Why “selling benefits” can lose you sales

My target audience on this blog are fraud risk consultants in all their various hues and shades – solo practitioners, small to medium firms, departments (service line) in large firms or functionaries in large organisations. During my nine lives I ‘ve been in all of these. As a service line head in a “Big 4” firm I remember my Partner saying to me, “You are not generating clients Caleb. Where do you think your salary is coming from?” As a solo practitioner nobody asked me that. Of cause, I asked it myself – of myself!

Today we are talking “Selling”. Yes, selling your services to generate clients.

The following article is by Ian Brodie. Ian is a consultant and author who helps consultants, coaches and other professionals attract and win more clients. I adore the art of thinking outside the box. No wonder I ‘m such a fan of Ian’s. You can read more of his articles at the More Clients blog.


“Focus on the benefits, not the features”

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times Caleb.

It’s standard marketing dogma. Focus on benefits. The problems you solve. The results people get from working with you.

But sometimes it’s absolutely the wrong thing to focus on.

You see, focusing on benefits implies that’s why people buy. And that’s not always the case.

Imagine yourself in this scenario:

You’re the CIO of a multinational. You’ve been set a target to reduce expenditure by 10% by the board.

You’re looking at outsourcing. One firm is quoting you savings of 15%, the other 20%?

Which one do you go with. The 20% is a no-brainer, right?

Not necessarily.

15% and 20% are both significantly better than your budget. Both will keep the board happy.

In theory, you might go for the 20% to get the maximum benefit. But there’s another huge factor that’s going to be weighing on your mind. One that more often than not will determine your decision.


You see, you might get an extra pat on the back for getting those extra savings – if they come off.

But if something goes wrong. If the outsourcer fails to deliver, if your systems start failing or your users start complaining all the time. Then you’re in big trouble.

So as a buyer, you’re rarely out to simply maximise benefits. You’re looking to hit your target benefits at minimum risk.

And you’ll see this buying behaviour repeated time and time again.

Especially in large corporations and the public sector where maximising benefits will get you a small bonus or a pat on the back, but buying something which fails will get you the sack.

So as a seller (especially to large corporations or the public sector) you’ve got to focus not just on the benefits you’ll bring – but on making sure they see you as the lowest risk option.

If you’re like me, and you’re a small or solo business, you’re automatically at a disadvantage in these circumstances. By default, large businesses will see you as a risk.

So that means that very often, the focus of your “pitch” needs to be on minimising the perceived risk of working with you (and maximising the perceived risk of working with someone else).

Next time you’re bidding for a big piece of work with a major customer, spend some time putting yourself in your potential client’s shoes and brainstorming what risks they might see in the project and in working with you.

Maybe it’s financial stability.

Maybe it’s continuity if you get hit by illness.

Maybe it’s that you don’t understand their business.

Maybe it’s whether you can work in a unionised environment.

Whatever the risks you spot, make sure you address those risks.

Because just banging on about the wonderful benefits of working with you is going to get you nowhere if your client is frightened it may all fall apart and they won’t see any of them in practice.



Email sent by:
Ian Brodie 29 Dean Road Handforth Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 3AH United Kingdom 0161 408 0984

What do you think? What strategies do you, or your company, use to manage the risk of fraud and error in your organisation? Are you primarily proactive or reactive in your approach to risk management? Share your experience in the Comment box below.

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