Selling features vs benefits

In the 5 persuasion techniques sales executives must master article, we covered different persuasive sales skill techniques one can use, during the selling process.

In this article, we will discuss one persuasive sales skill or key factor which influences your buyer more than any other factor. This is to do with understanding what motivates the buyer to take action and what is the No. 1 persuasive sales skill to be used.

What is in it for me?

Most sales executives are being taught to sell benefits and not features. In spite of this many sales executive, do not understand this fundamental concept. They explain more about features of the product and expect the customer to figure out how the feature benefits him. Fact is, the customer don’t have time or interest in doing this.

Features per se don’t answer the customer fundamental question “what is in it for me”?  Because of this, features do not motivate him to take any action. Explaining features means sales executive is not using persuasive sales skill to influence the customer.

What motivates for action?

If not features, let us try to understand what motivates a customer to take action. As per Bob Stone, professor of direct marketing at Northwestern University, believes, “People respond to any given proposition for one of two reasons: to gain something they do not have or to avoid losing something they now possess.

The Desire to Gain something they do not have can be in terms of To make money, To save time, To have health, To experience pleasure, To reduce effort, To be popular, To attract opposite sex.

The Desire to avoid losing something they possess can be in terms of To avoid criticism, To avoid loss of money, To avoid physical pain, To avoid loss of reputation, To avoid trouble.

What we can see is, any customer is motivated to take action, only when he is persuaded with something which meets his basic human desires such as time, money, sex, pleasure, health etc. So when we map, use this persuasive sales skill by asking how our product or service can help him gain something he is not having or avoid losing something they possess?

Map to the ultimate results

As a salesperson, you will need to map the benefits to ultimate results buyer seeks which is to gain something he is not having or avoid losing something he already possesses. Instead, most sales executives describe benefits are actually an extension of the feature.

Take this example, if you are selling the latest PC which has a 6GHz microprocessor. The feature is 6GHz. The benefit of this feature is it helps to run the applications faster.  But just communicating the benefit in this way misses the point of addressing the ultimate result which is gain something or avoiding loss.

If you want to map to ultimate results, the benefit would be packaged as “By having 3GHz microprocessor, applications run faster and will help you be more productive so you finish tasks at half the time”. As you can see by linking benefits with gaining time which is buyer’s basic desire, you are using most powerful persuasive sales skill on answering what is in it for me?.

The interesting factor, studies have shown is, people respond twice when the benefits are linked to avoid losing something customer posses compared to gaining something they do not have.

Ex: Instead of saying, our new LED bulbs will save money on electricity bills, you can say, using our new LED bulbs, you don’t have to lose money paying higher electricity bills, the buyer is more persuaded.


As we see, every salesperson must see how he can help the buyer see the end result. The result is what maps buyer his desire of gaining something or desire to avoid losing something he possesses. Ones this is mapped, it will persuade any customer to take action.


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