Business 101: Features Tell, Benefits Sell

Use the 'FTB' sales technique and get results.

Jack was new to selling concrete flatwork but was young, excited and becoming very knowledgeable about concrete, the tools, work processes and of course the pricing strategies used by his company. Because he wanted to make a great first impression, Jack doubled up on his study hours reviewing all the features about concrete.

After Jack's first 45 days of being out 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 facts about concrete, the processes used by his firm's crews and the amount of preparation and follow-up that had to be administered. Another 30 days and Jack still had no sales.

I recently returned from two conventions where I presented several workshops on how to improve sales. Most of the sales people and estimators in my workshops were very similar to Jack from my opening above. They, like Jack, are quite guilty of the same mistake that less experienced sales professionals make when breaking into sales. In the desire to really "know their stuff," they try to learn all the technical details of their products and processes. While knowing your products and processes is critical, it is the sales professional's primary role to translate the technical aspects of concrete to the customer, turning such "yawners" into real benefits that the customer wants to enjoy.

The 'FTB' sales technique

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. I will first briefly share what the components are and then demonstrate how they fit together.

Features. Features, or facts, represent the actual characteristics of concrete, the processes associated with concrete and other materials that might be used with the overall job process.

Benefits. Benefits represent what advantage, savings or profit a customer will receive from the feature or features purchased. Benefits might include such advantages as security, longevity, enhanced image, loss of pain, increased value of property and so on.

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. The transition helps to draw attention away from the cold facts and toward the warm benefits awaiting the customer.

I refer to the three components as "FTB." 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 in doing this, I risk losing trust, interest and, worse yet, any future business.

Now, let me demonstrate the FTB technique using a hypothetical situation.

  • Feature: By using the additional rebar we will strengthen the weight load for the parking lot
  • Transition: … which means you
  • Benefit: … will be able to handle the heavy trucks your company owns.

Many sales professionals within our concrete industry undoubtedly know about the many features of what they sell. It is critically important to realize that customers rarely buy features. Instead, they wish to purchase the benefits provided by a product or service. Until the connection between feature and benefit is made in the mind of the customer, they will refuse to make a buying decision. This makes the transition in the FTB technique the most important part of the triad This may sound strange to many contractors since knowing about products and services is so important, but all the knowledge in the industry will not help your sales unless you have a method to plant the features of concrete into the head of a customer and leave them agreeing with the great benefit that will be enjoyed.

Assuming that many readers of this article already have a stable of knowledge containing their company's features and the subsequent benefits to their customers, let me provide a few more examples of transitions that you may want to try.

  • which provides you with
  • so you will receive more
  • this allows you greater
  • enabling you to spend less money

Features just tell us about our products, services and company. Benefits are what our customers want to experience. Tying the two together may be your biggest opportunity to improve your sales success and increase business for your company.

It is critical that every professional salesperson in construction becomes more educated about their particular products, services and company. Yet simply repeating back to a customer information they can most likely find on a company brochure or product specification sheet will draw only yawns.

The sales presentation that makes any feature come alive with the great benefits that will be experienced by the customer will be the sales presentation that closes more projects. Be knowledgeable, be proud of your company and be proud of the years of experience you have; but be creative on how you persuade your customers into believing all of these features can deliver to them the image, security, longevity and low maintenance they will want to experience by choosing your sales proposal.