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Vincent Barberger, Montreal | FRANÇAIS

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Here’s an interesting exercise: On a piece of paper (or in a word processing document) draw a vertical line down the center of the page. At the top left side, write your company’s name. Across the page, on the top right side, write the name of your most important competitor. Down the left side of the page, write the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Do the same thing on the right side of the page. Now, under your company’s name, list the top three benefits of the product or service that you’re selling. Be sure these benefits explain why people buy from you. Is it because your product or service generates increased profits? Does it maximize effectiveness or efficiency? Is it easy to use? Is the service and support you offer fantastic? Now let’s assume you just got fired. Not great news, perhaps, but fortunately there is some good news to counterbalance it. Your top competitor (the one whose name you wrote on the right-hand side of that sheet) just hired you! Pretend it’s your first day at work at the new company. Go back to the right side of the paper. Under the name of the company you now work for, jot down the the top three benefits of the product or service that you’ll now be selling. Most people who do this exercise notice a startling similarity between the left and right sides of the page. Here’s the takeaway: The benefits of your product or service are probably not all that different than the benefits of the product or service that your competitor offers. In fact, they may be identical!

That means that prospective buyers hear the same features-and-benefits presentations day after day after day. Chances are, each time you get ready to make a presentation that is built around features and benefits, the prospect already has heard most or all of what you’re going to say — from the competition! Consider: Your job is to set yourself apart from the competition. If you’re selling in the traditional way, by emphasizing features and benefits, the only thing setting you apart is the company name on your business card – and maybe your winning smile. Let’s face it though, you need more than that! Here, then, is the big question. If features and benefits don’t convince people to buy, what does? Emotions! You’ve probably heard the saying: “People make buying decisions emotionally, then justify those decisions intellectually.” It’s true! Benefits such as increased profits, maximum efficiency, reduced downtime, and ease of use may appeal to the intellect, but not to the emotions. Design features such as sharper colors, better materials, or more memory have basically the same problem. We may use these things to try to sell intellectually; most of the time, though, it won’t work. True professionals know that, when they sell, their best option is to identify and pursue pain — meaning the emotional impact that arises when we are not going where we want to be going in some aspect of our lives. Pain drives focus and decisions! All the other emotions aren’t as strong. That’s why the best salespeople ignore features and benefits, and focus instead on what’s keeping the prospective buyer from getting where they want to go, doing what they want to do, achieving what they want to achieve. Professional salespeople always want to know: What worries the prospective buyer? Makes them unhappy? Frustrates them? Concerns them? Alarms them? Gets them angry? Affects their standing in the organization? Professionals home in on any problem that tics one or more of these boxes, any problem that carries a strong and personal emotional impact. That’s what they want to talk about. And whatever the indicator of pain turns out to be, the true professionals always want to know: Can we make what is causing the pain go away? If the answer is yes, there’s probably a conversation to initiate. It’s a conversation about pain!

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