In the 1950’s a salesman named Elmer Wheeler coined the phrase “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” and anyone looking for sales jobs today certainly needs to understand what he meant by it—especially if you are wanting to work from home in sales. Why is “selling the sizzle” more important for those of us who work from home than it is for those of us with outside sales jobs?  Because rather than demonstrating in person the products and services we may be trying to sell we can only try, best we can, to paint a picture of them verbally with no “visuals.”


In his you-tube video, Wheeler picks up a small decorative cow off his bookshelf and explains that no matter how hard you might try to explain the quality of the steak that comes from a quality raised and fed cow, it will be difficult to sell the steak. Then he asks if you’ve ever been in a restaurant and a waiter has walked by with a steak, right off the grill, and you’ve heard the sizzle of the meat still cooking and smelled the aroma of the marinating juices coming from it.  If you have, then you know what sells a steak!  In other words, the prospect isn’t concerned so much with the features surrounding the steak as he or she is in the benefits of enjoying the steak’s flavor . . . as represented by the sizzle!

If You Have a Work From Home Sales Job, This Can Be Difficult!

Our objective, then, must be to re-create this emotional picture of the “sizzling steak” in our prospect’s mind. We must try to sell him or her the benefits (smell, taste, etc.) of eating the steak rather than the features concerning its quality and how it got here. People are far more likely to buy a product’s benefits than they are to buy its features. Without shiny surfaces to show and nifty buttons and switches to click during a presentation, those of us who work from home need to work a bit harder to paint an appealing mental image for the prospect.


To help those of us in sales manage this seemingly daunting objective, especially those of us with work from home sales jobs, Wheeler gives us five steps to remember, and practice, to accomplish the task of selling the sizzle successfully:

The Five Key Steps in “ Selling the Sizzle”

  • First, of course, is to find the “sizzle” with your product or service.

As simple as it sounds, the first step to this may be to simply pause for a minute and think about what would excite you enough emotionally to buy your product or service.  Ask a friend or family member what might arouse their interest in it.  Then boil the resulting “mental picture” down into about ten words.

  • Second, don’t just speak the words, telegraph them.

Without overdoing it, paint the picture verbally that will properly portray the benefits (not the features) of your product or service.  And if your sales job is one where you work from home, you will have to be especially creative as you will have nothing to pull out of your briefcase to show them in person!

  • Third, Say it with flowers.

I think what Wheeler means here is to present your offering with kindness and respect for the listener.  Articulate, but don’t be overbearing or condescending; be vivid, but not over the top; be accurate, but without too much attention to detail, etc.  Saying it with flowers means painting an emotional picture that will capture the prospect’s imagination, or at least his or her interest.

  • Fourth, don’t ask if, ask which.

Don’t make it too easy for them to say no.  If you ask the prospect if he or she is interested you’ve made it too easy for them to say no.  Rather, assuming they are interested, ask them if they would prefer model A or model B, or if they would prefer the add-on feature or the standard version, etc.  If they aren’t interested at all, they will tell you!

  • And fifth, watch your voice.

Don’t put them to sleep with a monotone presentation.  Vary your tone and pitch to remain interesting and keep them engaged.  Again, if you have a sales job that allows you to work from home, you will not be able to use facial expressions or hand gestures for emphasis.  It’s all verbal!

Some Final Advice from the Seller of the “Sizzle”

Wheeler offers two more bits of advice to round out his overview of “Selling the Sizzle.”  The first one is even more important for the work at home sales job than is the second.  And that is that the first 10 words out of our mouth concerning our product or service are more important than the next 1,000.  In fact, if the first 10 words we speak aren’t chosen carefully the conversation may not last 1,000 words!

The second point is really a subset of the first, and the point is that, rather than tell the prospect what we want to say about our product or service, we need to tell him or her what we think they want to hear about it. And it’s no use saving our best argument, or benefit, until last in a presentation as the meeting may never get to it . . . unless we first paint an intriguing, or at least very interesting, point right up front.  The skill of finding out what the prospect wants to hear will be the topic of another article.  So, until we gain the skill of deciphering what prospects want to hear, we will have to offer up our product or service’s most appealing benefit, that is, the one we think will best capture their attention and interest.

Summary of “Selling the Sizzle”

To summarize Elmer Wheeler’s concept of selling the sizzle rather than the steak, we must sell our product or service’s benefits—not its features—and we must lead off with the most important one.  We must present it clearly and concisely in an effort to capture our prospect’s imagination and cause him or her to want to hear more.  Also, we want to keep the prospect saying yes and give him or her few, if any, chances to say no.  Moreover, if our sales job is a work from home job the prospect cannot see us nodding our head up and down for yes, so we must create that “yes nodding” in the prospect’s mind verbally.  And to do that we must use the proper tone and inflection in our voice so he or she “sees” that nodding and remains engaged.  If you are presenting over the phone, it would help to go ahead and do the “yes nodding” while you are speaking anyway . . . even though your prospect can’t see it!  Whether you work from home or have a more traditional sales job, selling the sizzle rather than the steak still works.







About the Author

Tracie Chancellor, CEO and Founder of TeleReach Corporate, national business to business call center specializing in sales appointment setting and lead generation, based in Houston, Texas. Chancellor is an MBA graduate of the University of Houston with over 20 years hands-on sales and marketing experience, working with privately-held businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, as well as Fortune businesses in the business to business marketing space.