Features Tell, Benefits Sell

Jack was new to selling pavement maintenance but was young, excited, and becoming very knowledgeable about sealing products. Because he wanted to make a great first impression Jack doubled up on his study hours reviewing all the features about the sealing product that his company used in 90%-95% of their projects.

After Jack's first 45 days in the field calling on prospective customers he had exactly zero sales. The only thing Jack thought might be his problem was that he still wasn't knowledgeable enough about the sealing material, the process used by his firm's crews to apply the material, and the amount of preparation and follow-up had to be administered. Thirty days later, still no sales.

Jack is actually guilty of the same mistake that many less experienced sales professionals make when breaking into the sales process. In the desire to really "know their stuff" many sales folks will try to learn all the technical details of their product and processes. While knowing your products and processes are critical, it is the sales professional's role to translate the technical aspects of pavement maintenance so the customer can have a more "user friendly" understanding of what they are purchasing.

There is a technique in selling that I have used personally for more than 25 years to very good results. It is based on three components. Let me first share what the components are and then demonstrate how they fit together. The three components are:
Feature: Features, or facts, represent what the actual characteristics are. Features might represent the chemical make-up of sealing material, the rock size used in asphalt, or perhaps even the multiple-step process followed by a work crew.

Benefit: Benefits represent what advantage, savings, or "profit," a customer will receive from the feature or features purchased.

Transition: A transition is a simple word or phrase that smoothly transfers the technical aspects of the feature to a benefit in the eyes of the customer.

I refer to the three components as having a FTP. Thus, for every feature about my company, the product that we use, the equipment that we operate, or the process that we follow when completing work, I must transition the featured aspect into a believable benefit to the customer. If I fail I risk losing the trust, interest, and worse yet, future business.

Let me demonstrate the FTP technique using a hypothetical situation.

Feature: Premier Sealer has 10% more of a chemical bonding agent than do most of the other available blends of sealer...
Transition: ... Which means that we can offer you…
Benefit: ... A written three-year guarantee on the product as it will provide a longer life for your parking lot.

Many sales professionals within the pavement maintenance industry have undoubtedly recognized features or facts about what they sell. It is also critically important to realize that customers rarely buy features - they buy the benefits provided by a product or service. Until the connection between feature and benefit is made in the mind of the customers, they will refuse to make a buying decision

The transition in the FTP technique is the most important part of the "triad." This may sound strange to many contractors since knowing the products and services is so important. Again, all the knowledge in the industry will not help your sales unless you have a method to plant the features of asphalt, sealing material, paint's chemical composition, or a sweeping machine's efficiency into the head of a customer and leave them agreeing with the great benefit that will be experienced, and enjoyed!

Assuming that many readers of this article already have a stable of knowledge, or are building one, of their company's features and the benefits that can be realized by buying the features, here are a few transition examples you might want to try.

  • ...which provides you with...
  • ...so you will receive more...
  • ...this allows you greater...
  • ...so you'll spend less money...

Features really do just tell us about our products, services, and company; benefits are what our customers want to experience. Tying the two together may very well be your biggest opportunity to increase your own sales success and increase business for your company.

Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group. His firm works with contractors throughout the pavement maintenance industry, touching every area of company growth strategies. For more information about Brad's firm visit www.pinnacledg.com .

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