Features vs Benefits

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By Mathew Kennedy

At the surface, features and benefits sound very similar. Synonymous, even. It wasn’t until very recently that I took the time to think through the difference between the two and got a better understanding of why it is significant. Now that I have “figured-it-out,” I’ve found that the difference often ends up being the determining factor between a sale and a customer walking away uninterested, overwhelmed or confused.

As a salesperson, you are (hopefully) an expert in what you are selling. You know the ins and outs of your product or service, and you know all the different features. When a customer that you know your product or service is absolutely perfect for (it fits all of their needs / it would solve all of their problems) you excitedly list off feature after feature, just waiting for their face to brighten up and for them to say those three magical words; “I’ll take it!”

When that doesn’t happen and they walk away, that hand that was ready for a firm handshake is now curled up in a tight-fist pounding the table in frustration and despair. You ask yourself: “How could they have passed this opportunity up? It’s literally everything that they were looking for. It would solve all the problems that they brought up and it would make them a very happy customer. How could they say no?”

When you live and breathe your product or service, talking about its features become second nature. BUT more often than not, you probably forgot to talk about how those features will benefit the customer. There is a language barrier between seller and customer, and you were so excited that you forgot to translate. That’s why the sale was lost, or more specifically, why the customer walked away from a perfect product.

A feature is an important part of the product that needs to be stated. It’s an essential part of the sale, and often, it’s what makes the distinction between a sale and no sale. A benefit however, is different. A benefit answers the essential question that goes through every buyer’s mind: “So what; how does that feature benefit me?” If you can understand how to bridge these concepts together, you will experience many more handshakes and a lot less clenched-fist frustrations.

Take a television for example: When going to buy a TV, the salesperson will gladly tell you all of the features: 48 inch screen, LCD, multiple HDMI ports, direct streaming capabilities, etcetera. Those all sound great, right? But what do they mean to someone who is not plugged in (pun intended) to the world of TVs?  Well, not much. To those who know TVs, it means a clear, colorful picture, the ability to connect multiple devices, and having tons of entertainment at the tips of their fingers. These are things that any TV buyer would want, and the salesperson is technically telling them that they can get it. But, if the TV buyer just doesn’t understand, they may be getting confused by the terminology out of lack of familiarity. That can cause the customer (more likely than not) to leave empty-handed, not knowing that they’re walking away from their “TV soulmate.”

As a salesperson, hopefully you know the product/service inside and out. Hopefully, you know how to match a customer up with the product/service that’s right for them. But beyond that, when you don’t know how to connect the product’s features to how it benefits the customer, there is a real possibility of you losing the sale.
Remember, this is a subtle yet powerful distinction. Keep in mind, the customer may not be as informed or experienced as you (at least not in terms of your specific product/service).  Customers are coming to learn and it’s your responsibility to teach them. Every customer wants a product or service that will make their life simpler, safer, and more enjoyable. If you can appropriately get the message across that your product has both the features they are looking for and how those features will benefit them, you’ll have a better chance at closing a sale.

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