Selling the Sizzle – Not the Sausage

Years ago – when I accidentally fell into sales, I was passionate about the product I had designed and couldn’t wait to tell the world!  I sold a lot through share passion and belief, but could have sold more.

I remember my manager saying to me … “we need to sell the sizzle not the sausage”!

Because we are – for the most part, passionate about what we do or sell it’s easy to fall into the trap of selling ourselves, and our products, before we even take the time to listen to our clients needs.  Next time you’re on a sales call with one of your colleagues, count every time your colleague talks about themselves and/or your products, and separately every time they mention the word ‘you’ or ask a question from the customer.  As a rule – it should be more than twice as many ‘you / your / open questions’ than ‘us / we / our ’.


The more information you learn about your customer the better.

Listen for admissions of ‘pain’, the tone or modulation in your customers’ voice, and visually – their body language.  Learn to ‘read between the lines’, listen for the coded messages.  Write key points down so you can go back to them later.

After a customer visit, how often do you say to your sales buddy – “oh…. I missed that point”.  Where was your mind when they heard it?  Write down the salient points.

Think Before You Speak

You’ve heard all you need to hear – or so you think!  And you can’t wait to tell them your story.   What you do next is one of the most important points in the sales process.  Take the time to think before you speak.  If you find it difficult not to interrupt or finish a customers’ sentence, and are generally uncomfortable with periods of silence, devise a way to remain quiet.  That’s where the saying ‘hold your tongue’, and ‘bite your tongue’ came from.  Be quiet and listen.  Refer back to your list of salient points, and qualify to those.  “I can’t get my invoices out on time” could mean any number of issues.  Until you qualify and drill down you will never know the real reason(s) why. And possibly miss the single opportunity.

Sell the Sizzle

Focus on the benefits (sizzle) rather than the features (sausage).  Back up benefits with what’s in it for them and examples relevant to their pain.  “You will achieve…”, “Your team will achieve…”,  “An organisation in the same space as you increased their margins by XX percent …”.  At this stage we are only selling the sizzle, emphasising how your customer will benefit, and linking the benefit to them directly.  They are more likely to own the solution, see the value in it for them, and champion the benefit upwards and downwards.

Don’t Give Away the Sausage

Ask any mechanic how much they’ve invested in the tools of their trade and they’ll say “too much”!  Mechanics guard their tools with their life.  They are able to complete job after job after job with the same tools because their customer doesn’t know how to use them or can’t afford the investment required for one job.  The same applies to any other product, tool or service.  We all know that we’re proud of the product and the IP we’ve developed, and we want to shout it from the rooftops.  But why would we give it away?  We don’t.  Your customer will pay for the tools you can provide to remove their pain and deliver the benefits they need.  That’s the value in your proposition.  Don’t give away the sausage.

In summary:

Before you sell any idea, product or service always address these key questions from the point of view of your customer:

  1. How will that help me?
  2. How can I justify the investment?
  3. Why should I choose this solution over another?
  4. Is this solution able to address my priorities?
  5. Have I learned something from this meeting?
McAlpine Consulting

Contact: Phone: +64 21 666 807, +64 9 5222802 e-mail: Craig McAlpine's Linked In profile: MISSION Working with Job Search Candidates to build their go-to-market strategy, develop powerful marketing collateral such as their CV, LinkedIn profile and social media presence, and ultimately to secure a new role that is not only rewarding but also assists them on their career journey. EXPERTISE Career Coaching - LinkedIn Training - LinkedIn Optimisation - Personal Branding - Job Hunt: Go to Market Strategy and Collateral - CV design and preparation - Interview skills INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE - Professional Services - Information Technology - Banking and Finance - Recruitment

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Posted in Communications, Sales
One comment on “Selling the Sizzle – Not the Sausage
  1. Hi Craig – thanks for sharing these ideas. I once taught that usually sales folks “wait to talk” rather than actively listening. Being a great listener is an important skill in business (and life I guess!)



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