One of the first things the new salesperson learns is to “sell the benefits of a product, not just the features.” Selling just the features of the product is the equivalent of just reading a product manual aloud to a customer. While it is possible that they could be interested in certain product features, they will be far more interested in understanding how those many features benefit the customer, themselves.
But are selling just the immediate customer benefits of buying a certain product enough? Or, does it make sense to be creative in also selling the “greater good” of the benefits to the customer?
Immediate Customer Benefits
Let’s take a look at selling the immediate customer benefits in a few different industries. My career has been in the world of advertising and media sales, in both sales and sales management. We would have various advertising opportunities in different types of media…primarily print or digital. In these types of media, the salesperson would have different products to sell with various technical specs that the customer would provide their ads units to use. But we weren’t selling the creative ad unit but how that particular ad unit would effectively reach the customer’s target audience. Ad performance and effectiveness as measured by the customer’s ‘key performance indicators’ (KPI’s) was the benefit we were selling.
Let’s look at another industry and how the great salesperson would sell the benefits as opposed to the features. Everyone loves the car buying process, right? OK, maybe not so much. But the best car salespeople can make the process smoother for the buyer by highlighting the benefits of the new car, not the features. For example, rather than just highlighting the technical features of a particular backup camera, the salesperson should highlight the safety of any children or poets that could be protected by having a backup camera. Backup cameras are now mandatory for all new cars sold but could be a real benefit for the customer buying a pre-owned vehicle. The best salespeople creatively tell a story about how the features of the product directly result in a benefit for the customer. The more personalized the benefits described, the more likely that the customer can visualize those benefits directly helping them.
“Greater Good” of Product Benefits for Salespeople
Let me explain what I mean by “greater good” in regard to the benefits of a product. Sometimes, salespeople need more inspiration than just exceeding their revenue and commission goals. I believe that many people in sales, myself included, need to think that what they are doing is of real value to people. When I worked at Kelley Blue Book (KBB), our team sold advertising programs to auto manufacturers on an endemic auto website. Our goals were obviously revenue based and our customers were the manufacturers and their advertising agencies. But I genuinely believed that were making a difference in being able to generate sales to help support the editorial team at KBB in their efforts to produce the best content online to aid consumers in their automotive shopping process. I communicated to our team that I thought that our efforts were making the car shopping process easier for consumers and a much better and informed experience than it had been before there were car shopping websites.
In my view, salespeople need to view their activities and careers as contributing to the betterment of society as a whole. Another way to view selling, from a salesperson’s perspective, is to consider how many jobs they are supporting by their sales success at their own companies. Salespeople and their selling is the lifeblood of any organization…they are the people that ‘keep the lights on’ and keep the revenue coming in to support their non-sales teammates and their families. The more experienced salespeople continue to inspire themselves more by looking at their careers as something more than just ‘hitting the number.’ Don’t get me wrong…people go into sales careers for monetary reasons and for the joy of working with people in an entrepreneurial environment. But I believe that the most successful salespeople and sales managers create for themselves other, more altruistic and unselfish reasons to be in sales. Take a look at what products you are selling…create and understand the benefits for your customers. And, consider thinking about how what you sell contributes to the ‘greater good’…you might discover that this thinking can lead to very powerful inspiration for you to grow your career.