The Features Trap – What Sells Better, Features or Benefits?

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There’s truth in “Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak,”

but no matter how enticing the sizzle, the “steak” must provide benefits for the customer. Too often, entrepreneurs promote the great features of their product, but neglect the underlying customer benefits or value. Features are important, but benefits are the “gut” reasons customers buy. This sounds simple, but it’s easy to get hung up on features and lose sight of the value we provide. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between features and benefits.

Feature or Benefit?

Features are details or characteristics of an offering. Benefits are the value a customer gains from using a service or product that has those features. For example:

  • Feature: A lamp lights up a room (This can sound like a benefit). Benefit: You can read a book at night.
  • Feature: You have a Ph.D. in energy-efficiency. Benefit: You help companies save 50% on energy costs.
  • Feature: You train people to start companies. Benefit: Clients start up faster and avoid costly mistakes. 


Some tempting “Feature-Traps”

Entrepreneur Passion

This is an easy trap to fall into, especially when we have an innovation that might disrupt an industry. Our blinding passion for our idea is so intense that we say “Everyone will love our features,” and we’ll “blow the socks off the marketplace.” We love our features, but we must appeal to the needs of customers and show them (in simple language), how our product or service produces value.

Newness Sells

“My customers will want to be the ‘first on their block’ to own the latest technology and features.” The huge successes of big companies like Apple add fuel to this passionate fire. But, most startups don’t have the prestige and marketing power of an Apple. We mere-mortals have to grind it out just to get someone to listen and give our “newness” a try. When we get their attention, we must highlight the value that our features can produce.

No Competition

“My product’s features are so new that there’s no competition.” Wrong: We always have competition!!! A major competition might be a target customer’s tendency to “do nothing.” This status-quo, “intellectual-inertia” competition is hard to overcome. It’s easier for them to do nothing and not buy our offering. We must convince them of the value of taking action.


Discover Customer Value

How can you avoid the feature traps, and focus on the value your customers receive? Here’s one way:

  • Features: List all the features of your product or service.
  • Benefits: Define the customer value for each feature. Make assumptions where necessary.
  • Test Assumptions: Interview prospects about their problems and the value of solving them.
  • Adapt: Ensure your offering provides the value they seek.
  • Market & Sell: Get their attention with your “sizzle” features. Then sell them Customer Value.


Focus on Customer Benefits

Focus your Strategy, Marketing and Sales on the Value you produce for customers.

About the Author

Bob Lurz, “The Consultant’s Consultant,” coaches skilled people to launch and build successful consulting businesses. He “grows the economy, one consultant at a time.” Contact him at:

Posted in: Business Tips & Advice, Eastman Business Park
Tagged: Business Development, sales strategy