HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

How to Sell: Value, Benefits, or Features?

The smartest way to close the deal focuses on the bottom-line impact for the customer. Here's how.

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Most businesspeople (including many who sell for a living) define "value" as "the most product for the least amount of money."  Wrong, wrong, wrong!

While that's how the term "value" is used in supermarket ads, it's not what "value" means when you're selling in the business world.

Probably the best way to understand "value selling " is to compare it with the two other primary B2B sales concepts: selling by feature and selling by benefit.  (Note: I picked up this important distinction from Nancy Martini, CEO of PI Worldwide.)

Feature Selling

When you "sell a feature," you describe some element of your offering, in the hope that the customer will be suitably impressed. Example: "Our widgets have dual-plug potzeebies!"

Feature selling is generally ineffective, because except for the occasional gearhead, customers usually can't figure out why a particular feature or function is meaningful to them.

Benefit Selling

When you "sell a benefit," you are still essentially describing a product feature–but you tie it to some way that it improves the customer's situation. Example: "Our widgets are manufactured locally, so you can be assured of an immediate supply."

While "selling benefits" is more effective than "selling features," it isn't always clear to the customer why that benefit is important in the larger context of the customer's business.  While the customer may know, for instance, that an "immediate supply" is a generally good thing to have, it's hard to compare that "good" to every other priority in the customer's business.

Value Selling

When "sell value," you start with the business goal that the customer would like to achieve–then tie that value to a specific benefit generated by a particular feature.  Example: "Manufacturing delays resulting from widget unavailability cost your firm $10 million last year. Because our widgets are manufactured locally, we can provide them as soon as you need them."

In other words, the "value" that you're selling is not the amount of product for the price, but the financial impact of the purchase compared against the purchase cost.

This is incredibly important to understand, because it's the key to selling to other businesses.

If the "value" you're selling is unique to your offering and large enough to make it a priority, you will win the business, as long as the customer has money to spend.

And that's what "selling value" is all about.

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Last updated: Jun 13, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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