Reminder: There are myriad ways to express benefits but they fall into just six categories: convenience, save money, increase money or value, peace of mind, appeal to image, fun/enjoyment.
Features Usually Come in Sets
We tend to start with the product/service, identify its features, and build benefit statements for each feature. This is an excellent way to learn the skill; however, feature-and-benefit, feature-and-benefit… can backfire in real life. To illustrate:
Mobile banking features include working on two popular operating systems, deposit checks, view transactions, make transfers, triple layer encryption, password protection, and free—that’s seven features! Using seven benefit statements will make the banker sound unprofessional, and the product seem overly complex.
Grouping features per benefit category avoids those problems. For example: making and viewing transactions on our phone can fall into the convenience category; encryption and password protection can fall into the peace of mind category.
Grouping also clarifies key benefits for the product/service as a whole. For example:
“Our mobile banking gives you all the function of online banking on your phone for even greater convenience.”
Training tip: Make sure training includes creating benefit statements per-feature and using feature-groups. People really need both to have full use of the skill.
Tip for mobile banking and similar products: Do not use “secure” as a feature. It’s the things that make something secure—such as triple layer encryption—that are features. “Secure” is a benefit that falls into the peace of mind category.
Benefit First, Feature Second
This is the format we often learn for benefit statements: mention the feature and then its benefit. Repeatedly using this format gets a bit stale or sounds trite. Instead of trying to come up with completely new benefits to talk about, just flip the order.
“Mobile banking lets you use your smart phone for banking (feature), saving you time (benefit).”
Benefit first: “You can save time by using mobile banking on your smart phone.”
Training tip: Encourage people to practice both orders. This teaches them to leverage their personal communication style (and avoid boredom over time).
One Feature or Set of Features, Many Benefits
Most features have more than one benefit. Let’s stick with mobile banking and the features of viewing transactions and making transfers to illustrate this. One benefit already covered is convenience.
Peace of mind is another benefit: “Have you ever needed to see if a check has cleared or a deposit came in? With mobile banking you can take care of that at any time.”
Yet another benefit falls into the self-image category: “Sounds like you have better things to do with your personal time than fire up the PC and take care of banking. Mobile banking may fit your on the go lifestyle perfectly.”
Training tips: Stretch your students’ ability to see beyond the obvious benefit (e.g., convenience) and work with other benefits. Try not to let your own views limit benefit statement creation. If students identify a benefit that seems odd to you, encourage them to work on it to see how it plays out.
Personalizing Benefit Statements
Take another look at the last two benefit statements above. Some may say they’re actually about convenience—and that may be true. It’s all in the tone, word-choice, and connection to what’s on the prospect’s mind, which brings us to personalizing benefit statements.
The most effective benefit statements speak to each prospect’s and customer’s perspective. However, we don’t need a lengthy conversation or special training in personality types to succeed with this. We just need to use words that show we’ve paid attention.
For example: Customer calls to see if a check has cleared. He seems tense and says, “I have to know right away and I don’t have the option to go online here at work.”
Is this customer concerned with convenience? Peace of mind? Is he prohibited from online banking at work? Any of these may be the case. However, this customer could just as well be prone to drama or simply lacks access to a computer.
We don’t need to correctly identify what’s going on in their head to be effective. We just need to use words that connect to what prospects and customers say.
Sticking with the above call: After resolving the issue, the service rep says, “We’re happy to help on the phone. Also want to mention mobile banking as an option. You can check things like this right away on your smart phone. Would you like more information?”
The customer used “option” and “right away.” By folding those into what she says, the service rep positions the words as benefits.
Training tip: Service reps should first handle the customer’s request. Make sure examples and practice include reminders like “After resolving the issue” to support best practices.
Benefit Statements and Sophisticated Sellers
I used a customer service example above because that’s a situation in which we have limited time to glean clues for benefit statements. Professionals who have more time, and are more experienced, have different challenges.
One common challenge is the idea benefits are obvious. Experienced sellers think about their products/services a lot. That’s not the case for prospects—even knowledgeable prospects—which is why well-crafted benefit statements have powerful effect.
The other common challenge occurs when sellers become so adept with personalizing benefit statements they forget that’s what they’re doing. Let me explain:
Sellers working with complex products/services typically start sales conversations by uncovering the prospect’s wants, needs and perceptions. They use that information, and the prospect’s own words, to position value. This is a fancy way of saying they’re personalizing benefit statements.
As sellers gain expertise, personalizing becomes almost automatic and they may forget how they’re doing it. (They may even believe only rookies deal with benefit statements.) Here’s why keeping the fundamentals fresh can be important:
- Sellers working in complex environments often need influencers to “sell” to others. Giving influencers clear but more general benefit statements to use helps this succeed.
- When new products/services are introduced, looking at their features and associated benefits shortens ramp-up time.
- When problems arise (e.g., product glitches), the go-to benefits may no longer have enough value. Being able to spotlight other benefits helps overcome these challenges.
- Most sellers hit a slump from time to time. Getting back to basics can be the fastest way to pull out of it.
Training tip for experienced reps: After a brief review of feature versus benefit and the benefit categories, have experienced sales reps work backwards. Start with a benefit category, link features to it, and put them together in benefit statements. Doing this with all of the benefit categories, including categories not obviously applicable, is an excellent stretch. The exercise also fits neatly in short time frames, such as sales meetings.
Features and Benefits: Unsung Heroes of Sales Success
Questions that uncover wants and needs and build rapport, positioning that prevents and handles objections, communicating value… All of these more sophisticated sales and service skills have a direct link to working with features and their benefits. Taking time to build and refresh this skill helps ensure you succeed with each.
One final training tip: Train reps who handle less complex service and sales separately from those who handle more complex sales. e.g., train contact center reps separately from commercial bankers. This division is not about skill level; the context differs and so will realistic practice.