Sales and Marketing Beats Features and Functions

Steve Kaz KasinetzConsumer Behavior, Content, Lead Generation, Marketing Automation, Perpetual Marketing, Small Business CRM

I’ve trained hundreds of sales engineers on how to effectively demonstrate software. I highly recommend “Demonstrating to Win!” by Robert Riefstahl if your job requires demonstrating products. One key concept I’d emphasize was the question “so what?” Before you show any product feature, ask yourself, “so what?” If you can’t put the feature into the context of why it is important to the prospect, then why are you showing it? Every born sales engineer in the world is guilty of this.

When I ask people why they committed these heinous demo crimes it, I’d get responses like:
• It’s part of our standard demo
• It’s a really cool feature
• The competition doesn’t do that
• I stayed up all night configuring this part


I’ve learned that most tech companies approach marketing like an out-of-the-box software demo — “I’m going to show you everything, and stop me if you see something you like.”


The majority of tech product and service companies are started by technical people. The company is their baby. They want to show you the baby and want you to look at all the great features and functions the baby has. “Field of Dreams” must be every tech founder’s movie favorite (“build it and they will come”).

Sun Tsu Strategy Quote

The most successful high-tech companies don’t necessarily have the best products on the market. Microsoft doesn’t have the best operating system. Oracle doesn’t have the best database. But they know how to market and sell. They have a strategy and understand who their customers are and the pain points they’re solving.

The Buyer’s Journey

There are four steps a buyer will go through as part of their buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, Decision, and Buyer’s Remorse.

Let’s take a simple example of going on a vacation. Here are typical questions that a person may ask during their buyer’s journey:

Buyer's Journey

Understanding where a prospect is in their buyer’s journey is critical to ensuring you’re sending the right message. Let’s bring back our game show host and ask you another question:

We surveyed 100 rich people that currently need a vacation and can’t decide between a cruise and an island. What email are they most likely to open?

1. Free Room Upgrade to the Lido Deck if You Book in the Next 24 Hours
2. Ocean-view Rooms on Sale
3. Top 5 Reasons People Prefer Resorts to Cruises
4. Startling New Report Reveals How Many People Die on Cruise Ships Each Year
5. Visit Panama City Beach – The Redneck Riviera is Calling

This one is a little trickier. If money was the only decision criteria, then emails 1 and 2 would be very relevant. But remember, we stated that these people were rich-—think personas-—so saving $100 on a $5,000 vacation may not be a huge deal.

I would most definitely read email 4, even if I didn’t need a vacation, but I’m a little sick that way.

If you own a resort, then email # 3 is the best message at the Consideration stage in the buyer’s journey. You’re not trying to convince the person to stay at your resort, just that they should stay at any resort and not go on a cruise. Once they have decided to stay at a resort, then you’re trying to convince people they should stay at your resort and not some nasty all-inclusive with crappy food.

Good marketing is sending the right message to the right person at the right time. Each of your marketing messages should be tailored to a specific persona at a specific stage in their buyer’s journey.

Essence of Good Marketing

What type of messaging works best for different stages of the journey? Part of creating personas is identifying people’s pain points and what you’re helping them achieve (or avoid). The following chart shows the primary mission of different stages of the customer journey and what types of collateral work best:

Byer's Journey vs Features and Functions

Selling on Features and Functions

I was the CTO and co-owner of Atcore Systems. The majority of our business was SugarCRM consulting. We were SugarCRM experts. I trained a large number of SugarCRM consultants in North America that worked for our competitors. Two of our customers’ CIOs won awards as the top CIOs in the country based on work we did for them. We published white papers, how-to guides and case studies. We answered questions in forums.  We tried AdWords.

Before Atcore, I was VP of Sales Engineering at SugarCRM. Everybody in the SugarCRM community knew and respected us.

Marketing was another story. Once we were engaged in the sales process, we usually won. Getting a constant stream of leads was a challenge (If only I had written this blog post 7 years ago).

We epitomized “tactics without strategy.” We thought people would flock to us and buy just because we were the experts (i.e. our service had great features and functions).

Some did, but not enough to retire on.  When I look back at the very successful SugarCRM consulting companies, they were not any better than we were, they had better marketing.  They knew how to build awareness.

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