I remember in my past career as an engineer that when I used to write datasheets for the sales force, they would complain that the sheets did not communicate enough benefits to clients.

Even though we may intellectually understand the difference between features and benefits, we often struggle to convey the latter when attempting to influence others.

Some tips:

  • Features are attributes of an idea or product, and benefits are why it is useful. It is the latter that the other party needs to hear.For example, the features of a toothbrush may be that it is electric and rechargeable, but its benefits would be better brushing, cost savings as batteries need not be purchased, and reduced environmental damage as there are no batteries to be disposed of on an ongoing basis.To move from features to benefits keep asking “why is that important” until you arrive at the core benefits.
  • Be sure to convey why your idea is important to something the other party cares about or the organization as a whole. Stressing that something is important to you personally may not be enough.
  • If your idea links to a key organizational strategy (for example “improving customer service”), then make the link explicit. If you don’t mention it, don’t assume other will make the link.
  • Be sure to show how your idea will create more value than it costs. I leave the details of this open to your interpretation, but if this argument cannot be made, chances are that the idea is not a good one.

List the top 3 benefits and then “zip it”.

For some reason, people struggle to remember more than 3, so if you keep going they may remember some minor items at the expense of your key messages.

Russel Horwitz, Principal