Features and benefits: a sales and service basic, right? Yes, expressing benefits is a fundamental skill but that doesn’t mean pros don’t need refreshers. Here’s a mini-lecture on why working on benefit statements is a good idea:
There are now more opportunities for expressing benefits. We’re communicating via text and chat and email and webinar and social media, as well as on the phone and in person. Repeatedly using the same benefit statements makes them flat and ineffective.
Benefits can get fuzzier as we keep up with lingo changes. “Interventions” become “solutions” and even morph into “disruption.” As we alter our language, we can forget not just how to express the actual benefit but how to identify it in the first place. For example: We’ve provided solutions to business owners for twenty years. Okay, twenty years is the feature – easy peazy. Now tell me, what’s a benefit of all that experience?
Mini-lecture over. Here’s the refresher.
Feature vs. Benefit
A feature is a characteristic of a product/service, company, person’s experience, etc. A benefit is what that feature does for customers. For example:
Feature: There’s no charge for using other bank’s ATMs.
Two of its benefits: You can get cash when you need it, and save money.
Feature: We test applicants’ office skills, such as phone manners.
Two benefits: You’ll know applicants meet your minimum requirements, so interviews can focus on things like fit with company culture.
More Words for “Feature”
A feature is a characteristic, a quality, or a facet
A feature is an attribute, an aspect, or an element
A feature may be a fact — but not necessarily
A single feature can easily have more than one benefit, and we can describe benefits in thousands of ways. However, benefits fall into just six categories:
- Save money
- Increase money or value
- Peace of mind
- Appeals to self-image
- Fun or enjoyment
Convenience is all about saving time and/or less hassle For example, online banking features let customers access their accounts and complete transactions when they want to. Face moisturizer with sunscreen saves users the hassle of applying two products.
Saving money comes in many forms. Holding a sale falls into this category, and so do mortgages that let customers pay points upfront to save money on monthly payments (or vice versa). Training companies that customize existing programs instead of starting from scratch can leverage this type of benefit, as well.
Examples that fall into the increase money/value category include things like earning interest on accounts. So do the benefits of home improvement; e.g., spending $20,000 to remodel a kitchen increases home value by $30,000.
Peace of mind is primarily about less worry. Examples range from insurance features that help clients replace property, to free trials that give us hands-on experience with products so we know exactly what they’re like.
The benefit category of appealing to self-image certainly includes bolstering ego. For example, some private banking clients may like the idea of being part of an “exclusive” group. However, this category is mostly about all the other flavors of personal self-image or company-image. This includes images like sporty, leading-edge, health-conscious, caring, bold, shy, conservative, team-oriented, family-oriented, and even dog-oriented.
The sixth benefit category is fun and enjoyment. Ads that show a car driving through beautiful scenery fall into this category, as do credit cards that highlight accumulating points for vacation travel. Benefits of museum memberships fall into this category – and so do the benefits of air fresheners and “fun” shoes.
How to Clarify Benefits: Ask “So What?”
We may have complex products/services or they may be simple. We may have highly sophisticated prospects or we may need to do a lot of educating. We may have many years of experience or just a few months. Regardless, the best way to strengthen our benefit statements is to go back to something very basic: Say a feature and ask yourself, “So what? What does that feature do for clients?”
Let’s walk through four examples.
The feature is an assigned banker who provides personalized service.
What’s a possible benefit? “The benefit is we know your needs.”
So what? What does working with someone who knows their needs do for clients?
“Clients won’t have to explain their situation over and over.”
Great! But so what? What do clients get out of not having to educate their banker over and over?
“Saves them time and hassle. Plus they know we’re recommending things that truly meet their needs.”
Ask So what again to test those benefits. If there’s an answer to that challenge, you’ve still got some work to do on clarifying the benefits.
In this case there is no more to it so you’ve got what you need to create one or more strong benefit statements. Here is one that covers everything shown above, with the categories shown in parentheses:
“Clients have an assigned representative who provides personalized service. Since your banker knows you, you won’t have to explain your situation over and over. This not only saves you time and hassle (convenience), you can rest assured we’re recommending products that truly meet your unique needs (peace of mind, and self-image).”
The feature is 25 years of experience.
What’s a possible benefit? “We know what works and what doesn’t.”
Okay, that’s still about you, which means it’s still a feature. So what? What does your knowledge do for your clients?
“So we can guide clients along the smoothest, shortest path.”
Test the above statement by asking So what?
The so-what test reveals more to it, for example: “So we save clients time, and there’s less to worry about.”
That’s a strong benefit statement; however, spelling all of that out may or may not be the most effective. Here are two benefit statements to compare:
“We’ve been in this services space for 25 years. We know what works and what doesn’t, so we can guide clients along the smoothest, shortest path to reach their objectives.”
“We’ve been in this business for 25 years. We know what works, what doesn’t, and can guide clients along the smoothest, shortest path. This saves clients time, hassle, and worry.”
Which one would you prefer?
This time we’ll start with the product: commercial property insurance.
It’s common for benefit statements to focus on “protect assets” or “prevent loss.” Here’s an example grabbed off the web: “Property insurance protects your business’ physical and other assets.”
The trouble with that statement is it doesn’t actually include a benefit, and it’s only partly true.
The core feature of these products is that they provide funds customers can use to replace property after it’s damaged, stolen, etc. Insurance prevents additional loss of assets customers would otherwise have to use to keep the business operating.
Most prospects understand what insurance does but using rote, superficial benefit statements can create problems, such as:
- Experienced insurance professionals may become bored with the message, so their benefit statements sound flat and are less effective.
- Those who are new to the profession, including those assigned to make prospecting calls for others, don’t have a robust understanding of the core features and their benefits. This, in turn, often makes them sound less professional, and they may have trouble handling objections.
Those are just two reasons why clarifying features can be just as important as clarifying benefits. (This of course applies to all industries, not just insurance.) However, we don’t necessarily need to apply that clarity word-for-word. Two benefit statements for comparison:
“Property insurance provides funds to quickly bounce back after a loss. Our job as broker is to help you choose the right coverage so you can use your cash and other financial assets to sustain or grow, not regroup and rebuild.”
“Property insurance gives you the means to quickly bounce back after a loss. Our job is to select the right coverage to ensure you can use your assets to sustain or grow your business, not regroup and rebuild.”
What about talking with influencers in an organization or COIs (Centers of Influence)? There are two approaches:
A) We can often use the same features and benefit statements with a few changes.
Let’s say we’re talking with CPAs. The feature is an assigned banker who provides personalized service.
“Clients have an assigned representative who provides personalized service. Since their banker knows them, they won’t have to repeatedly explain their situation. This not only saves them time and hassle (convenience), it ensures we’re recommending products that truly meet their unique needs (peace of mind, and self-image).”
B) We can also brainstorm to clarify features of referring to us, and their related benefits.
For CPAs (and others): Having more than one bank they know well (feature) can make it easier to send clients to the right place (convenience benefit).
“Though banks tend to offer similar products the service itself may differ. Getting to know us may make it easier to tailor suggestions for specific clients.”
Many CPAs (and others) prefer to suggest more than one service-provider, sometimes it’s required. Meeting this preference or requirement is the feature. See if you can identify the benefit category:
“Most CPAs I work with suggest two or three banks to any given client. They tell me they don’t want to just dot i’s and cross t’s. Getting to know us meets their requirement for quality.”
The benefit category: appeals to self-image. Now try this one:
“Most CPAs I work with suggest two or three banks to any given client. Spending a little time upfront to get to know us makes it easy to dot i’s and cross t’s over the long term.”
That is a convenience benefit.
Two more tips about features and benefits for influencers:
- Use consultative wording
- Avoid “you” by talking about others i.e., “Most CPAs I work with…”
Our Preferences Have Power, too
There are several differences in the above benefit statements. Some prospects and clients will prefer one, some the other, some either, some neither…
Exercising our ability to express benefits helps us choose the right one and tailor the statement to each person. But we’re not always in situations that allow us to do this (networking and telemarketing are two examples).
When we don’t have opportunity to hear what’s on the other person’s mind, the strongest benefit statements use a consultative approach and wording we prefer. These are effective because they’re genuine.
Now that you’ve read this refresher, you may want to brainstorm features and challenge each with a “So what?” The exercise can uncover new things to talk about, and strengthen even the most familiar benefit statements.
You may also be interested in this article. It covers the nuances involved in benefit statements, including how to tailor them; as well as training tips.