Traditional sales training has done a fantastic job at teaching salespeople about the differences between selling features and benefits. Benefits are far more persuasive because they translate features into a simple language. This enables prospects to connect your product to the desired outcomes. But will all prospects enjoy your product’s benefits equally? In today’s competitive selling environment, we need to know the difference between selling benefits vs. selling value.
Selling benefits vs. selling value: Lessons from a Computer Shop
Not long ago, I owned a broken computer which I needed for work. I had two options: I could buy a brand new one for $1,000, or I could see if I could have it repaired for less. I took it to a local shop and the technician said it would cost $100 to fix. The proposition for me was simple: my need for a working computer could have been met with a solution that cost $1,000 or $100. The value of the computer repairs was $900 (in savings) which far exceeded the price of $100.
Let’s imagine now another customer comes to the same shop with outdated hardware. The price of fixing the computer is still $100, but the technician determines that the equipment is not suited for the intended purpose of playing the latest video games. The machine simply would not be able to run them, and therefore the customer would not enjoy any value from the service. He advises him to purchase a new computer, and the customer is glad to be given this advice.
The computer shop’s service benefits are identical in both scenarios (a fixed computer), but the value derived from different customers was dependent on their situation. Only by properly understanding their goals could the technician give proper recommendations.
Selling benefits vs. selling value: Lessons from Selling Online Marketing Services
I spent a good portion of my sales career selling internet related products. For example, I sold domain names, websites, and online marketing. When I first recognised the principle of demonstrating ROI (Return On Investment), it transformed the way I approached my prospects. I saw it as a justification for purchasing my company’s services. I started preparing tailored market research reports. Then, I used them as a way of demonstrating my intent of giving value upfront. This made cold calling and appointment setting immensely more natural and comfortable, and my conversion rates from calls to appointments skyrocketed.
One particular small business owner I called on was impressed with the detailed research I provided him. During the consultation however, it quickly became apparent to me that the cost of our marketing service would outweigh the potential returns. It was not that our service was of poor quality. Rather, their low profit margins vs. our prices just meant that a positive ROI was very unlikely. I stated this plainly to the prospect, saying “Based on my research and what you’re telling me, I don’t think our service would be a good fit for your business…” As a result of my sincerity and honesty, we kept in touch and became friends. The benefits of our service simply would not have brought about the same value that it would a better qualified prospect.
Imagine how events might have turned out if I had pushed for the sale anyway, without revealing my reservations about the value he would(n’t) receive. More than likely, he would have had hidden objections about the offer and my integrity, and turned it down. In the unlikely event that he did buy (through some hocus pocus manipulation tactics), how long do you think he would have continued with the service before complaining and cancelling? The right choice quickly becomes evident.
On another sales call, I visited a manufacturing company that was clearly behind their competitors on the online space. Their website was not visible for product related enquiries on Google, which meant that they were losing out on numerous enquiries every day. Being a high volume and premium product with a healthy marketing budget, our service was much better suited for their circumstances. I was able to confidently sell to this company because deep within myself, I was fully convinced that they would enjoy more economic value than the price for our services.
As salespeople, we use the consultative phase of the selling process to discover needs, goals, and obstacles. This will then help us formulate our business case, explaining the value that the company will enjoy, and gives our prices context when compared with our competitors’.
Selling benefits vs. selling value: Application
Grab a pen and paper, and answer these three questions:
- In your business, what is the value your clients enjoy from your product?
- In what situations does your value proposition exceed the price that you charge, and when doesn’t it?
- What are the benefits for you and your company in turning away prospects that won’t enjoy greater value than what they pay?
Selling on value rather than benefits alone is clearly a superior way to prospect. Adopting the value mindset also has numerous advantages. Firstly, clients will sense your sincere effort and care for them. In turn, they will be more likely to trust and buy from you. Secondly, you will have fewer angry clients demanding refunds. They won’t berate your colleagues. It won’t tarnish your reputation on social media (word of mouth on steroids). Thirdly, you will have more happy clients who will become repeat buyers and sing your praises to their friends. As professional salespeople, our success depends on evolving from selling benefits to selling value.
P.S. For further reading, pick up the following title from your favourite book shop. “The Go-Giver,” by Bob Burg and John David Mann
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