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Why I Hate (Most) Benefit Statements

By Shamus Brown
Posted Thursday, February 3, 2005

Benefits are what motivate people to purchase from you, right?

Not exactly.

Just last week I was reviewing a rundown of product benefits with a client who is putting a new prospecting program together.

This client got a series of benefits to use in selling from one of the senior sales reps of his company.

Here's a few of them:

* "Thousands of successful Installations"
* "Extraordinary number of referrals"
* "Unparalleled commitment to our clients"

I'm just curious... do any of these things sound like the benefits YOU are supposed to be talking about with YOUR customers?

Back when I was selling business software systems for Silicon Valley startups, I used to get benefit statements like these from the brilliant marketing and training people.

I got to really hate benefits. Saying them made me feel like a real cheeseball salesguy.

OK, maybe hate is a little harsh.

But I do hate the way they are used most of the time I hear people talk about their importance in selling.

Most Benefits Are Too Vague

Most benefits that salespeople are given to use (or they come up with on their own) are too vague.

So many benefits sound like the examples I gave above or - even worse - like the following:

* "Saves you money"
* "Improves efficiency"
* "Will make you feel better"

Ask yourself what you would be saying to your new prospects if you went to work for your number one competitor tomorrow. Do you think you'd say "Well my product saves you money, but not as much money as my competitor who I used to work for yesterday"?

No! Of course not.

You'd be claiming the exact same (or substantially similar) benefits as you are today.

And that's just what your competitors are doing right now. They are making the same vague benefits claims as you are.

Selling Is Interactive - Benefits Are Not

By using a series of benefits when selling to a prospect, you are tossing out attractions, sensations, or invitations in hopes that your prospect will get excited about one or more of these.

That is not interactive selling - that's advertising in front of a live audience.

Don't waste your time by spewing vague general benefits when you are selling live in-person.

You want probe, ask lots of questions and learn about your prospect first, instead of leading your pitch with product or doing-business-with-us benefits.

When Benefits Are Useful

Benefits are useful in written sales text such as prospecting letters, newspaper or magazine advertisements, and formal proposals.

The most effective way to sell with the least resistance is to find out what is important to your prospect and sell to that.

Find a problem that they are having, which you are capable of solving with your product or service. People will pay for a solution to that problem, IF it is important to them to solve that problem.

Once you have uncovered one or more solvable problems, specific benefits that your prospect can gain become very meaningful because you are now appealing to your prospect's self-interest.

So instead of living these sales clichés...

* Spray and pray.
* Show-up and throw-up.
* Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.

... ask more quality questions first. Find out what's important, and find a problem that you can solve that is meaningful. Then sell them on how your solution can eliminate the problem and benefit them.

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at (http://Sales-Tips.industrialEGO.com/) and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at (http://www.Persuasive-Sales-Skills.com/)