Continuing with our in depth look at improving sales skills we now take a look at the importance of benefits in the negotiation process with your prospects.
THE VALUE OF CLEARLY STATING YOUR BENEFITS
For generations sales trainers have known some ways of presenting solutions are more effective than others. Successful traditional selling is based on translating the features of your proposal into perceived benefits to the prospect. Features are unpersuasive, whereas benefits are more powerful ways to describe your capabilities. But does this apply to selling professional services?
Benefits, as taught in traditional sales training, are ineffective in professional sales and may even create a negative effect.
Definition: Features, facts or characteristics about a product or service.
- “The price is £5,000”
- “We can deliver this in 45 days”
- “We have seven partners”
- “We spent £28,000 last year on new computer equipment and training for our employees.”
Features are often indisputable and do not involve a comparison. The prospect’s mental response to hearing a feature is likely to be, “So what?”
Key Point: Communicating features only communicates cost.
For example, maintaining offices all over the county/country, or training your people in the latest techniques, or buying the latest computers, and so forth must cost a lot of money, and the prospect may think that money has to come from your clients. Hearing features often increases prospects’ sensitivity to prices.
Mentioning only features leaves the prospect with the responsibility to translate those features into benefits. That is your job. Remember, you are assistant buyer.
It is essential to differentiate between advantages, which relate to Implicit Needs, and benefits, which relate to Explicit Needs.
Definition: Advantage, a statement of how your service can help the prospect meet an Implied Need.
Definition: Benefit, a statement of how your service can help the prospect meet an Explicit Need.
While the definitions are similar, the two types of statements have striking differences on prospects. Prospects perceive Advantages as general — even generic; Benefits are specific to them.
Example: If I say “Our new Cloud systems enable us to give you one day turnaround on your individual tax return,” I am assuming that is important to you. But if you routinely provide your accountant with your tax information somewhere close to deadline month, so this may not be of great interest to you. On the other hand, if you are due a tax refund then a fast turnaround is important as you may already have a plan for how to spend that money.
Thus, you have three types of statements that can demonstrate your capability: Features, Advantages, and Benefits.
- Features are neutral or negative in motivating prospects to buy
- Advantages have a slight positive effect but are often of little interest to prospects
- Benefits address specific needs the prospect expressed and have a large positive effect.
Key Point: To make a benefit statement, you must have an Explicit Need which you can address.
If you do a good job developing Explicit Needs, it is easy to give Benefits. In effect, the prospect says “I want it,” and you say, “We can give it to you.”
Key Point: If you are tempted to give an Advantage, try to go a bit further and give a Benefit.
As assistant buyer you must translate your features or advantages into benefits for the prospect. Develop Explicit Needs by using Implication and Payoff questions before you offer solutions. Do not present your capabilities before you know what the prospect needs.
Sometimes prospects encourage you to present solutions without giving you enough information about their needs — particularly in a “beauty contest” where they ask several firms to make presentations. Such prospects’ attitudes are “You make a presentation about your firm and your services, and we will decide whether it fits our needs.”
If you have to present Features and Advantages early in a sales cycle, try to have a minimum of one meeting ahead of time with some key person in the prospect’s organisation to uncover needs so your presentation can include some Benefits.