Features vs Benefits vs Symptoms

Prospects don't think in features and benefits, so why do we? 

At one point in my career I sold software. I was hired because none of the existing salespeople were able to put enough profit in deals. 

Every salesperson talked about features and benefits.
Unfortunately, that’s where they stopped. They missed all the good stuff.


  •  Assumed the prospect would recognize the need for said benefit.
  •  Talked about all the things they'd done elsewhere.
  •  Got frustrated when the prospect didn't understand.
  •  Had no idea how to get the prospect to feel something.

They were flying blind, throwing a heap of information out there and hoping it stuck.

The issue: prospects need to recognize a problem before they can associate a benefit/solution to it. They then need to feel strongly enough about it to pay money to fix it. 

There is a simple process to work from features to feelings.
Features - Benefits - Symptoms - Emotions

Step 1: List all the features of the product. 

In the software example, it had some powerful automation features.

It was able to pick up data from just about anywhere, read it, identify and allocate it as necessary.

Step 2: List all the benefits of the features.

They would be able to:

  •  Automate paper heavy document flows through their business.
  •  Reduce the risk of data loss.
  •  Reduce the need for a large team of admin staff doing monotonous tasks.

Step 3: List out the symptoms they would recognize from said benefits.

I’ll use one benefit from above; reduce the risk of data being lost in a medical center.

  •  1 full time staff member for data input, a second to ensure it’s accurate.
  •  Doctors having to come to the front desk mid-consult to find the right paperwork.
  •  Hospitals calling and saying they haven’t received what they need.

Step 4: Identify emotions associated with each symptom. 

The owner/manager was:

  •  Frustrated that they needed multiple staff to do one small task.
  •  Struggling to keep their doctors happy as they’re always chasing the right documents.
  •  Worried that they’ll be responsible for someone getting improper care or dying as a result of them losing data.  (There are a lot of precedents of this happening)

I made them feel heard and understood. No high pressure sales, just a solution to a problem they felt. 
Contrast that with what other salespeople were doing.
“We can save you some money on printing and time.” 

Action Steps
Go through this process for each solution you’re selling.

1. List all the features. 

2. List all the benefits. 

3. List all the symptoms the benefits will fix. 

4. Connect emotions to each symptom. 

 You’ll likely realize that the levers you’ve been pulling do nearly nothing and there are some much bigger levers available. Not only will you understand the prospect better, you'll be able to work backwards and formulate your sales strategy. 


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