Why discussing Features, Advantages and Benefits with customers is really a waste of time.
By Adam Caplan
Many sales trainers and sales team managers will talk about F.A.B, or Features, Advantages & Benefits. They will talk, for hours, about how important it is to tell your customer the F.A.B of your product or service. They’ll say something like this:
FEATURES – What your products and services are
ADVANTAGES - What your features do
BENEFITS – What the product service does for the customer
The sales conversation will go something like this (I’ll use an Apple iPhone as an example here):
Well Mr Customer, the features of this new iPhone 4S is that it has the A5 chip, 8MP iSight camera, Retina display and 1080p video recording capability. The advantages of these are a faster performance for software tasks, improved picture taking, improved viewing of images on the screen and better video recording capability. The benefits to you are a) saved time from quicker performance, b) peace of mind that your pictures taken will be of the highest quality, convenience in not having to carry a video camera around with you and possible saving of money in not needing a digital camera at all, c) more enjoyable viewing experience when playing games or looking at images or films and d) the convenience of having a quality video recorder in your pocket that you can access easily and quickly.
This is a pretty standard and well established sales method and one that is used thousands and thousands of times every HOUR on this planet.
Can I be controversial?
It doesn’t work.
I am utterly set against F.A.B because it is psychologically incorrect for salespeople to use it.
Regular readers will know that I’m a qualified psychotherapist and trauma counsellor as well as being a sales and marketing guru (I hate that word, but I hate the term management consultant even more), my sales training programme is entirely developed by me and has been delivered to hundreds of salespeople with terrific results. My sales training is based on the psychology of selling as opposed to old school, old hat and incorrect sales models such as Features Advantages & Benefits.
You see, what the sales manager teaching F.A.B is doing what everybody else is doing. Just because we’ve always done something isn’t a reason to keep on doing it, is it?
In the old days of the Dixon’s electrical retail stores, the salespeople there were absolute Feature geeks. They knew all the features and would bore customers for hours with their ‘knowledge’ of the product. Dixon’s spent hundreds of thousands of pounds training their staff to have ‘product knowledge’ so the staff could tell everyone what the products were and what they did.
It’s a pity that they did this. It’s a pity that so many sales people think that if they just tell the customer the features, advantages and benefits of their products, it will make the customer buy the product.
Dixon’s has re-branded itself recently, but the old style 80′s shops that were so prominent on our high streets remain in our consciousness.
You see, the reasons that the salespeople at Dixon’s (and so many others around the world) struggle with F.A.B is that far from helping the customer to buy, it actually makes it harder.
Consider this: Do you buy anything for what it is or do you buy things because of what they do for you?
In the iPhone 4S example, the reason somebody buys that phone (not including the simple feel good factor of buying a desired item, we’ll look at that later) is for the BENEFITS and not for the FEATURES or ADVANTAGES.
In summary the features were some technical specifications, the advantages were what the technical specifications did, but the killer reasons we buy the iPhone (and people do in droves making it the best selling handset in 2012) are the benefits such a phone gives us. The benefits are what the product or service does for us.
In the case of the iPhone, it the benefits were saving time, more peace of mind and less worry, making your life easier, having more fun and saving you money. (Do you see how I came to that? If not, have a quick re-read of the example sales conversation and look at the benefits section.)
Funnily enough, most products can offer either all or most of these same benefits.
- Save time.
- Save money (or make money).
- More peace of mind or less worry
- More convenience or making our life easier
- More enjoyment and fun
- More feelings of happiness and confidence
For example, you don’t buy a pair of gucci loafers because the leather has a certain quality, or because they have a textured rubber sole or because they are a certain colour. You buy a pair of Gucci loafers because of a) how happy and excited it makes you feel when you buy them and b) how happy and excited you feel when you wear them. You also buy it for the rush of ‘having bought’ a pair of Gucci shoes. The empowering feeling that owning any status symbol is strong and fuels many economies.
Take the car industry as a terrific example.
There is simply no NEED for a top of the range Bentley, BMW, Mercedes or Jaguar, is there. There is a huge DESIRE for these items though, isn’t there?
We want these items because having them, driving them, owning them, makes us feel empowered and values. The benefits of owning such a car are often to do with emotional feelings as opposed to anything else.
They are certainly not to do with the Features are they?
The fact is we buy the benefits of ownership and nothing else.
So, stop talking features and advantages and start thinking benefits.
And regular readers will know that I’ll be expecting you to be asking benefits related questions not just trotting out a sales spiel.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. If you have, please share it with your friends and colleagues, please sign up for the newsletter and consider my language of sales seminar on June 22nd. I’d love to see you there.
Make every day a positive day,