Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

SteakI can still remember the first time I heard that little sales axiom.  I was working as the V.P. of Operations for a fledgling internet start-up in my early 20’s, and our buyer/graphic designer (yes, employees of cash-strapped dot-com’s had to pull double duty) was on the phone with a supplier out of New York City.  They were discussing some new cubic zirconium earrings that we were looking to purchase for our “deal of the week” e-mail blast.  After our buyer had asked a few questions about the size and “quality” of the fake diamonds, the supplier grew increasingly frustrated and said, “Listen man, we sell the sizzle, not the steak!”  Truer words were never spoken.

It’s a simple fact that most people make purchasing decisions based on emotions, not facts and figures.  For decades, sales gurus from around the world have been preaching the importance of highlighting benefits, not features when trying to sell a product.  Goodbenefit sales copy on cubic zirconium earrings isn’t going to reference the size, weight, color, and “quality” of plastic jewelry made in China.  Instead, the focus would be on an emotional appeal, such as “get your boyfriends attention” or “impress your girlfriends without breaking your bank”…because “if you can’t tell the difference, neither can they.”

However, as unfortunate as it may be, this rather obvious concept in the world of sales is somehow lost by practitioners in the real estate business.  Perhaps the vast and overwhelming amount of “features” to describe when dealing with a home is far too tempting to investors and agents when writing listing descriptions, or perhaps they’re uninformed, or just too lazy.  Regardless of the reason, many homes languish on the market because their Realtors or owners spend too much of the marketing time and money selling the steak, and not the sizzle.

diamondHomebuyers are just as emotional with their purchase as the broke college girl who needs a little sparkle on her ears for Friday’s big sorority party.  They don’t buy backyard decks; they buy a “place to entertain family and friends”.  They don’t buy Florida Rooms; they buy “a relaxing place to drink your morning coffee while enjoying the view”.  As an investor or real estate agent, it’s imperative that your descriptions paint an emotional picture for the potential customer, moving them past features to benefits…and eventually to a buying decision.

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2 Responses to “Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak”

  1. John Walton says:

    This also relates to showing a house. When your buyers enter the kitchen, it can go two ways, one is “Here’s the kitchen. Check out the nice new stainless steel appliances, and the plentiful counter space.”

    Or your can do it this way. “As you enter your new kitchen, imagine having friends over to entertain in your spacious gourmet kitchen, complete with new stainless steel appliances and generous counter space, which makes for easy and fun meal preparation so that you can concentrate on entertaining. Your open plan encourages socializing both before and after the meal as you now enjoy your time with friends in your new gourmet kitchen.”

    Put in the benefits, and give them ownership. this can be done with the top two or three areas of the house. It’s best to tie it in by using words that with words that the buyers give you. So in the conversation that you have with them you should be writing down the words they use telling you what they want, such as “gourmet kitchen, entertain friends, spacious bedroom, big back yard.” Ask questions to get their emotional words to use and then you can use them when describing your house. It works.

    • As a realtor and investor one of the first places where the sizzle starts is curb appeal. A buyer will take about 10 seconds to put their foot on the gas pedal or break pedal depending upon curb appeal. An investor can put thousands into rehabbing a piece of property and never be seen if the buyer does not have that warm ” this is my next home feeling” when they are infornt of the property. They hit the gas and they are gone! Drop a few extra bucks on seasonal flowers around the entrance, pressure wash the sidewalks and the most important thing to do is put a fresh coat of paint on the front door. We need to remember that this is the first thing a buyer sees and the last. You need to make a statement. The sizzle starts at the front door!


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