Article 3 – Improve Past Feature/Function/Benefit Selling

This is one article in a series. For the entire series on one page, please see Proven Enterprise Sales Process, Steps 1 to 10 inside this site's Blog Articles pages.

Excellence Essentials, 2016

The traditional model for selling is Feature, Function, Benefit. We drum it into our salespeople, and our salespeople go out and present that way to our customers. And we close, in a good year, perhaps 25% of the opportunity and it is usually past the initial forecast date. How can we do better in enterprise selling?

As before (see Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ Page A) it works best when you start your thinking in the right place. That is with the customer perspective. Consider, when you invest your own time or money, do you buy the benefit first or the feature first? Most buyers want a benefit. They sit through the rest of the process to get to that benefit. Maybe. If they are good influencers, they probably don't wait. May I give you an example?

Too Often Your Feature is Not Their Benefit

Recently I sat with the senior marketing team from a high tech leader in Silicon Valley. They told me their benefit was Time to Market. I asked who the customers are. The answer: CEOs of telecommunications equipment manufacturers.

I asked how the team knew that these CEOs value Time to Market. The answer was that it must be so. Certainly the analysts agree. There are many articles in the business press about it. It resonates with the marketing teams of almost every competitor.

Does that make it right? No, it makes the idea popular in average. But how many customers are average?

Consider your own priorities. You have a dozens or more urgencies on your list. If the first salesperson offers to solve problems 10 to 12 for you, that's good. If another representative offers to solve one of your top three, which of these two gets your attention?

Most of us will choose to solve a top problem. We'll delegate the lower priorities or just let them go. Successful enterprise selling is all about solving the right problem for the key influencers in the company.

How do you know what is key to one person? There is only one way. Earn the right and ask them.

Solving the Right Problem, Not Your Favorite Problem

In that meeting I turned to the marketing team and told them that on a project for a different client, our firm had called and asked these same CEOs: "What two things keep you up at night?" It is important, but time to market was *not* in the top three answers. To see what made the top of the list, check the footnote below, but the real point is that you only find out when you ask instead of assume what they think will be successful. Enterprise selling works best when we go in asking: "What keeps you up at night?" And then making that the benefit we sell.

If you go to your prospects with Feature, Function, Benefit, you are starting with your priority without knowing if it matters to their business success. You are reducing your chances of a high margin sale. But what if you do the reverse? What if you go to your prospect the way that she or he prefers to buy?

A good alternative? Ask, then sell Benefit, Function, Feature instead. Start by listening, not telling. Then tailor her or his benefit *before* you start. This applies to every key influencer that you meet, no matter what their title.

When you learn what is top of their list of priorities, then you can sell the benefit they really care about. Only then is it appropriate to tell them how you will deliver it, if they even care. So the process becomes these four steps:
1 - Ask something like: What keeps you up at night?
2 - Discuss the benefit as they see it
3 - Quickly, if necessary, show the function you provide that delivers that benefit
4 - Mention the feature name or description to reinforce this. Then go back to the benefit.

How do you know where to start? Ask. And when they tell you, you are on your way to earning a quick, high margin enterprise sale.

Next Month - When and How to Present You, Using a Unique Selling Proposition

If you want a copy of the article "What Keeps Your CEO Up at Night?" please send an E-mail specifically asking for that article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The article is made available courtesy of the Business & Economic Review.

Originally commissioned by and published in Excellence Essentials, Copyright 2016 by the Meyer Group, all rights reserved. To redistribute, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.