Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Know Why People Will Buy Your Product

Too often we confuse features with benefits. We sell the features when what people really want are the benefits.

If you're not sure what the difference is between features and benefits, think of Microsoft Word. What do most people use it for? Typing up documents. Simple documents like homework essays, reports, letters, and that sort of thing. It's a word-processing system.

Some features in Word are useful. But of all those buttons and options at the top of the page, how many do you use? Not many, I'd guess.

Word is packed with fancy features. Mail-merge, document review, styles, research options and loads more that I don't even know about. You can bet the new Word 2010, when it comes out, will have heaps more.

But if a good salesperson was trying to sell Word to you, they wouldn't start by listing all the wonderful things it can do. They'd start by understanding why you're looking for a word-processing system.

They would encourage you to do most of the talking, telling them what problems you hoped a word-processor would solve. You might explain, say, that writing 20 letters a day by hand was time-consuming and pained your wrist. You might be frustrated that having started a document on paper, you could not easily change the order of the word to re-phrase sentences.

The good salesperson would then explain how Word could solve those problems for you. They might mention the spell-checker and mail-merge in passing, as extra benefits that might come in useful, but most of Word's capabilities wouldn't get a mention. Their focus would be on showing how the product could solve real problems you face on a regular basis.

Of course, there's more to selling than just providing solutions to problems. There's price, quality, after-sales support, delivery times and more.

But I'm still amazed how often people say: "look, here's a cool widget, buy one!" without addressing the main issue - do I NEED the widget?

When customers are cautious, as they are now, it's more important than ever to understand why people would want your products. Until you've grasped that, selling will be an uphill struggle.

This article expands on one of the 10 Marketing Tips for Small Business.

Andrew Knowles is a freelance writer.


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