The custom solution and using features, bridges and benefits

Bob Davis The Quality Conversation bookAn excerpt from The Quality Conversation by Bob Davis

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Once you have gone through full discovery, it is time to bridge to the custom solution. I call it the custom solution because you customize, or tailor, what you say at this point to the customer based on what he or she told you during full discovery.

You could tell the customer hundreds, if not thousands, of features about your product and their benefits. How do you choose the ones that will strike a chord with one particular customer? Lazy sales people always talk about the same four or five sets of features and benefits with every customer. This might be the easiest approach, but it does not address the customer’s specific wants, interests and needs. If you are going to give the same pitch regardless of what you learn from the customer during full discovery, why bother with full discovery? To have a Quality Conversation and enjoy the results that will follow, it is essential to present a custom solution to each customer based on what you learn from the customer during full discovery.

The great trial lawyer Louis Nizer said, “Where there is no difference, there is only indifference.” If you do not want your customers to be indifferent to your solution, make sure the solution is customized to their wants, interests and needs.

Let’s look more closely at features and benefits and how they address the customer’s individual wants, interests and needs. Imagine you are selling online advertising to small business owners over the phone. You have just talked to a local restaurant owner who wants to drive more business in the door on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He has said his customers do not come from more than 10 miles away. He needs to reach customers who live or work close to the restaurant. His ideal customer is upscale with disposable income to spend.


Features, bridges and benefits

At this point, it is time for you to choose the online ad features you want to discuss with this customer. You want to put together an advertising package that suits his needs. Since he wants customers who are close-by, talk about how your product’s geo-targeting features will help him reach customers who are close to his restaurant. Share the demographic information of the upscale people who will view his ads. This demographic information includes age, income, education level and other useful data. Discuss the timing of the ads and specials to run during the early part of the week.

Let’s say you are selling for a cable company or a telephone service provider (telco). You get a call from a potential customer who wants your high-speed Internet service. Once you have completed full discovery, you understand the customer’s wants, interests and needs related to the Internet. The customer has two teenagers who need high-speed Internet service for online games and Netflix movies. Your full discovery revealed the customer is not happy with her current phone plan. Her current provider is charging her for the many long distance calls she has placed lately. Of the many features and benefits you could talk about in this case, you will just pick a few that best fit the customer’s needs. You will talk about the speed of your Internet offering and about your unlimited long distance phone plan.

Once you decide what you will present to the customer, focus on how to present it. If you have conducted The Quality Conversation correctly up to this point, the customer has done a great deal of the talking. Most customers love this. Who does not like to talk about themselves and their wants, interests and needs? However, in the custom solution step, the sales person does most of the talking.

I hate to break it to you, but most people will not hang on your every word. In fact, most people do not have very good listening skills. Their minds start to wander while you are talking, and they are distracted by what is going on in their environment, such as children, pets, visitors, spouses or co-workers and other typical goings-on at the office or in the home. This is especially true over the telephone.

You must present the custom solution in crisp, precise language that is short and to the point. This means that you must present your custom solution in a features-bridges-benefit format. You can’t be in sales for more than 10 minutes before someone tells you to use features, bridges and benefits. Why? It is proven to be a very effective way for sales people to communicate their ideas and win the sale.

A feature is a fact about your product or service. It should also be a fact the customer will accept as true. The last thing that you want to do in this step of the sales process is to create an opportunity for your customer’s mind to wander off. You do not want the customer to wonder whether or not what you have just said is always true. Stay away from claims. Instead of saying your company is the biggest or the fastest, just state how big you are or how fast your service is.

Again, features must address the issues you learned about during full discovery. If the customer says he is happy with his phone service but not happy with his Internet speed, talk about the features of your Internet speed.


The power of the words ‘you’ and ‘because’

A bridge is a connecting phrase. It should always contain “you” and “because.” Some examples:

  • “…Which is fantastic for you because…”
  • “…Which I know you will love because…”
  • “…Which is well-suited for you because…”

Using the word “you” in every bridge draws the customer in to what you are saying. Have you ever been deeply engaged in a conversation with a friend in a room full of people and then heard someone on the other side of the room say your name? Immediately, this draws your attention away from your conversation, doesn’t it?

Scientists and psychologists use the term “cocktail party effect” to describe our innate ability to focus listening attention on a single person and conversation even in the midst of loud conversations and noises in the background.

Another term, the “own name effect,” refers to your tendency to notice when someone says your name on the other side of the room, even though you are deeply engaged in another conversation. Use the own name effect to your advantage in The Quality Conversation. When people hear you say the word “you,” they will tune in to what you are saying whether they know it or not.

The complexity of how the signal, the auditory system and the central nervous system work together automatically and involuntarily is truly astounding.

Research has shown that the typical person’s mind spends 13 percent of the time wandering or “zoned out.” During this time, people have almost no idea of what is happening in the world around them. Why does this happen?

One explanation is called the “decoupling hypothesis.” The human brain may actually decouple attention from the outward sensation. Basically, it decides that nothing too important is happening, and it cuts the connection between the external world and the internal world of the mind. Although research has shown this is great for the imagination and creativity, it is almost certainly not good for sales!

By using the word “you” in the bridge, you will reverse the decoupling and draw your customers back in to what you are saying to them, just as their minds begin to zone out. It has the same impact as speaking someone’s name at a cocktail party.

The average person speaks approximately 110 to 150 words per minute but can process words at about 600 words per minute. This helps us form bad listening habits. We do not necessarily have to pay full attention to get the gist, but not necessarily the important details, of what others are saying to us. Saying “you” will draw the other person back to full attention.

Compare the difference between the following statements:

  • “We offer faster broadband connections, which is great for customers because they download lots of video files and MP3s, play online games, and backup their files online. Sign up today!”
  • “We offer faster broadband connections, which is great for you because you download lots of video files and MP3s, play online games, and backup your files online. Sign up today!”

The second statement illustrates a much more powerful technique to use when talking to customers on the phone. They can be doing almost anything on the other end of the line, and the opportunity for distraction is very high. This approach overcomes such distraction, and more.

Even without the word “you,” using the word “because” in every bridge makes your sales presentation more believable and causes the customer to take a positive action more often.

Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer demonstrated the power of the word “because” by conducting an experiment at a college library to see who would allow her to break in at the front of the line for the photocopier.

To some, she said, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Sixty percent of the people in line allowed her to go ahead of them.

To others, she added the word “because” but gave no real reason, saying, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” Compliance jumped from 60 percent to 93 percent.

This experiment clearly shows the power of the word “because,” and it shows why you should use it when presenting custom solutions.

Now let’s look at the benefit, or how the feature will satisfy the customer’s wants, interests and needs. This is where the customization comes into play. It is important here to use the customer’s own words in talking about the benefit. It might sound something like, “Your teenagers will never experience buffering during Netflix, and you will be their hero.”

The feature-bridge-benefit statement might sound something like:

  • Feature: “Our Internet speed is 24 megabits per second on the download…”
  • Bridge: “…which will be great for you because…”
  • Benefit: “…your teenagers will never experience buffering during Netflix, and you will be their hero.”

Think about a recent customer. What were this person’s wants, interests, and needs?

People are not only primarily interested in themselves, but they are also interested in products that help them. A customer will be far more likely to respond to you positively if you can highlight the benefit of the product directly to that individual.

When you have Quality Conversations with your customers, you will be building satisfying relationships with them. By talking in terms of features, bridges and benefits and how they relate to your customers’ wants, interests and needs, you will make the conversation more satisfying to them.


Are your contact center agents using features, bridges and benefits effectively to present customized solutions tailored to customers’ wants, interests and needs? Contact Bob Davis today for a free consultation.


Here are some additional examples of features, bridges and benefits:

  • Feature: “This car has four doors…”
  • Bridge: “…which is great for you because…”
  • Benefit: “…you have two pre-teens who ride with you all the time.”
  • Feature: “This ad will appear in our online dining guide 10,000 times…”
  • Bridge: “…which is great for you because…”
  • Benefit: “…people who are looking for a place to eat will see your restaurant.”
  • Feature: “This package includes four DVRs…”
  • Bridge: “…which I know you will like because…”
  • Benefit: “…your teenage children will be able to control their own TV experience.”

Think about yourself. I bet you have things that were not the cheapest, but you got them because you wanted them and saw value in them. For example, do you have the cheapest TV on the market, or do you have something with a little more value? When you bought your car, did you get the cheapest, stripped-down version with no air conditioning, or did you pay a little more for the things you wanted in your car?

Your customers are the same. They may say they want the lowest price. They are really saying they want the lowest price for what best meets their wants, interests and needs. If you have done a great job of asking full discovery questions, you will know the customer’s wants, interests and needs. As a result, you will be equipped to present the solution in a way that shows you understand its value to the customer.

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