Jon E Horton - 22 laws of selling

Jon E. Horton has worked in sales, marketing and consulting for more than four decades. Through his extensive experience in the field of telecommunications he has been able to apply his sales expertise to form strong partnerships with executives from a wide variety of industries. He has distilled his years of work in the rules and vignettes found in The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling.

Friends with Benefits

Author: Jon Horton | Category: Basic Laws of Selling

If you have worked in sales for at least a week, you have surely been exposed to the concepts of Features/Benefits. Exposure, of course, doesn’t guarantee comprehensive understanding.


Every time I read an article about Features/Benefits (which I did last week), I have to pause long enough to mentally sort out the differences. I find that the distinctions between features and benefits are often subtle and, because using them correctly is critical to effective selling, they merit my careful attention. If you agree, join me in the exercise I use to get my thinking on track.


Review the following statements and determine which ones are actually benefits.

  • Our prices are lower than our competition.
  • We have the most experienced service team in the industry.
  • We are ranked #1.
  • This great offer is only good for a limited time.
  • Here is a list of businesses that already buy from my company.


You get an “A” if you answered, “None of the above.” But if any of these have ever been included in your sales presentations (written or oral) without further qualification, the best you can hope for is an “Incomplete.” If you think you are immune to making these mistakes, I challenge you to look at your most recent resume. I’m willing to bet it lists many of your best attributes (features) without explaining how they would benefit a potential employer.


Let’s try one more.

  • With 8 gigabytes of RAM, our computer will run faster than the competition.


If you’re paying attention, you easily saw through my effort at subterfuge. Clearly, the amount of RAM is a Feature of the computer. Perhaps less obvious, running faster is an “Advantage” of the computer but it is not the Benefit. People don’t buy a computer because it has dual disc drives and a ton of RAM. They buy a computer because it will save them time or make their jobs easier or help them beat the competition and earn more profits. Those are benefits!


Not to put too fine a point on it but it’s important to recognize that benefits are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The critical benefit will vary from customer to customer. In my previous example, the client may have little interest in saving time but must have a computer with the ability to run a new software package. A thorough Client Needs Analysis will point sellers to winning benefits.


Here’s a simple way to test your sales presentations. Could a client respond to any of your statements with, “So what?” or “Who cares?” or “What will it do for me?” If so, you have failed to adequately describe a meaningful benefit.


Features are about you, your product or service. Benefits are about results. People don’t buy features – they buy benefits because they believe the product or service will improve their current situation.


Friends with benefits? If you’re like me, you want all your clients to regard you as a friend but I didn’t always understand the path to achieving that relationship status. Early in my sales career, I mistakenly believed I could turn customers into friends by taking them to lunch, remembering their birthdays and gushing over pictures of their children. Over time, I learned that the bond of friendship can only be cemented by fulfilling mutual needs (benefits).


For me at least, the foundations for my professional friendships were trust and respect. Correctly identifying the needs of my clients and providing appropriate solutions earned that trust and respect. Appreciating the nuances of features, advantages and benefits is key to that happy result. To get there, you must first become very friendly with benefits.


Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from For more of his blogs, please visit Comments to

Last updated: Apr 15, 2015

High Times

Author: Jon Horton | Category: Basic Laws of Selling

It doesn’t take much to get me going. Because I believe that the ability to price aggressively will elevate sellers from good to great, I’m ready to discuss this topic at the drop of a hat. In this case, my motivation came from recent articles by two sales trainers for whom I have profound respect. With apologies to them, I’ll paraphrase a few of their words.

Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Selling ( Mark insightfully if painfully points out that positioning price as a main benefit is tantamount to announcing that the salesperson has little else to offer. He adds that the customer who is interested because of price is going to ask for an even lower price in the future.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner at Sparque ( He believes that most sellers badly underestimate both the ability and willingness of prospects to spend larger sums of money. As a result, the orders these salespeople write are significantly smaller than they should be. Before becoming an accomplished trainer, Jeff carved out an incredible sales career following his own mantra – Think Big, Ask Big!

Mark and Jeff offer excellent perspectives and I encourage you to read more of their work. I typically reduce my own arguments about aggressive pricing to a simple, no-nonsense action step. Always go in high! Always. There are dozens of sound reasons for you to follow this edict. A few of the most compelling are:

  • A higher price point will command a higher level of attention from your prospect. That’s a good thing. You have announced that your proposal represents serious business and merits significant discussion.
  • If you are priced higher than the competition, the customer will wonder why you are more expensive. That question presents the opening you want – the opportunity to detail the unique characteristics of your company and to firmly differentiate yourself from others.
  • Regardless of your initial asking price, most prospects will insist on negotiating a better deal. By inflating the starting point, you have given yourself room to make concessions and improved the opportunity for a win-win result.
  • At the risk of stating the obvious, writing contracts for larger dollar amounts means fewer sales are required for you to achieve your budget. This happy result clearly falls under the heading of working smarter, not harder.
  • Oh yes. If you make an effective argument for your pricing, your prospect may simply say, “Yes.”

I must confess that, these good arguments notwithstanding, my passion for aggressive pricing is not generally greeted with much enthusiasm. Although rewarding when done well, selling is not easy and most salespeople would prefer to avoid the additional challenge of defending high unit rates. I understand. I really do.

But I’m still disappointed by the general reluctance of sellers to embrace my approach, primarily because I’ve experienced success from aggressive pricing. I suppose I was fortunate because I’ll readily admit that I didn’t actually make a decision to charge more than my competition. That decision was made for me by a manager (owner, actually) who refused to sell inventory for less than fair value, irrespective of how it was priced by others. My choice was simple – become proficient at justifying my premium prices or wash out as a seller.

I chose the former and you can, too. I know that some of my readers will seize this opportunity and enjoy great results. I also know that some of you will count your blessings that I’m not your manager. I understand. I really do.

Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from For more of his blogs, please visit Comments to

Last updated: Aug 19, 2014

The Price Is Right

Author: Jon Horton | Category: Basic Laws of Selling

I got a call last week from one of my favorite clients, asking for my help following an all too familiar conversation with a prospective customer. My client reviewed the dialogue in detail including his prospect’s repeated questions about price. “Should I offer the customer a big discount,” he asked me?

I’ll confess that my initial instinct was to treat this challenge as a negotiating issue – I wanted to remind my client that he should “always go in high”. Fortunately, I resisted that temptation and told him instead, “No, the price is right.”

Here’s the simple truth about customers who relentlessly question their account executives about money. Most of the time, price really isn’t the issue.

Salespeople typically struggle with this lesson because it is so counterintuitive. If prospects keep asking about price, then surely price is their most important buying criteria. That logic is seductive but usually misguided.

Here’s the body blow to sellers who spend their careers fighting price with price. Most customers only focus on price when they don’t perceive any other significant differences between their purchase choices.

Think about it this way. A new car buyer wouldn’t expect a Mercedes salesperson to beat the price of the Ford salesperson down the street – the difference in perceived value is readily understood. Conversely, the same car buyer would quite naturally challenge two Chevrolet dealerships on opposite sides of town to win the sale with the lowest price.

So, what are you selling?

If the dialogue with your clients has been reduced to a question of price, then you are selling exactly the same thing as your competition. Don’t take my word for it – ask your customers. I guarantee that is their perception. Therefore, the only way you’ll get the business is to sell it cheaper.

Seasoned salespeople avoid the need to be “cheap” by laying down a solid foundation built on unique characteristics. By painstakingly assessing the needs of prospective clients, they are able to creatively position their products and services as critical solutions. They understand that it’s not their mission to save clients money – their job is to help customers grow their business. These sellers will deflect any questions about price until they have firmly established differentiated value with their customers.

Rising to the top of their class, a very limited number of salespeople take this approach a step further. Contrary to the teachings of many sales trainers, they never ask for a prospect’s budget. Rather, they present each customer with a winning solution which defines the budget required to successfully execute the plan.

Fortunately for me, my client is a member of this exclusive club. So, he understood perfectly when I said, “The price is right. It’s the conversation that’s wrong.”

Oh, and one more thing. Always go in high!

Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from For more of his blogs, please visit www.JonEHorton…com. Comments to

Last updated: Nov 4, 2013