The Reason to Buy (Issue 585)

In which we are reminded that focus on the core benefits of our product or service help us close sales where others couldn’t.

You may remember I’m in the market for hiking boots. Through the best efforts of nearby outdoor equipment stores and their employees, decisions about hiking boots come fairly quickly to conclusion, at least at one level. The qualifying questions are fairly simple:

  • Temperatures? (As in, summer, winter, cold, warm.)
  • Conditions? (As in, established trails, rocks, etc.)
  • Comfort? (As in, can you tolerate damp feet for a while?)
  • Distances?
  • Weight carried?
  • Budget?
  • Patience? (As in, how soon are you leaving, do you have time to break them in?)

Answers to these questions lead to a category of boots as in mid-rise, breathable, day hiking boots.

At that point, however, the array of boots  and features becomes numbing. One finds oneself comparing lists of features such as:

  • Mid-height dura leather/nylon ventilator mesh uppers
  • Protective rubber toe bumpers
  • Mesh padded tongue
  • Nylon mesh linings

Nobody has been able to “close” me and ring up the sale.

Why? I’m lost in features. I can’t distinguish the benefits that would prompt me to buy.

Features are the elements of the boot: color, size, materials, design.

Benefits translate features into changes in our lives. And, according to copywriter Bob Bly, there are several layers to benefits:

  • Ordinary benefits –  immediate improvements.
  • Deeper benefits –  strong impact on our success or on our lives.
  • Core benefits –  long-lasting emotional and psychological impact.

For example, my interest in hiking includes “meeting new people from different communities” in addition to “becoming physically stronger” and “relaxing more.” Thus, I want to fit in immediately and not hold everybody else up. I want boots that are consistent with that aspiration.

Applying Bob Bly’s concepts to the boots might look something like this:


Ordinary Benefit

Deeper Benefit

Core Benefit
(The “real reason” you want this!)

Protective rubber toe bumpers Protect the boot from abrasion and wear due to rocks, etc. Reduce painful toe injuries while maintaining “breathability” and light weight. I won’t be limping and holding everyone else up and feeling ashamed about my inexperience after I whack my toes on rocks the first few times I’m out with a group.  Addresses my fear about not fitting in and not keeping up during my first few trips out with a group.


I think I’m over it… and, if a salesperson had said to me, “Nick, you are just starting out, this is the best boot because you won’t look like a greenhorn even if you whack your toes a few times,” I probably would’ve bought the boots on the spot.

The same logic can be applied when we are selling other products or services. For example, if one were a banker or payroll company sales representative positioning payroll services with a business owner in the start up or early stages of the business’s life, the matrix might look like this:


Ordinary Benefit

Deeper Benefit

Core Benefit
(The “real reason” you want this!)

Checks are issued by payroll company Saves 3 – 5 hours a month Simplifies my process. I don’t have to take time on a week day or weekend night to open the books, write the checks, relearn QuickBooks, etc. The checks will look professional. My employees will feel we are a well-run company. I will feel confident and in control.

One’s choice of benefits in  sales conversation will vary depending on what we are observing or hearing in the conversation.

We need to understand, for our clients as a group as well as for each individual client, what they aspire to and what they are afraid of and then position the Deeper Benefits and the Core Benefits.

If we, as salespeople, don’t understand our clients at this level, it’s very hard for us to help them reach a conclusion and buy….now….with us.

We lose them because they are lost in features and they just need to think about it some more.  They haven’t found the Core Benefits and “the reasons to buy” now.


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