Grapes (Issue 472)

In which we are reminded to speak benefits rather than features… And to slow down.

“I can’t understand you when your mouth is full,” I said that to one of my children who was, at the time, filling his mouth with grapes, one-by-one, to see how many he could cram in while speaking to his incredulous family. I think his objective was to determine at what point we would flinch and show fear that he would choke on a grape. While I won’t bore you with the details, I can tell you that we observed the following:

LC = p/(g x s)

in which LC (listener comprehension) is inversely proportional to “g” (number of grapes in mouth) times “s” (speed of speech). In other words, the more grapes in his mouth and the faster he spoke, the less we understood. (The “p” in the numerator,” in case you’re wondering, is “pronunciation.”)

Put yourself in his place, think of the grapes as product features, and you’ll immediately understand a common customer or prospect complaint, that “the sales person used a bunch of jargon I didn’t understand.” [Get it? “Bunch?” Like, a bunch of grapes?] From computers to cash management products to consulting services, the more grapes (features) we have in our mouths, and the faster we want to tell people about them, the harder it is to understand us.

What’s the alternative? (Would the person who said, “grape juice,” please be quiet.) Replace the grapes –features — with benefits or value statements. We’ll find that it’s very difficult to use jargon and features when we’re speaking the language of value or benefits. Why? Because benefits and values boil down to dimensions like time, money, or risk. For example, “your costs will decline.” Or, “you’ll never blur another photograph.” This is true for experienced purchasers who understand the jargon; it’s true for novices who don’t.

Here’s the test: Think of a product. Tape record answers to your client’s question, “How will this product help me?” If we hear things like, “This particular model will help you because the beta constant is bigger than the pie squared and because we’ve installed user controlled gizzlefritzits,” we’re talking with grapes in our mouths. If our answers are something like, “it’ll save you $100 a month,” we’ll know we’re speaking the language of benefits and value. Short, to the point, completely understandable, and slowly.

Speaking of short and to the point, I’d like to introduce you to a friend, Jill Konrath, and her book, SNAP Selling. Generate more appointments and sales faster by attracting and keeping the attention of way-too-busy buyers. (Benefit statement, get it?) Free resources. Read the book.

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