Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re in the market for an air conditioner. You’ve read some reviews online and have a short list of options. Which one should you choose?
There are many factors to consider, such as safety, performance, appearance, comfort and convenience features, energy efficiency, durability, (SPACED) and of course, price. All these features matter, but what are the 2.5 things I actually care about and don’t want to compromise on?
Why 2.5? Well, because these are the ones that matter to me, but that third one I can be flexible on if it means getting a better deal/value/price. So, how will I, as a buyer, prioritize these product features?
When we talk about the features of your product, we mean the functionality that it offers. That is, the features that make your product valuable to customers.
The first step is to understand what your customers truly need. You can do this through market research, surveys, interviews, and other methods, but the fact is, in residential home services, they care most about comfort, safety, and savings (CSS) features.
Because your solution is an externally triggered grudge purchase, they are looking to reduce the pain points on their money, energy, and time and get back to a place of calm, peace, and balance with the lowest investment in time and money (felt needs). Having MET (money, energy, time) their actual felt needs, you can start prioritizing features.
Not all features are created equal; some are more important than others, depending on the humor of the buyer. Transactional shoppers value money more than time, while relational buyers value time more than money. Therefore, it’s vital to prioritize features based on the customer’s actual felt needs/pain points (MET).
For example, let’s say your air conditioner is located inconveniently in the attic. Since you are almost certainly not going to make the effort to make your way up into the space to swap out the filter monthly, you need an air filtration system that requires less attention.
While there is no way you want to spend more money on your new A/C unit than necessary, you will not consider adding a Lennox Pure Air to your system unless the Comfort Advisor can articulate how dirty filtration will lead to the untimely and early demise of an otherwise great product, leading to massive frustration and anxiety, costly and inconvenient repairs, expensive poor performance, and an uncomfortable living environment.
While your competitors are yammering on about the unfelt needs of cleaner air, your Comfort Advisors are closing deals talking about how the customer is saving Money and Time, all with considerably less stress.
When prioritizing features, it’s crucial to consider the buyer’s money, energy, and time in relation to the proposed cost and value proposition. Only when the value of the solution exceeds the value your buyer places on their money, energy, and time will you close the sale.
After you’ve prioritized features based on the customer’s actual felt needs and pain points, you can start defining them in more detail. That includes specifying what the CSS feature is, how it will work, and why it will have MET their felt needs.
When prioritizing features, start with the customer’s MET needs, and reverse engineer it back to the CSS features that matter most. Consider product solutions from a different angle, like the example above of the 4” filter to articulate the value proposition that matters most to your buyer. Once you do this, craft your story and find interesting ways to show value that people actually care about.
This article will go into the weeds on how to prioritize and define product features.
Features vs. Benefits vs. Advantages
Product features are characteristics of a product or service. The bells and whistles, as it were. These include safety, performance, appearance, comfort/convenience, efficiency, and durability. On the other hand, product benefits are the return on investment (ROI) gained from using the various features. Product advantages are why the customer values a particular product based on its overall combination of features.
Remember, a product that lacks certain features can also be valuable. By presenting products that lack particular features, you are alleviating the money pain point. After all, nobody wants to pay for something that they do not perceive value.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a 40 gallon hot water tank. The number one best feature you have to offer is a club membership with an annual drain and flush. The benefit of an annual drain and flush is to remove the sediment that is guaranteed to build up in the tank. Why? Because the number one home insurance claim is flooding from hot water tanks. Why? Because sediment builds up on the bottom of the tank, leading to rust, and ultimately a leaking tank. Keep in mind, the supply line is still on at full blast inside the tank, so your home doesn’t only get the 40 gallons sitting in the tank flooding the house, but the endless stream of water pouring in from the mainline of the house, leading to significant and costly damages, not just a new water heater.
This means the advantage of doing a little bit of preventative maintenance significantly lowers your risk for a costly and stressful insurance claim that requires a lot of time away from more important things in life. Money, energy, time.
When marketing and selling your product or service, including features and benefits gives potential customers a well-rounded view of what you’re offering. Ultimately, however, it is the advantages that buyers actually care about. Features, benefits, and advantages are symbiotic. You don’t want to have one without the others. This is how you tell a great story.
User Story, Requirements, Capabilities, and Epics
When it comes to developing product presentations, there are four essential factors to consider when deciding on the most valuable features of your product:
- Epic: An epic is a group of related features with the same objective — to assemble the features with the greatest perceptual value to the buyer’s felt needs (money, energy, time). For example, a Lennox is known for delivering icy cold air at a higher efficiency than its competitors with American made parts to ensure down time is left to a minimum, if at all. Comfort, savings, safety (CSS).
- Capability: A capability is a specific functionality delivered to users to achieve an action with the feature. The ability to send notifications to an app would be the capability of the smart thermostat feature.
- Requirement: Requirements are necessary to define what a product or feature should do. The three types of requirements are functional, non-functional, and implementation. Requirements help manufacturers decide what features to add or leave off a product and sellers decide what features to highlight or marginalize.
- User Story: A user story describes the advantage of a specific feature’s benefit told from the customer’s perspective. User stories are more persuasive than specifications and facts as they allow the intended audience to see themselves using the product feature to satisfy a felt need.
It is crucial to keep the end goal in mind. Focusing on the customer’s actual felt needs and perceived pain points will increase your product’s perceived value. Ask yourself: What pain does this feature alleviate? What actual felt need can be MET? What does my customer value? Once you have a clear picture of what matters, brainstorm ways to tell the most persuasive story.
Prioritizing Product Features
Prioritizing product features is a crucial part of any sales process. Divide the process into two steps before progressing to the defining process.
Step 1: Prioritize Features By Value
Ensure the essential features are prioritized by evaluating features by value. That helps create a more focused and efficient development process, leading to a better final presentation.
Step 2: Estimate the Value of Each Feature
Always consider the value proposition for the product as you select the best solutions for your customer. As you complete the prioritization process, you will be more effective in building value in your presentation.
This process will help you identify which features are most important and worth presenting first.
Defining Product Features
Once you have a comprehensive list of features, narrow it down by process of elimination. The defining process ensures every feature you include in your presentation is most valuable to your specific customer’s needs. This will help you focus on talking about the things the buyer cares about and leaving out the features they do not care about.
Speak the language of the Transactional Shopper or Relational buyer:
- Transactional Shoppers value their money more than their time. Consider how you can show people value through their wallet. If you can make a case for buying the lower price, not the cheapest price, you no longer have to be the cheapest option in town to close the sale.
- Relational buyers value their time more than their money. This doesn’t suggest that money is no object, but they are willing to pay a reasonable premium for competent convenience. This may include additional bundled options that reduce the burden on future money, energy, or time.
Adapting to the mindset of your buyer’s default humor will allow you to present a product unlike any others in the market. This is why understanding basic human psychology is so valuable. When you tell better, more interesting stories than your competitors, you sell more buyers on the first sit at a higher average sale and profit.
You cannot change a person’s behavior until you have first changed their belief.
– Frances Frei
And you cannot change a person’s behavior until they have first gone to the place you need them to go in their imagination. And you cannot get to the imagination with facts, figures, and stats. You must introduce something new, interesting, and different than what they already subscribe to in their perceptual reality. And since you have no idea what is actually bouncing around in their mind, your best bet is with a story that starts with a feature, leads to a benefit, and ties to an advantage.
When Do Features Really Matter?
Product features are critical to the storyline in selling your product. Features are HOW the product provides benefits to your customer. No matter the product or service, you should always highlight the features that make your product one of a kind.
Just as important, you need to know what features NOT to talk about. Nobody wants to look under the hood anymore. In an effort to save time and avoid feeling bamboozled, people will rely on salespeople who are better at tying the advantages of the feature’s benefits over the otherwise boring bits.
There is no such thing as an attention span. People will watch 10 hours of Netflix if they find the story interesting. When inspiring a sale, tell stories that people want to pay attention to and leave out the boring parts. Your customers will never lose attention.
When product features matter, they improve the customer experience and turn prospects into buyers. Features presented in a unique way increase the perceived value and separate the mice from men in sales.
Product features only matter if they improve the customer’s life in some way. Consider how each benefit meets the customer’s actual felt needs through pain and pleasure points.
Prioritizing and defining your product’s features is instrumental in developing a powerfully meaningful sales presentation. Aligning each feature with a benefit and advantage gives you a competitive advantage when motivating a buying decision.
Stepping into your customer’s shoes will allow you to create a product presentation with everything they’re looking for, and more. Consider how the user story, requirements, capabilities, and epics relate to your product features throughout the prioritization process.
Aside from well defined product features, benefits, and advantages, implementing an effective selling solution will significantly improve your results. Wizard of Sales® has the tools you need to elevate your complete Selling System™. If you’re a residential home service business leader looking to scale, book a demo with Wizard of Sales® today!