Selling the Sizzle

Remember the old saying, Sell the sizzle, not the steak? Well, it’s still alive and well but not used by many salespeople. Most of them are still trying to only sell the steak. How boring!

“Sell the sizzle” is just another way of suggesting you use a bit of showmanship in your selling. Mind you, selling the sizzle or using showmanship isn’t always appropriate and has some inherent dangers. When the benefits outweigh the danger, however, showmanship can make the difference in getting a sale.

Defining Sizzle

My definition of showmanship isn’t to kick down the side of the buckboard, grab the bullhorn, and start hawking the snake oil. (Unless of course, I was selling snake oil!)

I define showmanship as “presenting your product or service in an interesting and/or dramatic manner.” That’s it.

Showmanship doesn’t have to be loud, gaudy, or spectacular to have an impact. Sometimes the simplest of things can impress the prospect and help make a sale.

Showmanship Rules

Like many things, there are rules to be followed and potential dangers when these rules are disregarded. Here are the four main rules of using showmanship.

1. It must be relevant.

Some salespeople fall in love with a particular feature of their product and love to dazzle prospects with a snappy demonstration of the feature whether or not the prospect is really interested in it. Your showmanship should make or reinforce a point, not simply entertain.

2. It must be in good taste.

Here’s an example of bad taste. Years ago, when I was selling industrial-grade digital panel meters (don’t ask!), I developed a routine of handing one to the plant engineer and just as he reached for it I would drop it on the floor. The point was to show how rugged it was. I thought this was as clever as hell.

One day the plant engineer almost had it in his hand when I let it go and it virtually slipped through his fingers causing him to feel that it was he who had dropped the unit. After his profuse apology and offer to pay for any damages died down, I explained that I had just done it as a joke. My showmanship had been in bad taste and I had made a fool of the man. Needless to say, he failed to see the humour in it, and I didn’t get a sale.

3. You must be comfortable doing it.

Using showmanship isn’t for everybody but, if you have the knack and are comfortable going outside the normal selling box, showmanship is one way to stand out in your prospect’s mind.

4. Get the prospect involved.

Letting the prospect discover how neat a feature is tends to be much better than just showing him. Smacking something with a hammer to show its ruggedness isn’t near as powerful as giving the hammer to the prospect and letting him do the smacking. Be careful though and be prepared if something goes wrong.

Make Your Point

You can use showmanship at almost any stage in the sales process, even to sidetrack potential objections.

We’ve all had situations where the prospect has forced us to discuss price too early in the selling process only to be told, “It’s too expensive.” Very frustrating.

I had that happen to me once where the prospect said that he just wanted to know what it cost, and I knew if I told him I was going to get the old, “It’s too expensive” routine again. I had an inspiration.

I pointed to my briefcase on the floor and asked him if he would give me $3,000 for it. He said, “Are you crazy” or words to that effect, to which I responded, “What if you looked into the briefcase and found three gold bars each worth $10,000. Would you give me $3,000 then?” “Absolutely,” he replied.

Then I said, “All I’m asking is that you look into what I’m offering before we discuss price.” The guy laughed and allowed me to carry on with the sale. That small piece of showmanship saved the sale.

Before the Sale

One salesperson, who was having difficulty getting in to see a particular prospect, mailed him a shoe with a note that said, “Is this what it takes to get my foot in the door?” It worked.

Here’s an idea for you, send a bag of potato chips to an elusive prospect with the message “Enjoy these today, but don’t wait until the chips are down to call us about your (fill in the blank) needs.” Who knows, it might work.

Dangers and Advantages

The dangers of showmanship are many. If it doesn’t go well, you might end up with egg on your face. You must be sure it doesn’t come across being hokey or inappropriate. Make sure you don’t inadvertently embarrass the prospect in any way or catch him off guard or whatever.

But don’t let these potential dangers stop you from reaping the advantages. You’ll be remembered (hopefully in a good light), you’ll stand out over other salespeople, the prospect is likely to remember the point you’re making and, if the showmanship goes off well, he may end up talking about it to others in a positive manner.

So why not consider adding a little snap and sizzle to your selling. It can be both fun and profitable.