Never mind the features, feel the benefits

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“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”

– Roger Ebert

“You will love this product it has two semiconductors!” Or, “it’s made from 80 per cent cotton!” Or, “It has a quality guarantee of 12 months!”

It’s about as inspiring and motivating as putting the garbage out. Yet product features are probably rattled out at least 1.5 billion times per year as the main selling point in the dialogues between sales staff and customers in Australian shops. It’s happening even as I write this.

Australia’s specialty retail shops are in a precarious position, as we bob along on an average of anywhere between line ball and 5 per cent above last year.

Yes, I understand the growth of online, globalisation and many other mitigating factors. However, this week, I want to turn my attention to that hoary old chestnut of converting shoppers into customers.

Specialty shop conversion is at an average of circa 25 per cent (with online being around 3 to 5 per cent). For many years, this average conversion was simply accepted, so many specialty retailers have been selling to just 25 per cent of their potential.

This commentary is dedicated to those who wish to fix this statistic. One vital step is to teach our people to serve and sell product to customers, who actually intend to buy from them in the first place.

So how do you put product in general danger of being sold? Apart from great positioning and placement ? You trigger the minds of our customers to the personal benefits of buying from you.

How to make this happen?

Let’s start by teaching teams the difference between a product’s features and its benefits.

Simply put, people rationalise product features with their brain, but they buy benefits with their heart. This is at the foundation of emotionally connecting customers with a product’s value proposition.

I don’t mean pedestrian questions like, “How was your day today?” I mean proper questions that enquire about the customer’s life, style and interests in a non-obtrusive way. Relationship building and active listening as part of a scripted sales program, and then aligning that with a product’s benefits to create a very happy customer.

If you sell on features, you are only selling to the rational mind, and this is the minority of the brain’s overall processing. If you sell on benefits, you tap into the limbic, emotional processing. And since humans process emotions 200 times faster, it’s the powerhouse of purchasing behaviour.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consultancy group and the Australian elected member of the global retail expert’s alliance Ebeltoft Group.

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