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Don’t Confuse Feature Selling with Value Selling

In my last post, I talked about value selling.  I could write a book about this topic, and someday I will.  In the meantime, I want to address something that comes up with some clients:  please do not confuse feature selling with value selling.  Here’s the difference:

  1. “Our widget is made from a high quality titanium alloy. It is 25% more reliable than the competitor’s product.  Our programmable controls allow you to select up to seven different pressure settings.  Also, we are a family-owned business and have been in business for 37 years.  Please, Mr. Customer, buy my widget for $380.”

Who is this statement about?  YOU.  The seller.  It’s focused on the features of YOUR product or service and the features of YOUR business.  Do you want to close more sales at higher prices?  Focus on the customer!  What problem do they have?  What is their pain point?  What makes them tick?  Value selling focuses on the value of your product or service in context of the customer’s needs, wants, desires, fears, etc.  Try this on for size:

  1. “When your production line goes down because of a widget failure, it can cost you up to $900 per hour in lost production. Our higher quality materials and much higher reliability mean far less downtime for you, Mr. Customer.  With our widget, you can avoid up to $14,000 per year in unplanned production stoppages.  At $380, this part pays for itself in <10 days.  Also, because you can finely tune the pressure to the exact dispensing rate you require, you waste far less raw material by using our widget.”

See the difference? #2 is all about the customer and their needs.  It’s the same widget with the same features described in #1, but put in the language and the context of what the customer values.  When you solve the customers’ problems, price fades from primary importance to the background.  Suddenly $380 looks like a bargain to the customer, even if the competitor’s inferior product is only $300.

I built this example on a widget, but the same thing holds true when you are selling services.  For example, talking about the credentials of your people (fancy degrees, training, or even experience) doesn’t help the customer understand how their particular need is going to be better met by your company.  When you get specific about how the features of your goods and services solve the customers’ problems better, then you are value selling.  When you sell on value, price becomes a secondary or tertiary consideration.