The 5 Ps of Benefits

After two decades of research, I have discovered that five categories offer the most efficient description of genuine benefits.  These categories are represented by five words, each beginning with the letter P.  The five categories are:

pain reliefpreservationpleasureprofit and prestige.

The 5 Ps can be matched with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.  Maslow argued for several levels of human needs, the most basic of which is the need to satisfy hunger and thirst (pain relief).  Succeeding levels of need include the need for safety (preservation), love and belonging (pleasure), esteem (prestige) and growth toward self-actualization through education, justice, beauty and order – needs which commonly require financial resources (profit).  These 5 Ps are the most efficient way of categorizing the real benefits you can offer a customer.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides some guidance to the meaning of each of the 5 Ps.  When a suspect is experiencing pain, frustration, difficulty or hassle that can be solved by your product or service, you offer a pain relief benefit.  If the suspect is under threat from a competitor who is encroaching on market share or an environmental condition that could destroy them, they are in need of the preservation benefit that would protect them from the danger or demise. Expanding or introducing positive conditions provides a pleasure benefit.  Increasing the esteem of your suspect in the eyes of his peers, subordinates or supervisors is a prestige benefit, and increasing revenues or cutting expenses is a profit benefit.

Finally, benefits are powerful enough to stand alone, while features must be accompanied by benefits.  When the occasion permits, the use of features can strengthen the benefit claim but features are not required when posting benefits.  On the other hand, if you choose to use a feature in your conversations with a suspect you must also use a benefit.  Remember, when you talk about features you talk about you and suspects are only interested in themselves.

Buyers Buy Benefits

When we talk about the benefits of our products or services we tend to talk about their qualities, features, and functionality.  We say things like fast, friendly service, or quality, innovation, speed, and durability.

As long as we talk about our products and services in this context we are talking about US.  We think we have shifted our attention to focus on the suspect, but in reality we are still focusing on US or OUR perceptions of how good WE are.  WE are faster.  WE are friendly.

In order for sales people to connect with suspects, we must get outside of our egocentric view and get into the mind of our suspects.  It is not easy to get outside of our own egocentric box.  If I say my product is faster, I am speaking about me and my product.  But if I ask myself why my customers care about speed, I can begin the transition from feature to benefit.

If my product is faster than what my customer is currently using, then purchasing my product provides an advantage over not purchasing it.  When I say the speed of my product helps my customers complete more work in the same amount of time, that is an advantage to my customer, and it suggests there is an advantage available to my suspect.

I can take the advantage one step further by talking about the value of completing more work in the same amount of time, which might include increased revenue, relieving the pain of a tedious task, or freeing time for more enjoyable activities.  When I take the advantage one step further, I am able to get to the real benefits desired by my suspect.

Practice Your Elevator Speech

Before reading this week’s Tip of the Week, participate in this discovery exercise:  Imagine a chance meeting with your ideal suspect.  This is a person you really want a chance to sell to, but you simply have not been able to get their attention.  Your chance meeting will not allow much time and you must make the most of it.  Please take a minute, pull out some paper, and write down what you will say.

* * * * *

In selling circles, the scenario that I just described is often called the elevator speech.  The idea of the elevator speech is to make an impact with a suspect even if you are only in the elevator together for a short ride.  Now that you have written your elevator speech, answer the following questions.

1.  What was your objective?  What did you want to accomplish?

2.  How many words did it take?

3.  If you were the suspect, how would you respond to the introduction you just wrote?

4.  How confident are you that you would accomplish your objective?

5.  How frequently have you used this same approach?

For many people, including experienced sales professionals, writing an elevator speech is a challenging assignment.  Some argue that it is much easier to actually engage the conversation than to write it.  It may be easier but it is far less effective.  When you write your elevator speech you have the opportunity to clarify your objectives and choose your language in advance.  Research shows this is far more productive than acting in the instant.  Additionally, preparation does not diminish your ability to be spontaneous – it enhances it.  When the time for action comes, the time for preparation has passed and if you are not prepared, you are not likely to be as brilliant as you would like to be.

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Measure Your Performance and Improve

Sales people are not alone in their aversion to reporting and evaluation.  It is our human nature to resist evaluation.  Scheduling the annual performance review harrows up memories of being summoned to the principal’s office for a severe scolding.

Avoiding the pain of personal performance measurement slows skill development and growth.  The most powerful ally we have in our quest for achievement is rapid and frequent feedback.  The advantage of immediate evaluation is that the results can be used to diagnose and fix problems quickly, before they become habitual.

In his retirement speech from the National Football League, quarterback Steve Young alluded to the advantages of rapid and frequent feedback.  Mr. Young confessed that he never had an annual performance review in his life.  Then he added that his performance reviews had come every 6 seconds.  Responding to that rapid and frequent feedback helped Mr. Young become one of the most celebrated and successful professional quarterbacks ever to play the game.

It has been said, “When performance is measured, performance improves.  When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”  As a performance scientist, I have come to respect the profound truth of this simple statement.  I have learned that if we can measure the performance, we can improve it.