“Features” or “Benefits”… How To Get the Most From Your Sales Messages

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If you’ve been around the sales or marketing arenas for any length of time, you’ve no-doubt heard the discussion about features and benefits. The idea is that people don’t want want, or won’t buy the features of a product… they are only interested in the benefits… what the product will do for them.

The argument sounds reasonable enough… at least on the surface. But there’s more to it than that… at least if you want to enjoy the greatest results from your sales messages.

When describing the short piece that’s attached to the top part of the pen, ask people what it is. Most will say that it’s a clip. That’s the feature. Then ask them what the benefit is. Most will tell you that it holds the pen in your pocket. While it’s true that the clip does hold the pen in your pocket, that’s not the benefit… it’s the function.

Here’s a quick 4-step formula to help you create a more impactful sales message. When describing a product or service and the reason or reasons someone should buy it (or at least have them request more information about it to help facilitate the buying decision)… think:

  • Feature – what is it?
  • Function – what does it do?
  • Benefit – so what?
  • Proof – prove it!

Using the ballpoint pen as an example, consider these four steps:

  • What is it? (feature) – It’s a clip.
  • What does it do? (function) – Holds it in your pocket.
  • So what? (benefit) – So it doesn’t fall out when you bend over, or so you know exactly where it is when you need it.
  • Prove it! (proof) – “Here, put it in your pocket and bend over. Notice that it’s still where you put it.” Or “Put it in your pocket, close your eyes and see if you can find it. It’s right where you put it.”

You can use this formula with any product or serve. With every sales message or sales presentation, be sure not to confuse the benefit with the function… at least if you want to dramatically improve your sales.

2 Comments for this entry

  • I’m posting this next to my computer. That is the most succinct description of features vs benefits I have read in a long time.



    • Martin Howey says:

      Thank you for your comment, Brenda. I’m glad you found value in the article. It’s easy to get caught up in the “Features vs. Benefits” discussion… and there’s value in that… but few people understand the real difference between Functions and Benefits. I like to keep the discussion going and try to ferret out the real reason how someone would benefit from the product or service. After stating a benefit, make a statement like, “What that means to you is….” Or before you make your actual presentation, try to dig deeper and find out what their real need or want is. You can ask something along the lines of, “What problem (challenge or situation) are you trying to solve? May I ask you how [this product] will help you solve [satisfy, eliminate, minimize, overcome] that problem? (Let them respond.)

      Then dig deeper: “What would (solving that problem) mean to you?” (Let them respond.) Then ask, “And if that happened, would would that mean?” You keep asking to find out the real, deeper meaning that solving their problem is. For instance, some people say that if they had a certain product or service, it would enable them to make more money. But that’s not the benefit… it’s the feature. The “surface benefit” could be that it would enable them to spend less time at work and spend more time with their kids.

      That sounds great, but digging deeper might reveal other, more emotional meanings that could help you get to the root. If you asked, “Spending more time with your kids is certainly important, and I admire you for wanting to do that. But why is that important to you?” They might tell you that they have a 16 or 17 year old who will be leaving for college in the next year or two and they want to strengthen that relationship before they go. Or they may have a 13-year old who is starting to fall into the wrong crowd, etc.

      So “making more money” is not the real benefit… just the surface benefit. If you can tie your presentation to the deeper benefits, you’ll tug at their emotions and have a much better chance of making a sale. This is an entire discussion of it’s own, and we could go on for pages and pages. Hopefully, this will give you another idea or two that can improve your copywriting and presentation skills.

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