What’s wrong with features and benefits?

By evoke
June 21, 2008

To the extent that sales is taught in business school, which is very little, we are told to sell using features and benefits. So that’s what virtually all companies do: they make a list of the features and benefits of their products and services, and then fight it out in advertising and other communications channels over whose list is better.

There are many problems with this approach, not the least of which is it is a very narcissistic way of convincing the customer to buy.

The biggest problem with selling on the basis of features and benefits is it actually encourages prospects to check out the competition and compare. Why on earth would you use a sales technique that encourages your prospects to go to the competition?

Here’s the alternative: do what Apple does with the iPod (and our clients do with their offerings!). Inspire your customers so much in what your product or service does for them (this is different from features and benefits) and they won’t consider your competitors. Most people don’t shop and compare when they want to buy an MP3 player, they just want – and buy – an iPod.

You are probably thinking that only Apple can sell this way because it is a really cool company, whereas you operate in a much more mundane business category, such as food, real estate development or footwear. The truth is you have the ability to create your company to be as inspiring as you choose. All you need is the desire. Companies such as Whole Foods, TRUMP and what Nike was in its “Just do it” era have achieved the sexiness – and sales prowess – in their categories that Apple has achieved in technology. People buy (or in Nike’s case, bought) from these companies without even considering the competition. They happily pay the premium to buy “cool” food or “cool” residences from these companies that operate in “uncool” categories.

Every company can make its products or services like the iPod. If they think or say they can’t, what they are really saying is they just don’t know how!

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