When Is It Okay To Sell Features?

BenefitsYou hear the mantra all the time, “Sell benefits, not features!”

But like all seemingly rigid structures, the benefits-not-features rule is made to be broken. Sometimes.

First, let’s recap what the mantra means in the first place. Because it’s one of the most easily misunderstood rules of thumb in marketing. A big part of the reason behind all the confusion is that, if you stare at them long enough, features and benefits can start to meld together into one blurry unit, and seem like the same thing.

Example: You’re buying a memory foam mattress. The salesperson pitching you the product is all excited because it’s NASA-grade material that’s very dense. You have no idea why this is good for you, because as a non-astronaut, it’s a feature you aren’t too familiar with.

Meanwhile, the benefits are so obvious to the salesman–who’s been demoing this product since 2006–that he sort of forgets to spell them out for you. He’s selling features, not benefits.

A better approach would have been for him to say, “This foam is so rigid, you can sleep soundly even while your spouse is tossing and turning!” Or better yet, place a glass of wine on one side of the bed, and jump up and down on the other. That, my friends, is how you sell benefits!

Now, the exception

If you’re selling a very technical product to very geeky people, then it might be okay–even necessary–to tone down the benefits talk.

That’s because true hardcore geeks are psychographically more like the salesman in the above scenario, and less like the customer. Meaning, chances are they are just as excited about the features as you (the seller) are! And, weirder still, they are probably even more excited about the features than they are about the benefits.

So in that case, go ahead and geek out on the features. Just remember to at least briefly mention the benefits–even gearheads like to be reminded a little about what your hardcore technology can do to improve their lives. 🙂

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