Features and Benefits Are So 2009. Sell To Driving Emotion

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A famous marketer once said said, “sell the hole, not the drill.”

Translation—for the most part, people don’t care a whole lot about the vehicle that gets them the benefit they want…they’re simply looking for the faster, easier, most enjoyable way to their desired end.

So, if you were selling drills, you could focus in on the features of the drill or you could focus on the fact that this bad-boy will let you bore a monster hole through concrete in 8.2 seconds. If you were a golfer, it’s not so much the graphite shaft, carborundum head and Corinthian leather grip you’re selling, it’s the 300 yard drive.

Except…that it’s not…in either case.

The hole and the drive are the benefits. They sell better than the features.

But there’s something that sells 10 times better than both…driving emotions.

If you can ferret out, then sell to the driving emotions, you make a beeline to the part of the brain that says, “OMFG, if I don’t have that NOW, I just might die!”

In the drill example, the driving emotion isn’t the hole, that the benefit. The driving emotions might be the pride or ego fulfillment that comes from all your other workers and supervisors seeing you banging out massive amounts of work in less time. It might be the sense of empowerment that comes from a bigger, badder tool. Maybe it’s the fact that it lets you get home to your family faster and be less wiped out at the end of the day. Or, oddly enough, it might even be a proxy for a lack of power in other parts of your life.

In the golf example, the driving emotion isn’t the 300 yard drive, it’s the feeling of glory you get when you stand at the tee on the first hole, the one right in front of the clubhouse where everyone’s watching, and bang the ball straight to the green while everyone around you says, “whoaaaahhhh!!!” It’s the respect that comes from being known as the guy with the 300 yard drive. And, yes, just like the drill, it may even be a proxy for a lack of respect and connection in other parts of your life.

So, if you really want to sell, don’t sell the feature, don’t even sell the benefit…sell the driving emotion.

BUT, there’s a big caveat…you’d also better be able to deliver on your promise.

Because if you don’t, you’ll end up with a whole lot of clients and customers with buyers remorse, anger, returns and bad will.

Sell to the soul, then deliver…

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34 responses

34 responses to “Features and Benefits Are So 2009. Sell To Driving Emotion”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Aleksandar Atanasov, Leslie MacDonald and others. Leslie MacDonald said: RT @jonathanfields Features and Benefits Are So 2009. Sell To Driving Emotion http://bit.ly/ccJ8bp […]

  2. Ok, I have go admit that I was taking the emotion as a benefit. Now I can see how putting your visitors attention of the emotion is targeting the creative idea of using your product. It goes deeper than the physical results.

  3. Tracy says:

    This gave me a giggle because I know the minute I can imagine myself using a product in a dramatic, movie style fashion complete with stirring soundtrack I am doomed, DOOMED to buy it!

    And that’s why I really hate shopping for boring, practical stuff because there is no Karate Kid style soundtrack involved in buying lightbulbs.

    And yes on the disappointment. Remember all those cool gadgets in the back of comic books? Like the x-ray specs and hypno-glasses? And you thought it would change your life once it arrived in six to eight weeks? And it turned out to be garbage? I think that’s why so many people have huge chips on their shoulders against any and all marketing.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Delivering on the promise may indeed be the toughest part of all when you sell on an emotional level

  4. Jonathan,

    Yes, this is where we get into the no-holds-barred territory of the buyer’s ego, a great realm of the mind to appeal to, perhaps the best. When we can somehow manage to imbue our message with a soulfulness, a feeling that reaches the human spirit in some fashion, then all the better!



  5. Hugh says:

    “So, if you really want to sell, don’t sell the feature, don’t even sell the benefit…sell the driving emotion.”

    I love this line and the post. I’ll keep it in mind when beginning my own business adventure. Now I’m sitting here at my desk trying to think of all of the things I’ve bought with my emotions, not b/c of the features or benefits…

  6. Sitting here nodding to what Tracy said about the stuff in the back of comic books and also pondering, like Hugh – what I’ve bought with emotions. I want to ID the ones I felt ripped off about (so I don’t market that way) and ones I still feel excited about (so I can share that kind of thing with my peeps).

    Thanks for this!!

  7. The question becomes: How do you come off? As a product pusher or a trusted resource?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Absolutely, that’s where intention, authenticity, transparency and style come into play in a huge way

  8. Ryan Hanzel says:

    Great advice and well laid out. It is the feelings that drive us and is where our inner kid thrives. To excite that feeling in a customer or client and then deliver will most surely sell your next product you release.

  9. There are a few people that give me as many Ahas and SRV-ish style envy as you do, J. You probably know that, but I wanted to remind you anyway. Thanks for today’s lesson.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Haha, thanks dude, coming from a creative productivity genius, that means a lot!

  10. “BUT, there’s a big caveat…you’d also better be able to deliver on your promise.”

    This is why you’re seeing business & products turn more towards those who are transparent and create excellent products rather than simply competing on price.

  11. Christina says:

    I don’t want this to seems as an attack, but it needs to be pointed out that this post of yours almost counters your previous one…

    In as many examples as I can think of as a Sales person- if you are, with all the right intentions, trying to sell the right product to the right person (and not manipulating them) then you have to sell features and benefits…

    If however, you are up / over selling, that’s when you can prey on driving emotions..

    Taking your example of the car- if I were selling a family car to a family guy, it becomes hard to talk about pride and joy of owning this car – coz he’d definitely feel a bigger rush from buying a sports car. So i’d picth him the features and how it would benefit his family.

    Driving emotions do help close deals- bigger deals than one would close talking about features and benefits- but they prey on the irrational mind and therefore don’t seem persuasive but in fact are manipulative.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Christina, great observation. I actually placed this post after the last one with the hope that someone would explore how it related to it. It actually doesn’t contradict the last post, but rather offers up one of the techniques that nearly every good persuader leverages in conversation. Directing your message to not only features and benefits, but emotions is empty, it’s neither good nor evil.

      You can easily construct scenarios that will yield what folks would consider net-win, net-loss, one-sided or predatory. Like our conversation in the last post, it’s how and why you leverage this tuning of your message that makes it so. Simple fact is we and everyone around us are selling nonstop, all day, every day. Ideas, visions, thoughts, suggestions, the minute you move beyond wanting only yourself to buy in you’re selling…so you might as well build the skills to do it well. As for the intention behind the skills, that’s what the last post was about. : )

    • Your clientele has as much to do with the DNA of your business as you do. If you’re choosing your clients wisely (and not just because they have money and came to you) then you will, absolutely, be able to find the emotion that’s driving Mr. Family Man to buy a great minivan instead of the Cooper Clubman he really wants.

      Because in the end, his want to care for his family trumps his want to screech across the finish line balanced on the front axle.

      Assume the same level of ethics in your clients as we assume in ourselves, and you will absolutely glory in finding and feeding that emotion.

  12. Joel – to take that one step further, consumers are willing to pay more for that emotional ‘high’.

  13. Jim Ordway says:

    Features and benefits are still very important in the sales process. It is when discussing these that the underlying factors are discovered, and then emotional benefit can be aligned with the product/service. The stronger the relationship, I believe, the stronger emotional selling can be. Without the relationship I think selling on emotion is putting people in boxes…sometimes the box is way off target and that can poison the sale. The relationship can be established very quickly, just need to listen to and learn about the prospective customer prior to selling them.

  14. Noah Fleming says:

    Good solid advice.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re: delivery – if you’re selling an emotion, you better darn well deliver.

    I can live with a product or service if it might not live up to what was promised in terms of an extra benefit or feature, but if I’ve been sold on emotion, I better see it.

    Nice stuff.

  15. Mars Dorian says:

    Sell to the soul, then deliver…

    That’s a kick-ass finisher. My latest article is also about selling your story and creating a world around your product, because people want to go on emotional journeys.

    It’s an art form in itself which takes lots of practice to master. But it’s sooo worth it…

  16. Dennis Baker says:

    Giddyup and Ride with that thought…

  17. Tim Brownson says:

    I used to get frustrated with senior sales people that would talk about meeting business needs. It would even get ramped up to ‘Specific’ business needs on very special occasions.

    The *reality* is we are always selling to wants even on big ticket sales, and the bigger the want you can uncover the more chance you have of selling.

    Is this even relevant? I’m not sure to be honest.

  18. […] to the soul, then deliver… via jonathanfields.com Posted in: Uncategorized ← The Age of Resistance is Upon Us | Personal Branding […]

  19. Josh Kilen says:

    You have to understand the person’s story.

    It begins with their problem, some resource is missing. That’s what the product helps solve.

    The company solves what ever is stopping the client from solving the problem on their own. The company removes the obstacle. That’s where the emotion is released.

    It’s just like any story, the real emotion is released in the overcoming of the enemy or obstacles.

    The benefits solve a situational problem but the company helps solve the overall “problem” or obstacles.

  20. Hi Jonathan,
    I love the discussion of selling beyond benefit to the emotional connections. Powerful stuff. I think about the axe deodorant commercial that shows how simple use will change a guy into a chick magnet. It’s been hugely successful. Is it possible there is any follow through in real life. Maybe the Axe site will give match.com a run for its money…
    Have Fun,

  21. Erin says:

    So true. It’s easy when the product you sell already is has emotional strings readily available to pull….like photography, but not so easy to do when you sell a product that is a necessity. That’s why brands were created, to force emotional connections with products that are / were commodities (aka sugar, flour, gasoline, etc). Look at your revered brands. They are selling on emotion whether you realize it or not.

  22. I’m comfortable “selling” on emotion if it makes people feel good, empowered, happier but I can’t go for the sell on fear which is supposed to be so powerful. I want my clients to feel great about themselves and their life, not paranoid and fearful!

  23. This is great. I’m working on a sales letter now and immediately revised using your post and the insightful comments.

    I especially like the idea of making the copy like a film…that reminds me to engage the senses as a way to connect emotionally.

    And I’m writing about a creative excursion to Paris, so that’s easy enough to add the sensuality and the movie soundtrack!

    Thanks for more great insight.

  24. Occam Shave says:

    Thank you for the warnings. I hate being emotionally manipulated, and hate those who try to manipulate my emotions. I do have them – in response to ethical information that is courteous to my intelligence.

  25. […] Features and Benefits Are So 2009. Sell To Driving Emotion: I love the hole / drill analogy. This tells me I need to finish reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion [Amazon affiliate link]. Keep getting busy with book club books. […]

  26. […] I’ve written before about the importance of selling benefits, not just features. However, Jonathan says that today it’s even more important to sell to driving emotion. […]

  27. […] Features and Benefits Are So 2009. Sell To Driving Emotion – Driving emotions sell products better than anything. This post uses three great examples of how driving emotions will be your best bet when targeting buyers. “So, if you really want to sell, don’t sell the feature, don’t even sell the benefit…sell the driving emotion”. […]