One of the keys to successful selling is understanding the difference among features, functions, and benefits and how they relate to needs. Let’s start off with some working definitions.
A need is something for which a prospect or customer has expressed a desire. Strictly speaking, if a prospect hasn’t told you that he needs a beachfront room, he has no need for a beachfront room.
A feature is any aspect, element, or part of a product. It is also the name given to that element. In the case of a travel product that means things like an “oceanfront room,” a “tour guide” on the motorcoach, an “optional excursion to the archaeological ruins,” “First Class” on the airline, and so forth.
A function is what the feature does. The function of “transfers” (a feature of a tour) is to provide transportation from the airport to the hotel and back.
A benefit is the positive outcome the prospect will enjoy from the feature. Every feature offers a benefit! Many features offer more than one benefit. It is the benefit that fulfills the prospect’s need and convinces the prospect that this is the right product.
That last point bears repeating, so let’s repeat it. It is the benefit that fulfills the prospect’s need and convinces the prospect that this is the right product.
Qualifying the Situation
Qualifying the situation, to use a salesperson’s term, is a process of developing needs. Of course, there are such things as unexpressed needs. The problem is, from your point of view, it is very difficult to sell to an unexpressed need. If the client wants to play tennis on vacation and hasn’t told you, then you may present a tennis-less resort, lose a sale, and never know why.
Now you might say, “If she wanted to play tennis, why didn’t she tell me?” The answer is, “Because you didn’t ask.” It is the travel agent’s responsibility to elicit complete information about the client’s needs. That is what you get paid for.
The features of any travel product are the suppliers’ answers to the needs of the traveling public. The Modified American Plan, to cite just a single example, is a feature of a resort hotel. Its function is to provide vacationers with breakfast and dinner every day for a set price. The benefit is that vacationers don’t have to worry about where they will eat breakfast and dinner or what it may cost them, leaving their days completely free for sightseeing and shopping at their leisure.
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