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Selling the benefits

Successful selling requires you showing your customers how your product meets their needs. Highlighting your product's benefits in quantifiable terms is more likely to result in a sale than simply describing its features, as Kat Knight finds out.

"A feature is simply a characteristic of your product or service, such as a kettle with a 2000-watt heating ring," explains Guy Aston, SME director at sales training company Huthwaite International.

"A feature should offer benefits — a true solution to a specific need," he continues. "In this case, the kettle can boil water in less than 60 seconds. So if a cafe owner can't make tea fast enough, you need to tell them your rapid-boiling kettle will solve their need."

How can you work out your product's key benefits? First, identify the customers' needs. "Look at your product as a solution and understand what issues it addresses," Aston explains. "If you're selling aspirin, you need to find people with headaches and talk to them."

Bryan McCrae, director at consultancy firm Cognitive Sales Consulting, agrees. "Carry out market research and seek to understand your customers. What are their top three problems? What is the effect of these problems on their business or life? Once you understand these you can position your product or service."

To understand how to exploit these benefits as a sales tool, McCrae recommends putting yourself into your customers' shoes. "Ask 'so what?' to each benefit and then make sure that the answer illustrates how your product's benefits can help solve a problem."

Sales techniques

Before you start talking about your own product, it is crucial to ensure that the customer understands all of their needs and what would best solve them. "Make your customer verbalise their needs" advises Aston. "You know what problems your product will solve, so ask if they are experiencing these problems. Then explore the solutions that your product offers and how fixing problems would help their business. Only at that point can you get them to see, very clearly, that you have the solution."

Another important factor is to quantify the benefits you are offering, especially if you can tie this in with testimonials from satisfied customers. "Money talks," says Aston. "Quantifying the benefits of your service by using a satisfied-customer case study as evidence is incredibly powerful."

If you can prove that your roof insulation materials have saved a customer £600 on heating bills over two years, and they only cost them £200 to buy and fit, then potential customers are much more likely to listen to you.

In addition, it is important to differentiate yourself from your competitors. As McCrae explains: "You must be ready to answer the question 'why should I buy your widget rather than Joe Bloggs' widget?'. If you don't have at least three reasons, based on quantifiable benefits your product offers, then why on earth should they buy from you?" he concludes.