Features Tell But Benefits Sell

Inspirational language packaged with a great benefits-focused message helps create binding relationships with others.

learn more about Ivan Misner

By Ivan Misner

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The year was 1957. Imagine for a moment a humble family living in the Midwestern United States: a husband, wife, and four kids under the age of 12. Struggling to make ends meet, the father, desperate to earn a better income and a better life for his family, decided to start a door-to-door vacuum-cleaner business.

After a slow start, including visiting a lot of houses and receiving plenty of rejection, he went on to become one of the best in the vacuum businesses. He even had salesmen working underneath him. The father was on the road much of the time, leaving his wife home alone to tend to their four children. His career had its ups and its downs.

Even in those hard times, when asked how things were going in the vacuum business, his common and upbeat response was, "It sucks, but it's always picking up." At times, he was making a small fortune; other times, he was nearly broke. After 16 years of hard work, building a business from scratch, he saved enough to invest in real estate. In 1975, he purchased a recently closed vacuum store and reopened the doors, calling it "All Vacuum Center." This man's name was Jim Cain.

Related: Don't 'Stop Networking.' Just Start Doing It Right.

His youngest son, Steve, the family handyman, went to work for him fresh out of high school that same year. Steve made an agreement with his father: "Dad, you're the salesman; I'm the handyman. You sell 'em, and I'll fix 'em." Steve confided in his Dad, saying, "I like this job because I have no idea how much money I will have made until the end of the year." Just like his father, another entrepreneur was born. With that comment and in that opportunity, Steve Cain, the second generation of All Vacuum Center, envisioned the opportunity to be as successful as he wanted to be and to one day take over the family business.

Unfortunately, that day came much sooner than he expected when his dad passed away only a few years later, at the age of 59. That left Steve, still in his 20s, to take over the family business and to become the primary source of income for his widowed mother.

As a legacy to his father, Steve kept All Vacuum Center at its original location for many years before opening two new locations. Since the passing of his father, Jim, Steve has sold thousands of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers. The company prides itself in selling only the "best in breed" of vacuum cleaners. Steve loves to joke with his clients by saying, "Thank goodness for Walmart, Target, and Sears for selling the cheapest vacuums known to man."

Steve's heartwarming story certainly endears people to him and gives them a reason to do business with All Vacuum Center over the big-box stores, but it's not enough. Steve still has to educate people about his superior products. As an example, let's cover the features of one of Steve Cain's top-of-the-line vacuums. If you were in the market to buy, he'd tell you that this machine has the highest suction rating J. D. Power gives, with "level suction," which means the vacuum's suction will be as good in the tenth year as it does in the first. Steve could say it has a nonbreaking belt, top-speed brush roll, and soft rubber wheels that swivel 360 degrees. Plus, it's equipped with a 99 percent efficient HEPA-filtered exhaust, and finally a personal guarantee.

Related: Be Self-Aware, Be Selfless, and Then Be Selfish

If Steve told you all this, would you be "moved" to buy? I wouldn't, either. But what if he explained that these features lead to the best benefit of all: a doubled life expectancy of your expensive carpet because the vacuum cleaner won't leave dirt behind? Your toddler can eat animal crackers off of the floor without eating dirt and pet hair. Your expensive hardwood floors will remain in perfect condition. Your entire family will breathe easily in a dust-free, allergen-free home. Finally, if anything goes wrong with your vacuum, you can rely on the 55-year legacy and reputation of Jim and Steve Cain, who have always done right by their customers.

Sound better?

Even Steve, with an amazing back story, needs to explain how his vacuums enhance the lives of his customers, not just recite a litany of product features. When all of these elements come together, customers want to buy. And they're not really buying a vacuum cleaner—they're buying a clean and healthy home.

Features tell, but benefits sell. Inspirational language packaged with a great benefits-focused message helps create binding relationships with others.

Related: Networking Is a Contact Sport

Ivan Misner

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Bestselling Author

Dr. Ivan Misner is a 'NY Times' bestselling author and co-author of the bestselling book, 'Networking Like a Pro' (Entrepreneur Press 2017). He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world's largest referral marketing and networking organization.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law
Business News

Amazon Is Starting to Let Customers Know What Products Are Returned Often

The e-commerce giant has begun flagging certain items that were frequently sent back.


Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Company With These 3 Disney Marketing Tactics

For startups struggling to capture the attention of potential customers, connect with them and build credibility in today's fast-paced business world, Disney's marketing can teach you a few valuable lessons. Ready to join this rollercoaster ride?

Employee Experience & Recruiting

5 Types of Toxic Employees and How to Deal With Them (Infographic)

When it comes to the troublemakers in your organization you have two choices: cut them out or rein them in. Here's how to do the latter, like a boss.

Business News

The Largest Egg Producer in the U.S. Saw Profits Increase By 718% Amid Soaring Prices

Cal-Maine Foods brought in over $320 million in profit for the quarter ending in late February 2023.