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KEY CONCEPTS UNITS

Features, Advantages and


Benefits

Huthwaite
RESEARCHED EFFECTIVENESS
OVERVIEW
This unit is designed to help you identify the different ways in which a seller can
describe a product or service. It will help you to recognise those behaviours which
are associated with favourable responses from the buyer and which increase the
probability of making a sale.

At some point during the sale, a seller must provide the buyer with information about the
product or service which is being sold. However skilled the seller is in questioning and
discovering needs, the buyer will be unlikely to make a decision until an adequate amount
of information about the product has been presented. Some ways of describing products
are more persuasive than others and increase the probability of making a sale.

DESCRIBING A SERVICE OR
PRODUCT
Here are statements made by sellers about their products. Each statement is in two
different forms. Type A and Type B. Read the statements and decide which type,
A or B, is more persuasive.

Type A
"This is a push-button telephone."
"Our calculator has a liquid crystal read-out."
"This overhead projector has a 1000 watt bulb."

TypeB
"Because this telephone has push buttons, you can dial more quickly and
with fewer mistakes."
"The liquid crystal read-out on our calculator means that batteries last longer."
"The 1000 watt bulb in this projector is so bright that slides show clearly, even on
sunny days."
TYPE 'V STATEMENTS
Most people find the Type B statements more persuasive.

What is the common factor in Type B statements which makes


them seem more persuasive than Type A?
Each of the Type A statements is a neutral description - a fact or a piece of information
about the product. In selling, such statements are called Features. A Feature describes
some characteristic of a product or a service. Features are relatively neutral, both in their
content and in their effect on the buyer.
In contrast, the examples in Type B go beyond simple product characteristics. They
each show how a characteristic, or Feature can be used or applied. Such statements are
called Advantages.
An Advantage describes how a product, or a product feature, can be used or caa help the
buyer. Advantages, as we have seen, are more persuasive than features. Most Advantages
can be expressed in the form,
"Because of (feature) you can ..."

So, if the Feature is:


"This printer has 24 resident fonts."

An Advantage could be:


"Because of the 24 resident fonts you can produce more
professional-looking documents."
EXERCISE ONE
• Check to make sure that you are clear about the difference between Features and
Advantages by working through these examples.

F A

1 Our basic safety training course lasts for two days. () ()

2 Because the platen comes to the edge of the copier, you can
copy from books or from bound documents. () ()

3 These pads are ready-punched so that you can put them


straight into binders. () ()

4 TKis camera has a SOinm lens. () ()

5 Because our safety course lasts only two days, there is


minimum disruption of your production schedule.

( ) ( )
6 The board is coated with a special plastic surface.
( ) ( )
7 This chair has an adjustable back-rest. ( ) ( )

8 Because this boiler generates half a million BTUs, it will give


you spare capacity for future expansion. () ()

9 Integrated circuit technology gives you greater shock


resistance. () ()

10 This clock is accurate to within one second each month. () ()

The answers are on the next page


Exercise One answers

A characteristic of the course is that it lasts two days.


This statement shows how the Feature (an edge platen) can be used
FEATURE
or can help the buyer.
ADVANTAGE The Feature is ready punching. The advantage of the Feature is that
ready-punched pads can be put straight into binders. Like most
Advantages, this could easily be rephrased in the form of "Because
ADVANTAGE of (ready punching) you can (put them straight into binders.)"
This statement describes a characteristic of the camera.
This is based on the Feature (as in question one) that the course
lasts two days. The advantage of minimum disruption could again
FEATURE be phrased in the form "Because of (only lasting two days) you can
ADVANTAGE (have minimum disruption of production)."
This is a tough one. The coating is a characteristic of the product.
The fact that the seller calls it special doesn't make it an Advantage.
FEATURE The characteristic is an adjustable back-rest. It cannot be
rephrased "Because of ... you can ...," and is therefore not an
FEATURE
Advantage.
The statement shows how the boiler capacity could help the buyer.
Easily rephrased in the "Because of..." format.
ADVANTAGE

ADVANTAGE Accuracy is a product characteristic. Nothing in the statement


shows how this accuracy could be used by the buyer.
FEATURE
DESCRIBING PERSUASIVELY!
Advantages are more persuasive than Features. But there is one way for a seller to describe
the product which is even more persuasive than using Advantages. People buy because
they have Needs. If the seller can relate the product specifically to those needs, then there
is a high probability of making a sale. Statements which show how an Explicit Need of the
buyer can be met by the product, product Feature, or Advantage are called Benefits.
Benefits are the most powerful way in which a seller can describe the product.

A Benefit describes how a product Feature or Advantage meets an


Explicit Need expressed by the buyer.
This definition is important. In the exercises that follow, remember that in order to make a Benefit,
the seller must ensure that the buyer has:

• Expressed a need
• Expressed that need Explicitly

EXERCISE TWO
Which of these statements are Benefits?
Yes No

1 I assume you want to save money, and our product will do


that for you. () ()

2 You've said you want changes in this department. Our new


style telephones would certainly change things. () ()

3 You've said you need good sound quality, which the noise
reduction facility on this machine will certainly provide. () ()

4 This software package will be a big benefit to you. () ()

The answers are at the bottom of the next page


SUMMARY
So far, we have identified three ways in which a seller can describe the product to
the buyer. These are:

• A Feature describes some characteristic of a product or service.

• An Advantage describes how a Feature can be used or can help the buyer.

• A Benefit describes how a product Feature or Advantage meets an Explicit Need


expressed by the buyer.

Are the distinctions between these definitions really important - or are we just playing with
words?
Is there any hard evidence to show, for example, that Benefits are more associated with sales
success than Advantages or Features7

The chart opposite, based on a series of major studies of real sales calls,
demonstrates the power of Benefits.

Exercise Two answers

1 NOT A BENEFIT Because the need is assumed, not expressed.


2 NOT A BENEFIT Because the need for change is too broad and general to be linked to
telephones. The need is not Explicit.
3 A BENEFIT The seller is linking the product feature (a noise reduction facility) to an
expressed Explicit Need of the buyer.
4 NOT A BENEFIT No/ Although many sellers try to convince customers with statements
like this.
Huthwaite Research Group studied over 5,000 sales calls,
comparing the level of Benefits with the result of each call
Calls were divided into:

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Chart shows relationship of Benefits to sales

As you can see, the successful sales calls - resulting in orders or advances
-contained significantly more Benefits than the calls resulting in continuations or no-
sales.

Advantages are less strongly related to sales than Benefits


Although Advantages can help the early part of the sale, their effectiveness
decreases as the sale goes on. In the closing stages of sales, the Huthwaite studies
showed that Advantages were no more persuasive than Features.
Wiat does this mean for your selling?
Most sellers make too many Advantages. A typical selling sequence looks like this:

Sellers ask
Questions

Customers reveal
Implied Needs

Seller states
Advantages
Leading to low probability of sale

Sellers often jump in with Advantages as soon as they hear an Implied Need from the
customer.
It is much more likely to lead to a sale if you first develop the Implied Need into an Explicit
Need and then make Benefits.

Sellers ask
Questions

Customers reveal
Implied Needs

Seller uses questions to


develop Explicit Need

Seller states
Benefits
Leading to high probability of sale

However, in order to make Benefits instead of Advantages, you must be very clear about
the differences between them.
In the examples that follow, check how sure you are about these differences by deciding
whether each statement is a Feature, an Advantage or a Benefit. If you are unsure whether
it is a Benefit or an Advantage, then the buyer would probably be unsure too - so call it an
Advantage. If you are unsure whether it is an Advantage or a Feature, then the buyer would
probably be unsure too - so call it a Feature.
EXERCISE THREE
Which of the following statements are Features, which are
Advantages, and which are Benefits?
FAB

1 The quiet fan on this overhead projector lets you speak in a


normal voice. ()()()

2 This course can accommodate up to 14 participants. ()()()

3 The non-reflective glass over the instruments allows the driver


to see them at a glance, even in bright sunlight. ()()()

4 Our leasing system has a three month trial period. ()()()

5 By using the 'Spot Colour' button, you can make your


proposals lively and professional. ()()()

6 Mr. Thompson, I'm happy to say that I can satisfy your


requirements for a conveyor system which is movable and
flexible. Our new'Flexi port system is all aluminium, mounted
on castors, and can be curved to a radius of only six feet. ()()()

7 Our distribution programme will save you £55/000 a year. ()()()

8 I think this is where my wide experience can help. In your type of boiler, Mrs. Morgan, the
usual problem is thermocouple failure after 9-12 months due to high temperature. So
we've developed the C9 transmitter which, operating at a distance of up to 9 feet,
completely overcomes this problem. ()()()

The answers are on the next page


Exercise Three answers

The statement shows how the Feature (a quiet fan) can help the
buyer. No need has been expressed for talking in a normal voice, so
ADVANTAGE this is not a Benefit.
Factual information about the course.
FEATURE Shows how the Feature (non-reflective glass) can help the buyer.
ADVANTAGE Not a Benefit because no need has been expressed.

FEATURE A characteristic of the leasing system is described here. Not an


Advantage because it does not fit the "Because of... you can..."
ADVANTAGE format.
Shows how a Feature is used, and can be easily re-expressed in the
BENEFIT form "Because of ('Spot Colour' button,) you can (make your
proposals look lively and professional)."
ADVANTAGE
The buyer has stated an Explicit Need (for a conveyor which is
movable and flexible). The seller shows how the product can meet
that need.
Not a Benefit because the buyer has not expressed a need to save
ADVANTAGE money. (Note: Even if the seller is sure that the buyer really needs
to save money, it is only a Benefit if the buyer has actually stated a
need).
The seller is showing how the product could help the buyer, but no
need has been expressed.

Now try the more difficult examples on the next page

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EXERCISE FOUR
Which of the following statements are Features, which are
Advantages, and which are Benefits?
FAB

1 The entire assembly measures only 10cm x 3cm x 6cm. ()()()

2 Overhead Value Analysis must be carried out at all levels to be


effective. () () ()

3 So you're rapidly running out of office space, Mr. Allport. I have just the thing for you. The
POOD model allows double-sided copying on even lighter-weight papers. This will
dramatically cut your filing space requirements. ()()()

4 And another thing about taking this vacation in May; it


means you can avoid the summer crowds. ()()()

5 We offer a bulk-purchase plan and because of it, we can offer


you a bigger discount. ()()()

6 An advantage of this fire extinguisher is that it's bright red. ()()()

n
Exercise Four answers
Despite the tempting word 'only'. The seller is giving straight data
about the product.
FEATURE
The seller is describing a characteristic of overhead value
FEATURE analysis.
This is a particularly difficult example. It is not a Benefit, although
ADVANTAGE
at first sight it seems so. The reason is that the buyer's need is
Implied, not Explicit: The buyer has raised a general problem
about lack of space. The seller's auick link to double-sided copying
is unlikely to have a positive effect on the buyer, who may fail to
see the relevance. Statements like this should therefore be treated
as Advantages. Note that it would have been a Benefit if the seller
had developed the need by asking additional questions such as,
"So would you find it useful to have some method for reducing
filing space? "
The Feature is May and the Advantage is avoiding crowds.
ADVANTAGE The Advantage of the bulk-purchase plan is the discount. This is
not a Benefit because of the lack of an Explicit Need.
ADVANTAGE
The colour of the extinguisher is a Feature, not an Advantage. If
the seller had gone on to say that as a result of the colour the
extinguisher zmuld be easily visible in an emergency, then this
FEATURE wauld he an Advantaee.

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