Category – Effective Sales Conversations

Holding buyer attention in technical sales conversations

Have you ever been in a sales conversation where you found it hard to hold buyer attention? Do you often find it frustrating to shift the buyer perspective in favour of your product or solution?  

Well, you are not alone! In a series of articles, I will unpack common (and not so common) mistake people make in sales conversations, helping you to improve the impact. 

This article deals with: Features, Advantages, and Benefits. Basic, yes – but don’t give it up yet. I have been training sales professionals with 20+ years of experience. I find that this little perspective that I’m about to share regularly creates good “a-ha” moments.

Let me break this article down into 3 parts:

  1. Understanding the link between Features and Advantages in a sales conversation.
  2. Bridging the gap: sellers focus on Advantages while buyers are looking for Benefits
  3. Buyers intuitively link a Feature to an impact. Is that really being perceived as a Benefit? 

1. Understanding the link between Features and Advantages in a sales conversation

Intuitively, we all have a sense of what the terms Feature, Advantage, and Benefit mean.

Simply put, the Feature explains what the product is, how it works, what it’s made out of, in how much time it performs a certain act, what its strength or durability is, etc.

However, by themselves, Features mean very little. They begin to come alive when they are tied to a situation; a context within which the Feature will be used.

Take, for example, Airbags in a car :

  • (A) The Features:  The Airbag has a 48L capacity, is made of yarn, and inflates in less than 60 milliseconds on impact at speeds equal to or greater than 30 km/h.

What do you think? Do these Features make you feel safe?

For the prospect to feel the intended safety from these Features, he/she should have a relatable direct or indirect experience. Only then would the prospect be able to visualise its utility – and the Advantage they present.

FeatureIntended impact on buyer
48L capacity  “Wow, that must be quite a large bag! It will surely be able to withhold the pressure of my body and prevent it from hitting the steering wheel”.  
Inflates in less than 60 milliseconds  The bag will deploy fast and ensure the driver will not end up smashing their face into the steering wheel.  

2. Bridging the gap: Sellers focus on Advantages while buyers are looking for Benefits

In the table above we have established how these Features add safety for a driver. However, let us re-examine these statements by changing the context a little. Let us say now:

  • The buyer weighs 105 kgs and is 6ft 4in tall
  • In a recently published report, the buyer has read that 78% of people who weighed more than 100 kgs and were taller than 6ft 2in sustained significant facial injuries when using the Airbag (A) cited above.

What do you think? Do these Features really make the prospect feel safe now?

While the Airbags may be of some help (they do present some advantage), these Features do not convey the true benefit sought by this buyer.

{Pause. Reflect}

Sellers and technology-driven entrepreneurs get excited about their knowledge, capability, and findings, presenting ‘Advantages’ to a buyer. However the buyer – based on his knowledge and experience – does not see the Benefit in it and does not get excited enough to make a purchase.

To sum it up:

  • Features are the technical capabilities and characteristics of a product or solution
  • Advantage is the seller’s view of how a Feature helps to solve the buyer’s problem, often perceived as intended to solve the problems of all buyers
  • A Benefit is the buyer’s view of how that Feature will positively impact him/her.

Often a seller’s thought-flow and conversation moves from Feature to Advantage which is perceived as a Benefit by some of their buyers, not all.

So what do you do? How do you win the attention of buyers with different profiles?

For a start, you need a product with Features that will be seen as delivering Benefits to that buyer. So you design and develop an enhanced version of the Airbag:

  • (B) The Features: The Airbag has a 60L capacity, its yarn is coated with Silicon, and it inflates in less than 30 milliseconds on impact at speeds equal to or greater than 24 km/h.

Then, let us become aware of the fact that not all buyers in the 100 kg, 6ft 2in category would have read the report – they lack the knowledge of the potential safety hazards of Airbag (A). However, buyers have a natural tendency to approach purchases with scepticism: why should I chose option (B) and pay more for it?

Knowing your buyer’s needs, how would you approach your conversations and presentation?

  • “Our Airbag has a capacity of 60L and is larger than most; our Airbag deploys faster and is coated with Silicon, making it stronger”
  • A long list of many Features?

Or would you rather, pace the presentation:

  • Our Airbag has a capacity of 60L, which is larger than most and will better absorb the pressure of a taller / heavier driver
  • It inflates in less than 30 milliseconds on impact (twice as fast), greatly reducing the chances of severe injuries
  • The yarn is coated with Silicon, improving the tensile strength of the fabric and making it more resistant to tears

3. Buyers intuitively link a Feature to an impact. Is that really being perceived as a Benefit? 

Well, in this given example of Airbag safety, we are able to intuitively relate to the benefits (larger bag, faster deployment, and stronger fabric). The experienced mind naturally and quickly correlates:

  • Large bag > covers more area > I am bigger than average in size > it is safer for me
  • Inflates faster > even when I drive fast, my face will not hit the steering wheel > it will protect me from getting injured
  • Silicon coated yarn > stronger fabric > even with the pressure of my weight this fabric is less likely to tear > I am safer in all types of impacts

How does this apply to the Features you present to your prospects?

Let us take another pause for a moment. Are your prospects able to relate with the same “intuitive clarity” when you present your Features?

Are they able to see the underlying Benefits, the positive impact of your solution? Is it intuitively clear?

If you are working on an Artificial Intelligence application:

  • Are the Features you are articulating clear and do they intuitively connect the buyer to ‘Benefits’?
  • Or is your presentation simply conveying generic Advantages?

What about your pitch on the Machine Learning application:

  • Is the integrated dashboard with 48 customisable reports really being seen as a ‘Benefit’ by your targeted buyer?
  • Or, in an eagerness to showcase your intelligence, are you shutting off some prospects who may read “must be expensive” or “ah, may be too generic, and not right for me”?

Take a moment. Go through your script. Recast it. Align it to the issues of the buyer you are talking to.  

Reach out for a Free Consulting Session.

And, just in case, you feel a conversational session will help achieve that enhanced clarity for improved buyer attention, reach out for a Free Consulting Session by clicking here.

Next Article

In the next article we will take a look at the value of sequencing your message:
Feature – Benefit? Or Benefit as a result of the Feature?