when the sale is made. It is for the small business owner who has to live with and care for the customer for the rest of the business relationship.

"Leboff's premise, that selling benefits is a myth, is hogwash."

You have to understand that Leboff sees people's motivations, most of the time, as not gaining benefits, but avoiding loss. He claims 'benefit selling' is integral to the transactional model, not the relationship model.

Benefits are saying, 'here is why we are great'. They speak more to the company selling it than to the customer and his needs and problems.

But importantly, whether people are buying to avoid loss or gain reward, they always buy to solve problems.

Do you go to a restaurant because it is billed as having good food? Perhaps, but really you go there because you want to show a loved one that you really care.

You really should read his book. Even while disagreeing with him you might pickup new thoughts...
There is much you and I agree about. But nothing you've written convinces me a salesperson should not present benefits of his/her product/service to the prospect, and that is the subject of Leboff's video and the subject of this thread. - by Skip Anderson
Leboff doesn't argue one should not present the benefits of your products or services. It appears you got the wrong impression from his video. Context is everything. Which is why you have to read his book to know the context of why he calls 'benefit selling' a myth.

We all need effective answers to the question: How do we effectively help people with their problems?

When we look at it from that perspective, his book answers those types of questions very well.

His insights into the motivations for buying are invaluable. His method of creating a problem grid really allows a salesman to show the customer level 1 and level 2 and 3 of the problems left unaddressed by merely describing the benefits of your product or service. It is solutions they are looking for. They don't buy benefits! - by BERTSKI
[quote=BERTSKI;36827]Leboff doesn't argue one should not present the benefits of your products or services. It appears you got the wrong impression from his video. Context is everything. Which is why you have to read his book to know the context of why he calls 'benefit selling' a myth.

We all need effective answers to the question: How do we effectively help people with their problems?

When we look at it from that perspective, his book answers those types of questions very well.

His insights into the motivations for buying are invaluable. His method of creating a problem grid really allows a salesman to show the customer level 1 and level 2 and 3 of the problems left unaddressed by merely describing the benefits of your product or service. It is solutions they are looking for. They don't buy benefits![/quote

So Leboff puts out a video making outrageous statements and I shouldn't just take the video for what it's worth? That's your opinion? I have to buy his book to understand the video?

It sounds like you might be Grant Leboff and are now trying to backpeddle. sn; - by Skip Anderson
Sorry to open up a long lost thread but I have just come across this.

I have come a cross what Grant has to say before as I am too based in the UK. I appreciate what he is trying to say but get frustrated with the whole concept.

I actively train sales people and have seen a huge gap in the available skill set of the younger generation of sales people coming through.

Very new few sales people have a strong understanding of their marketplace, their solutions or the problems or goals of the businesses they sell to. This is not their fault as the companies that will happily send them off on an open sales training workshop should help them.

One of the reasons I stopped working with other training companies on open courses was because of the lack of preparation they would get delegates to do around the value they bring before turning up to a training workshop.

Many sales people turned up to an open workshop expecting the magic 'silver bullet' to closing the sale and had little grounding in their true value to the businesses they dealt with.

Benefits won't die. Client value won't die. Yes someone might buy because of different benefits than when you first started your exchange with them. That's OK. That's what happens in sales.

At least start off with a strong understanding of the benefits and the value you bring first. I believe in sales fundamentals and this is one of the biggest sales fundamentals. - by peter-odonoghue
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