Old-school sales trainers almost all teach a variation of “feature and benefit” selling. They’ll tell you to describe your product or service as a series of features that will provide benefits to prospects.
Walking into a prospect’s office and listing off the benefits of your services is like saying, “I’m just like every other salesperson out there.”
I used to be the king of feature and benefit selling. A sales trainer once taught me to draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper, writing all of the features of my services on the left and all of their benefits on the right. That piece of paper was my entire focus during a sales call. I thought I was cutting-edge, but I soon realized that everyone else was doing the same exact thing.
This is the problem with sales techniques in general. A new technique comes along and it works really well. As a result, sales trainers start teaching that technique to all of their clients. Suddenly, everyone is using the same technique. Prospects start to see a pattern, and eventually the technique stops working.
The good news is that it takes many decades for a new sales technique to become commonplace.
The first core principle of Game Plan Selling is to be distinct from your prospects. The way to do that in a presentation is two-fold.
First, make your presentation the last part of your sales meeting. By having a meaningful thirty- to sixty-minute conversation about the prospect’s business or situation before giving your presentation, you will automatically set yourself apart from other salespeople. Prospects expect you to rush through a few “probing questions” and then get right to your pitch. You and your services will immediately seem higher-value to the prospect when you take the time to ask good, meaningful questions.
Second, give as short a presentation as possible. That presentation should be based predominantly on case studies—real-life examples of comparable sales situations and their outcomes. Examples are infinitely more powerful than lists of the features and benefits of your product or service. Not only do case studies make it easier for prospects to grasp what you can do to help them, they also make your presentation much more interesting.
Just think back to your high school history class. Did you ever learn about the thirteenth-century English king, Edward I, and how he treated the Scottish people? Even if you did, you probably forget by now.
But if you’ve ever seen the movie “Braveheart,” there’s no doubt that you remember what the British did to the Scottish in the thirteenth century.
If teachers really want their students to learn about a particular time in history, they should show them documentaries or movies, or give them witnesses’ first-hand accounts and historical fiction to read. It’s much easier—and more exciting—to have a conversation about a well-told story or the life of a relatable person than it is to discuss dry facts. The same concept applies to sales presentations.
So, stop spouting off features and benefits at the beginning of a meeting and start giving case-study presentations at the very end of your sales meetings.
Written by Marc Wayshak, America’s Sales Coach on Game Plan Selling. Learn about his sales training in Boston.
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