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Norton: Sell the sizzle and buy the sizzle

Recently I went back and re-read the book, “Sizzlemanship,” by Elmer Wheeler. Wheeler is credited with being one of the original pioneers of sales skills training and the motivation industry. It’s classic stuff and definitely worth the read. The point, as you can guess by the title, is to sell what your product or service does, not what it is, meaning sell the sizzle and not the steak.

In today’s world, we think about the sizzle as the key performance indicators or the results that the company or the person purchasing the product or service might experience. For businesses and sellers, it’s making sure that we are focusing on that old radio station that buyers tune into, WIIFM, standing for “What’s in it for me.” Making sure that we know exactly how our product or service will contribute to the achievement of their goals and success.

Wheeler was way ahead of his time as we think about how business owners, entrepreneurs, and salespeople think and sell. When we put the customer’s interests and results ahead of corporate profit or commission checks, we will undoubtedly sell more of our products and services. Changing the station from WIIFM to tuning into WIIFT, “What’s in it for them.”



Now, walk with me through the transition from sales to our everyday lives. How many times are we trying to sell someone on an idea, or to help out, volunteer, join an organization, or anything else where we are seeking to have our family or friends get involved with something or buy into our idea? Most times we focus on the help we need instead of what they might be able to experience by participating. If you have ever been in the role of a leader in any not-for-profit organization, committee, or other function at your children’s school or at the house of worship that you attend, you probably know exactly what I am talking about.

Companies looking to get better in any area of business might consider thinking about the sizzle as looking at increasing revenues or increasing their average sales price. Maybe they are focused on improving margins, win/loss ratios, or sales behaviors. They may look to expand through upselling and gaining more market share. Or they may be interested in reducing sales cycle time or customer attrition.

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But we as individuals also have values and things that we might consider our sizzle when deciding what is in it for us, or why we may choose to get involved. When we are thinking about getting better in an area of our lives we may look at increasing prosperity, strength, or endurance. We may have the desire to improve our health, happiness, or relationships. What gets us excited may be our pursuit of expanding our knowledge, our network, or our security as we think about retirement. And maybe for some of us, it’s about reducing or eliminating something in our life such as dropping weight, easing our stress, and getting rid of bad habits.

We don’t buy a gym membership, treadmill, Peloton, Tonal, or home gym equipment because of what it is or the brand, we make that investment because we have the desire to look different and feel different, the sizzle. We don’t give of our time to support a charity because we feel a sense of obligation or we have to, we give of our time because we realize that as much as we give, we receive tenfold in return from a sense of gratification as we see the results of our efforts in the smiles of those who we help, and that’s our sizzle.

Whether you run a business, lead a sales team, are a salesperson yourself, or if you are part of a not-for-profit organization, a committee, or in some way tasked with seeking volunteers, remember to sell the sizzle and not the steak.



When you are making the decision to buy something or get involved in supporting a great cause, do you make the purchase or decision on what it is or on how it can impact you personally? I would love to hear your sizzle story at gotonorton@gmail.com and when we can remember to tune into WIIFT, it really will be a better-than-good life.

Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.


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