It’s Not About the Features
Best Buy has been running a series of new commercials that showcase how technology gifts have helped customers create or invent something unique. While I recognize the business challenges of Best Buy, I like their approach to these ads. By focusing on the outcome of using the product and not on the specs such as CPU, screen size, etc., they allow others to imagine how new technology could potentially help them accomplish a specific goal as well.
As a technology sales and marketing professional my ultimate goal has always been to communicate and sell the value a product or service provides to target customers. However, I often see features and benefits onfused with the actual value of an offering. When I say value I’m talking about the financial impact which typically represents one of two things: 1) increase in revenue or 2) reduction/avoidance of costs. The ability to clearly articulate a succinct value proposition, features, benefits, differentiation and the ultimate financial value your solution provides to a prospective buyer is what good product marketing is all about. Once this is agreed upon, a rockstar copywriter can put it words that actually move customers to take action.
When you “sell value,” you start with the business goal that the customer would like to achieve – then tie that value to a specific benefit generated by a particular feature. – Geoffrey James
The quote above appeared in an article titled: How to Sell: Value, Benefits or Features? I had my first exposure to the importance of this skill when I joined an enterprise software startup after B School. As a business development manager, I was responsible for researching potential partners and defining joint value propositions, features sets and how to position to joint prospects. Then we would approach these potential partners such as Agile, Ariba, Oracle, Webex and many others pitching the joint value we could provide to the market and increase competitiveness in the market. One of my biggest accomplishments in that role was seeing an opportunity to embed Webex into our online collaboration software. That product once developed ended up driving over 40% of our revenue the following year.
So why is this so hard and why do folks tend to get this wrong? We tend to think technical specs clearly translate into benefits for target consumers. However, you are better to point out the benefit of these specifications as well what the impact on the bottom line can be. Don’t assume prospects can connect the dots. Furthermore, best in class sales people understand how to ask the right questions in the upfront sales process so they they can clearly position their products and services against current customer goals and then help close with a clear financial impact.
I’ve participated in Startup Weekend Dallas as a judge, mentor and team member and it always surprises me how folks confuse all of these when preparing their final pitch. Often times they get wrapped up in the technology. This failure to ultimately communicate their unique value proposition can greatly affect how well they perform in the judging. Now, I recognize many of these folks aren’t trained marketers. But it reminds me of the importance of hiring and training marketers and sales folks to help clearly articulate these messages to prospects. The same can be said for people when positioning their value for new jobs.
What are your thoughts on selling on value? Would love your comments and feedback below.
3 Articles I recommend reading:
- Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One)
- 7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work
- The Oft-Confused Features And Benefits