One key to success: Sell BFA, not FAB

By Adam Stohlman

Stohlman Financial Services, LLC

In today's time-limited, instant-gratification world, people are more focused than ever on getting what they want as quickly and easily as they can. They are not interested in extraneous information or superfluous details. People want what they want when they want it. Along with various social factors, the Internet has played a major role in shaping people's behaviors and expectations with regard to getting the facts they need to make buying decisions, and then obtaining the items they want. That is today's reality. Prospects are better informed, shorter on time and more focused on results -- getting what they want now -- than ever before.

What does this mean for insurance and investment professionals, especially since what we sell are basically abstract, intangible products, often designed to meet future -- not present -- needs?

Among other things, it means that the old "feature, advantage, benefit" (FAB) sales paradigm is out of date and obsolete. It means that today, more than ever, if we are going to be successful advisors, particularly in a highly competitive business, we need to utilize a more efficient, more effective paradigm for making sales to our prospects.

The FAB model of selling, which is still by far the prevailing method taught in sales training courses and touted by top professionals, teaches that the salesperson's first step in presenting a sales solution to a prospect is outlining the features of his or her product. The salesperson's second step is to discuss the advantages that those features offer the prospect. In the third and final step, the salesperson illustrates how those advantages deliver the benefit(s) the prospect needs. The end result is supposed to be a sale. However, due to the aforementioned changes in our modern world, the FAB method has become less and less effective over the years, and consequently, less and less efficient for the salesperson.

In order to understand this more fully, a quick look at how the FAB method is supposed to work may be helpful. For example, in a life insurance solution presentation, the FAB model would work like this:

"Mr./Mrs. Prospect, this policy has a rider called a "premium waiver" (feature) that will actually pay your life insurance premiums for you should you become disabled (advantage). This means that your policy is guaranteed to stay in force in the event of your disability, so you can rest assured that your family will still be provided for when you die (benefit)."

This presentation is certainly sensible and logical, but it is inadequate for satisfying today's consumer. FAB allows too much opportunity for a "quick disconnect" from the sales process by the prospect, who usually has a much clearer picture of what he or she wants before the sales process even begins. It also takes too long for today's consumer to receive the "big bang" -- the most critical information they are seeking from the advisor -- the famous "What's in it for me?" (WIIFM) climax to the sales process.

If an advisor is not tuned in to what his prospect is seeking, it becomes easy to stray into discussing features the prospect has no interest in, allowing the prospect to tune out the final stage of the sales process and lose sight of the value of the solution being presented. No sale. Also, if the advisor saves the benefits of each product feature for the end, more often than not, the prospect will grow increasingly irritated and impatient throughout the presentation, and correspondingly less inclined to buy the solution when the presentation finally concludes. Again, no sale.In today's society -- and especially in today's economy-- FAB is dead.

So, what should be the new paradigm we utilize to make the solution presentation more efficient and effective at the culmination of the sales process? What new method can we use to close more sales with our prospects in today's "give it to me now" world? What system can we employ that will both satisfy today's pre-informed and time-pressed prospects' needs in the sales process and our own performance-pressured, time-sensitive needs to conclude the solution presentation with a sale? I submit that it is simply this -- "benefit, feature, advantage" (BFA).

I am certainly not the first to espouse this sales philosophy, and I won't be the last; yet it is remarkable to me how little this method is discussed, taught and utilized by sales professionals. It is extremely efficient and effective, well-suited to sales of intangible products and a perfect fit for today's market and consumer. And best of all, it only requires some rethinking of the old FAB paradigm into which most of us were indoctrinated at the beginning of our careers.

Using the former life insurance example, the new BFA paradigm would work like this:

"Mr./Mrs. Prospect, you can rest assured that your family will still be provided for when you die, even if you become disabled before then, because your policy is guaranteed to stay in force in the event of your disability (benefit). Would you like to know how? (Wait for answer -- if they wouldn't, go to the next benefit that fulfills their need). This policy has a rider called a "premium waiver" (feature) that will actually pay your life insurance premiums for you should you become disabled (advantage)."

As you can see, utilizing the BFA works much better for both the advisor and the prospect. First, discussing benefits at the beginning of the solution presentation satisfies the most urgent desire of the prospect up-front. Tell them immediately what they want to hear -- the WIIFM. Doing so instantly gains trust by showing respect for the prospect's need for key information delivered as quickly and easily as possible. Also, rather than frustrating the prospect by making him or her wait for the information they ultimately want, it shows respect for their limited time. Furthermore, it secures their interest and attention from the outset of the solution presentation and avoids giving them an opportunity to disconnect before the sale is made.

Second, the BFA saves time for both parties, because it leaves up to the prospect whether he or she wants to hear what features provide what advantages, and how those advantages deliver the benefit described. If a prospect is satisfied that the benefit meets their needs, they may not wish to spend any more time on the solution presentation and sales process, but rather give you a check and conclude the transaction. Sale made. And now you can move on to other sales. Or a prospect may only want to know more about specific features, but not all features. Again, sale made. Whatever the case, you again defer to your prospect in showing respect for their wishes and their time, making them feel empowered and far from being "sold" anything. Instead, they feel all the more like they are making choices for themselves and you are the trusted facilitator who respects their needs and is helping them obtain what they want. This leaves the prospect with a very positive feeling about the sales process, and, more importantly, about you. Future sales made.

I encourage you to experiment directly with utilizing BFA instead of FAB, and to measure your results. Using the "benefit, feature, advantage" sales paradigm with today's prospects should provide a marked increase in your sales results for 2009.

Copyright 2008 by Adam Stohlman. All rights reserved.

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