The Detergent That Destroyed A Sales Process

I’m sure I spend too much time singing the praises of Xerox, but decades ago, there was no other company that could touch the quality of the sales training they offered.  Xerox seemed to have a process for everything; how to open a call, how to close a call, how to create trust, how to create urgency, how to handle objections, and of course, how to make a recommendation.  Ironically, it was the last process on that list, making a recommendation, that Xerox lost, and all because of a splashy new product released from a detergent company!  As a sales trainer for Xerox, I mourned the loss of that product recommendation process because it was simple and brilliant.

As a reminder, when making a recommendation to a client, we need to do three important things:

  1. We need to tell our client what the “Feature” we are recommending is actually called. For instance, when buying a car, you might be looking for a way to provide better protection in bad weather.  The “Feature” a salesperson will recommend is called antilock brakes.
  2. We need to tell our client what the “Advantage” is to what we are recommending. An advantage is what I refer to as a “nice to have” element to the feature you are recommending.  An advantage to antilock brakes might be the reduction in insurance premiums.  These advantages do not directly address the customer’s needs, but you might feel remiss in not mentioning them.
  3. We need to tell our client what the “Benefit” is to what we are recommending. The benefit links your solution directly to the customer’s needs.  The benefit to antilock brakes is, “better protection in bad weather.”  Benefits are crucial and too often forgotten.  Benefits are what your customer is basing his or her decision on; not the feature or advantage.

Xerox used to refer to this process by its natural acronym, a “FAB Statement.”  This is where the detergent company comes in. With the release of the new product called FAB, they asked that Xerox find another name for this process.  Sadly, Xerox dropped the process and acronym that went with it, and we simply referred to our approach for making recommendations as making “Benefit Statements.”

But I just couldn’t let it go.  I couldn’t let it go because the most valuable part of the process, the differentiation between Advantages and Benefits, was lost.  So, the moment I left Xerox, I created my own process called “FABEC Statements.”  It stands for Feature, Advantage, Benefit, Explanation and Confirm.  Allow me to explain.

  • The Features, Advantages, and Benefits remains intact, but I was careful to not just leave it here.
  • We need to provide an “Explanation” to our customer. This addresses the next logical question; “How does it work?”  It is my hope that you will be able to give the customer a Feature, Advantage, and Benefit in less than thirty seconds.  The length of the explanation will depend on your client’s experience with whatever it is you are recommending. Watch your customer’s body language and keep a lookout not to overdo it here.
  • We need to “Confirm” that our customer understands what it is we are recommending. After each Feature, Advantage, Benefit and Explanation, you are faced with a wonderful opportunity to make sure your customer is comfortable with your solution.  All you really need to do is ask, and that is where the Confirm comes in. It is a simple step and fast step that can be completed with questions like this: “How does that sound to you” or “Do you think that will address this particular need?”

Remember, it’s not a straitjacket, it’s just a process.  For instance, not everything has added advantages to it.  If you listen carefully to your customers after your Explanation, it’s not unusual to hear them say things like, “I like that” or “That looks great.”  Clearly, you do not have to follow this up with another Confirmation of your own!

I have no hard feelings towards the detergent that made Xerox drop the name of that process. They’ve been around longer than Xerox or Rob Jolles. In a sense, they gave me a push to make a good process even better.  What’s more, the “FABEC Statement” will allow you to better communicate with your customer and make a stronger case for your solution.  That’s a good old-fashioned win/win.

Related: The Truth Behind Sales Scripts