Feature and Benefit Sellers:
Victims of Their Own Success
Information product pushing can be nicely summed up by the idea that customers are not buying what you are selling like they used to. Not because you do not know your product, or how to communicate it well. It is because you do not know their business issues. It is because you do not give them the platform to intelligently communicate them.
Mainline sales people have to learn to realize that their phantom and iron grip on their information is not working. They need to refocus their attention to their customer's information platform including challenges, problems, and negative consequences of those problems.
Feature and benefit selling is fully complicit with information overload and compounds all its problems. The very best thing you can say about feature and benefit selling is it does not make your position worse, it just does not make it better. And if it does not make it better, it really defeats the whole purpose – does it not?
Feature and benefit selling is the height of recirculating and repackaging of used, mundane and spurious ideas. To make matters worse, product pushers are very indiscreet as to with whom, when, where and under what conditions they should spread the good word. Feature and benefit sellers simply are a walking argument for restraint because it is the quickest way to be reduced to column fodder, the reverse of its purported mandate.
Feature and benefit sellers are a victim of their own success. In their well intended rush to educate they get caught in the crossfire of too much information. It is a classic, double edge sword.
A lot of feature and benefit sellers attempt to trade up to consultative selling to escape the commodity trap, but so often it ends up to be a poor substitute because all they really are doing is denying their undying need to sell, convince and persuade. It is a hard habit to break. You really have to be willing to totally change your reference from me to you.
I was at a commencement event for my nephew at an art school where the speaker said love the art in yourself, instead of loving yourself and your art. Always being the consummate sales trainer, I thought how does this fit in the world of sales.
This is what I determined. Love the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of your customer, but do not have your customer see you are in love with your product and company at their detriment. When you are in love with your product, you are at risk of becoming tone deaf to the customer's information and priorities.
Product selling dulls senses, dulls your empathy, dulls your imagination, makes you a dullard, and it dwarfs your customer. It also has you living vicariously through your product, instead of being a customer activist. When you are not a customer activist you spend too much effort trying to get a customer and too often you end up acquiring a new competitor and having to find a new prospect.
Selling is storytelling at its finest hour. Tell customers you want to swap stories. Let them go first to determine if your story will have any relevance. The less inclined they are to go first, the greater you start off at a deficit. The best story will always be the customers. Next in line is the story of how your product/service addresses their major problems. So simply reconstitute your features and benefits to a storyline that is all about the customer's problems with little need to touch upon your solution until problems are firmly established and assessed.