The Fallacy of “So What”

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A number of sales methodologies have done a good job at helping sales and presales people move from talking about features to discussing the advantages that specific capabilities offer the customer. Using the phrase, “So What?” is an example tactic that helps push vendor representatives to talk about advantages as opposed to features. This is good, but we can do better…
During demos, there is inherent risk anytime you introduce capabilities that the customer has not yet requested – and, in particular, the level of risk depends greatly on how the capabilities are introduced. The “So What” tactic presumes that the customer will want or need the capability being introduced – and there’s the risk.

An Example:

Feature Statement: “We provide support for the software in 22 languages…”

So What Statement: “We provide support for the software in 22 languages, so that your team can access the software anywhere in the world using their native languages…”

The Risk: The customer says, “Everyone in our company speaks English and we want to make sure that all information is captured consistently in the system, so that everyone can access all information equally – without having to learn 21 other languages…”

The Additional Risk: The customer adds, “…and we don’t want to pay for the additional 21 languages, since we won’t be using them – so either take out the support for those languages for our implementation or reduce your price accordingly…”

Another Example:

Feature Statement: “Alerts can be automatically generated and sent to you via email…”

So What Statement: “Alerts can be automatically generated and sent to you via email, so that can be notified of any problems right away…”

The Risk: The customer says, “I hate email. I get way too much already and I’m always spending too much time deleting messages – I’d be concerned that I’d delete the alerts, thinking they might be spam. I’d rather simply login to your system periodically…”

The Additional Risk: The customer adds, “…and I don’t want to pay for the email alert functionality, since I won’t be using it – so either take it out or give me a discount…”

Same Example, Even Worse:

Feature Statement and Demo: “Alerts can be automatically generated and sent to you via email – here, let me show you how this can be done in the software…”
So What Statement and Demo: “Alerts can be automatically generated and sent to you via email, so that you can be notified of any problems right away – here, let me show you how this can be set up and done with the software…”

The Risk: The customer says, “I hate email. I get way too much already and I’m always spending too much time deleting messages – I’d be concerned that I’d delete the alerts, thinking they might be spam. I’d rather simply login to your system periodically…”

The Additional Risk: The customer adds, “In addition, that looks really complicated and confusing – too many features and functions to remember. I think we’ll go with your competition, whose software was much more aligned with exactly what we need…!”

Solutions

The best solution? Introduce your capabilities via questions in Discovery, well before a demo. Once you’ve either uncovered a need (and the customer confirms their desire to have the capability), then presenting that specific capability in your demo can be done as a benefit statement.

Michael Bosworth, in his sales methodologies Solution Selling and CustomerCentric Selling, outlined the idea of Feature, Advantage, Benefit statements – simplified here:

Features: are the description of the what the feature does
Advantages: are why it might be good for the customer

Benefits: are why it will be good for the customer, based on the customer’s previous statements (e.g., from Discovery sessions)
This difference between an Advantage (presumed benefit) and a real Benefit (confirmedbenefit) can be huge!

Revisiting Example 1
With this in mind, we might have a different conversation and result:

Feature Statement: “We provide support for the software in 22 languages…”

Advantage (So What) Statement: “We provide support for the software in 22 languages, so that your team can access the software anywhere in the world using their native languages…”

Benefit Statement: “You had mentioned that you need support for 5 languages so that your team can access the software anywhere in the world using their local native languages – we do support all five of those languages as part of our standard offering.”

The win: The customer says, “That’s terrific – that’s exactly what we need. Interestingly, one of your competitors said they support a pile of languages, but we didn’t want to pay for all of those extra capabilities since we’ll never use them…”

An alternative approach, based on what were benefits for other similar customers, is called a Biased Question – see my article, “Competitive Demo Situations – Biasing Towards Your Strengths” for further information on this idea (send me an email at [email protected] and I’d be happy to send you the article).

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.

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