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Are you selling the benefits or the features of your business?

One mistake I see a lot of businesses make on their website, social media, and overall presentation is focusing on selling the features of what they do, instead of explaining the benefits of what they offer.
Written May 31, 2011, read 1689 times since then.
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One mistake I see a lot of businesses make on their website, social media, and overall presentation is focusing on selling the features of what they do, instead of explaining the benefits of what they offer and more to the point how they can solve your problem. This is a mistake because it shows that the emphasis is on trying to sell to the client or prospect before discovering if the client or prospect has a problem you can solve.

Selling the benefits on the other hand can help a prospect qualify him/herself because you are addressing why it is they need your services. Believe me when I say: The prospect's problem is far more important to him/her than the features of what you do. That only becomes important if the person decides you actually can help him/her solve the problem.

Let me provide an example of a feature and a benefit. If I tell you that I provide social media business plans to businesses, I'm presenting a feature of my services. It's all about my business and what it does as opposed to it being about your problem or need. You may actually need a social media business plan, but if you don't feel that I'm addressing your problem, it won't matter that you need it. Until you know that I understand your pain, you can't be sure that I can actually help you. On the other hand, if I explain it in terms of the pain you feel and the solution I can present, then I'm explaining the benefits.

For instance: "If you're feeling overwhelmed by social media, and aren't sure what sites to be on, and what activities to do, I understand your concerns. Social media has a steep learning curve, especially with the technology, but I will walk you through the technology and provide a business plan that helps you determine what sites to be on and what activities to do." In this case, I've focused on the pain first, and the solution (and feature) second. I want my prospect to know that I understand the pain s/he feels, and that what I offer will take away that pain.

A feature will never tell a prospect about him/herself. The primary interest a prospect has is in him/herself. We are all a self-interested species. It's how we preserve ourselves. But if we want to reach a prospect, we have to put ourselves in that person's shoes and self-interest. What is it s/he will care about? Him/herself and solving his/her problems.

That's what a person thinks about before anything else. Will X service or product solve my problem and do the people offering it know my problem and care about solving it? A feature just tells the person that you want to sell him/her without finding out if s/he needs that feature.

It's important to use negativity. Many businesses will shy away from discussing the negativity of the problems they solve, but pain (of any kind) is a negative experience that people want to resolve as soon as possible. Describing the problems you solve in terms of the pain it causes someone can tell people a lot about how you can benefit their lives or businesses. Pain is how we qualify the people we choose to work with.

The problems we encounter are what define our buying decisions, the majority of times, and this is true for people in general, so accordingly your business needs to talk about the pain and problems it resolves, as well as discussing how it resolves them.

When you discuss the pain a person or business feels you, you also need to provide the solution, but the solution has to be situated in context to the pain. Telling you I develop social media business plans won't help you, unless I put into a context that you can relate to, namely the pain you are feeling because you don't have a social media plan and feel lost using the technology. That context turns a feature into a benefit, because it shows how that feature will actually solve the pain a person or business is feeling.

Ideally, you'll use the language your clients have used to describe their problems, as opposed to trying to come up with what you think they are saying. For example, the other day, I talked with a client and she mentioned that she was having trouble working on her business plan, especially the part where she  did a competition analysis. I listened to what she had to say about her problem and write it down, because chances are other people will say something similar and I can use that to identify if they need my services or the services of someone else.

There's one other element to consider with describing the benefits instead of the features. You need to listen to what people are saying about their problems and you need to care about them enough to help them solve their problems. We all want to make money, but just making money isn't enough. Caring about your clients will bring a level of service that goes above and beyond anything else you can offer.

To be able to help a client reach a place of empowerment and success is the ultimate goal of what you offer. Listening to your client's problems will help you discover what you can offer to them that will help them solve those problems. That will provide you the best understanding of how to create a benefit for your client, instead of a feature. A feature is about selling yourself, while a benefit is about demonstrating how you can help them improve their businesses or lives.

Learn more about the author, Taylor Ellwood.

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