How to Sell Using Benefits (now with extra Milton)

Selling on benefit rather than on features is an art form most understand, but few perfect.  Before you can master the art of benefit selling, we need to define some terms.


Features are aspects and attributes.  Speeds and feeds.  Features are what makes something work, and what it can do.  The differences are important here, so let’s use the venerable Swingline stapler as an example.


Some features of the Swingline are as follows:

  • It comes in red (sadly mine is black)
  • It holds precisely 210 1/4″ staples at capacity
  • It’s mechanism delivers staples more reliably than the Boston

While important in the discussion, only below-average salespeople will attempt to close deals based on features alone.  Features force your customer to make two leaps of thinking on their own before they can make a decision.  More on that later.



Advantages are positive properties of a product that its features enable.  They are almost always intangible.  Advantages are what the product lets the consumer do, or the intangibles that it apart from the competition.  Note that each feature will have a corresponding advantage as described below.


Advantages of the Swingline:

  • Color options for every taste, as long as you have a taste for red (or black)
  • More stapling between reloads
  • Doesn’t bind up as much as the Boston

Most salespeople stop their analysis here, and call their advantages benefits.  Yay!  Benefit selling complete!  Don’t make that mistake.  They do themselves and their customers a disservice.  Advantages give a clear picture of the product and what it does, but do little to help ease the pain of decision making.  You want to ease that pain wherever possible.



Benefits are often confused with advantages, so here’s a definition that clearly delineates the two: Benefits are emotions and/or feelings that the advantages of a product help to instill.  They are not related to the features of the product itself, but the experience of using it.  Benefits take some thinking to identify accurately, which is why only the top salespeople sell on benefits.  Note that benefits don’t necessarily have to correspond exactly to a specific advantage, but they can.  In my examples, I make them correlate.  Also important is the formula for describing them, which is: Emotion + Relieved Pain Point.  This lets you identify exactly what emotion will be felt when the associated pain is relieved.  I’ll explain each below for these to help get your thinking on the right path.


Benefits for the venerable Swingline:

  • Feeling of satisfaction from the relieved lack of individuality in an office environment.
    • Office spaces can feel drab and too-uniform.  A shiny red stapler can give an otherwise gray cube a unique piece of flair– making the office worker feel satisfied that they aren’t just a number.
  • Feeling of relief from the extra productivity of not having to interrupt your collating as often to refill staples.
    • If you’re right in the middle of a tricky batch of TPS reports and you have to get up to get staples, you’re going to forget the cover sheet.  Relieving that stress with less trips to the supply closet will get the 15 minutes of real work you do in a week done in 10.
  • Feeling of love/loyalty from the from the removal of the poor comparative performance of the Boston.
    • If you were forced to use a Boston stapler that bound up regularly you would feel frustrated.  That frustration would turn to loyalty and love when presented with a superior Swingline.

Decision Making is Emotional

Salespeople who take their product analysis to the emotional benefit level and adjust their messaging accordingly will reap rewards over those who don’t.  This is because decision making, especially at an organizational level, involves pain.  Pain begets emotion, and even the most logical thinkers appreciate the release of emotional pain.


Stop selling on features and advantages alone.  Analyze your customers and your products and sell on benefits.

Important Notes

Not to go all Uncle Ben on you, but with great power comes great responsibility.  Selling on benefits that don’t actually materialize will alienate customers faster than not responding at all.  Remember– don’t be a scumbag.

I see many amateur attempts to sell on benefits by stating the emotion that will result from a purchase– IE:

“This stapler will make you feel confident!”

This is a mistake.  The stapler won’t do anything of the sort, and you’ll look like an idiot in front of your customers.  Remember: it’s not the product that gives the benefit, it’s the usage.  Rather than “this stapler will…,” build your message intelligently.

“You can comfortably rely on this stapler’s performance– from the first click to the 100,000th.”

They both say the same thing, but the first merely expresses an emotion while the second instills it.  Never express benefits.  Always instill.


Happy Selling.


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