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Value-Added Selling Part 5

Selling Benefits, Not Features

Last post I discussed engaging with your customer in part four of this five part series on value-added selling. In this final part of the series, I’ll discuss the importance of selling benefits instead of features, and how to present your solution — the right solution — to your customer.

The value you add to the sales situation is demonstrated in various ways, many of which we already discussed in previous portions of this series. However, it all comes together in the way in which you present the solution to your client. Let’s discuss exactly how this is done.

First, we must cover a simple lesson on features versus benefits since it is critical that you understand the difference, and many people get them confused. A feature is something you want while a benefit is something you need. For instance, when you go to a hardware store to buy a ¼ inch drill bit, is that what you need or what you want? You don’t need a ¼ inch drill bit. You NEED a ¼ inch hole, but you WANT a ¼ inch drill bit in order to make the hole. The salesman in the hardware store, in knowing what it is you actually need, can help address what it is you’ll ultimately want to buy.

If he asks you good questions about what you are working on, he might discover that what you thought you wanted, a regular ¼ inch drill bit, would not suffice for your project. You might have answered his inquiries by saying that you need to drill five-hundred ¼ inch holes into concrete. At that point, the salesman might say that what you really WANT is a ¼ inch carbide tipped drill bit. This might cost a lot more, but it will last the entire job, as opposed to buying a regular bit and replacing it every 2-3 holes, thus costing you a lot more in the end. This is the right solution and was discovered simply by the salesman asking you what you really needed, or what benefit you were looking to achieve.

When you talk about your product or service, you are typically talking about a feature or something that you think the prospect needs. But the prospect can’t always relate to how that will help or benefit him. It’s what that feature will do for him that’s the actual benefit; what he needs. In the earlier stages of the sales cycle, when you learn what the prospect needs by asking questions and listening, you discover what benefits he is in need of. You have to make sure at this step of the process that you’ve matched the right features with the right benefits.

If you still have difficulties identifying the difference between a feature and a benefit, then try this little test. After you make a statement (to yourself) about your product, say, “So what?” The answer to that question will be the benefit. For instance, I say, “We manufacture our products with high quality.” Many people would think that’s a benefit. But it’s not. I test it by asking, “So what?” Or, I can do the same thing by asking, “What’s in it for me?” The answer is the benefit. In this example, the answer could be, “This means that your final product will not break when used,” or, “Your investment will be protected since our product will last longer.”

Another example is a mortgage broker telling you they have dozens of mortgage products for you to choose from. For all I know, that only makes things more confusing and doesn’t help me. Therefore, I have to say, “So what?” The response to that could be, “This is important because it means that I can meet the specific monthly payments you need as well as the long term investment goals you’re looking to achieve.” Now those are benefits.

You see — features lead to benefits, and benefits are what add value to the sale.

Presenting the Solution

Once you clearly understand the difference between a feature and a benefit, you are ready to present the solution to your customer. At this point, you must have accurately matched your solutions to your customer’s requirements. Again, we must first have learned about his requirements from the earlier steps in the sales process. You must have first asked the right questions, carefully listened to the answers and verified that you accurately understood what the customer told you. By doing so you will have positioned yourself as a credible partner to the customer and someone he will want to do business with because you demonstrated that you are concerned with his problems and not just making a sale.

The way to present your solution, in a value-added selling model, is very simple. First, present one of your customer’s requirements, then the feature of your product or service that will address that requirement, and then explain the benefit of that feature so he understands how it will solve his problem. Finally, verify that this is important to him by asking if he agrees this will satisfy his need. You must verify this since you could be wrong or you misinterpreted the customer’s needs and you don’t want to proceed until you get full agreement. You repeat this step for each of the requirements or problems your customer told you he has.

Here’s an example of how this is done. First we re-state your customer’s requirement by saying, “You said you need to process orders faster so you stop losing to your competitors. Right?”

Then comes the feature: “Our electronic order-processing system runs through a web browser.”

Now the benefit: “This allows your clients to place their orders from their own PCs quickly, easily, and at any time, which means your order-entry department will get the information immediately for processing.”

Finally, we verify that this is of real interest to your customer by saying, “How will that help your problem?”

You see, it’s pretty simple, once you know your customer’s requirements.

When you present the solution, you paint a picture for your customer by helping him visualize the solution in his day-to-day operations or his life. You get him to picture how this will make his life or job easier or improve his situation in some way.

You’re hitting their key pain points by addressing “why” he wants to buy your product. You know this is true because he already told you exactly what his needs were from your earlier qualifying questions. At this point, you are just reiterating what he already told you, and it is therefore indisputable. So you tell him what he already told you is his problem, and then you match that to your solution. He can’t help but visualize how this will solve his problems. At this point, he will want to “buy” from you since you are not actually “selling” anything, and you’ve accurately addressed his needs. This is also why it’s important that you established your credibility first, because now it’s decision time and you should have removed any remaining doubts in the mind of your customer.


Let’s summarize what we covered in this value-added selling series. We have discussed how to:

  1. Establish credibility to get respect from your customer and make him feel comfortable when dealing with you.
  2. Develop an elevator pitch and differentiate yourself.
  3. Build relationships with your customers by becoming a trusted partner and problem-solver.
  4. Engage with your customer’s business.
  5. Present the right solution to your customer in a way that will be indisputable since it matches each requirement he has with a feature of your product along with its benefit.

Collectively, this all adds up to successful value-added selling. At this point, you are ready to go for the close. If you did a good job of selling value, then this step should be much easier.

Good luck and good selling!

About the author:
Russ Lombardo, President & Founder of PEAK Sales Consulting, is a nationally recognized Sales and CRM consultant, speaker, trainer, and author. Russ works with sales organizations and management who want to increase their sales results by acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. As a speaker, Russ presents sales training seminars and customer retention workshops as well as keynote and conference speeches to dozens of audiences every year. He is the author of five books on Sales and CRM.


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