A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 19, 2009
“Don’t sell the steak—sell the sizzle”

Elmer Wheeler (1903-1968) created the Tested Selling Institute, a one-employee firm at 321 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Wheeler’s 1937 book, Tested Sentences That Sell, included his famous salesmanship maxim: “Don’t sell the steak—sell the sizzle!”

Wheeler did acknowledge, however, that the cow was “mighty important.”

The Yale Book of Quotation
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Pg. 811:
Elmer Wheeler
U.S. marketing expert, 1903-1968
“Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!”
Tested Sentences That Sell ch. I title (1937)

Elmer Wheeler Sell The Sizzle
December 04, 2006
America’s number one salesman, Elmer Wheeler and his 5 selling points. Read his book “Tested Sentences That Sell” at http://www.elmerwheelerbook.

Time magazine
Caterers’ Capers
Monday, Aug. 30, 1937
¶ “The average diner-out will pick the dish with the fancy colors every time.”
¶ “The younger generation is not trained in the art of eating. Nor drinking either.”
¶ “Americans are now a predominantly meat and potato eating people.”

Such resigned generalities as these filled the air in Philadelphia’s elegant Bellevue-Stratford Hotel last week as 1,000 restaurateurs gathered for the annual convention of the International Stewards & Caterers Association. The delegates listened appreciatively when a representative of Tested Selling, Inc. hissed: ‘’Don’t sell the steak; sell the sizzle."*
* “Sizzling platters” are made of an aluminum alloy. The hotter they are kept before being used the longer and more madly they will sizzle on contact with melted butter.

The New Yorker magazine
The Sizzle

by John McNulty
April 16, 1938
It is the perfect example of one of the principles of Tested Selling, which are masterfully explained in an essay written by Mr. Wheeler some years ago and recently expanded into a book with a red-and-yellow jacket. The book has a number of Wheelerpoints in it, and the egg episode dramatizes Wheelerpoint No. 4, which is “Don’t Ask If—Ask Which! “The essence of Wheelerpoint No. 4 is that the customer should always be given a choice between something and something, not a choice between something and nothing. This point is vital, but the great motif in Tested Selling is Wheelerpoint No. 1, “Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!” On this majestic theme, Mr. Wheeler writes:

The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, although the cow is, of course, mighty important.

Once Mr. Wheeler has discovered the sizzle in anything, meaning the tang in cheese, the bubbles in wine, the whiff in coffee, the customer is his, or rather his client’s. The sizzle has come to be a large part of Mr. Wheeler’s personal life.

Time magazine
Sell the Sizzle
Monday, Nov. 01, 1954
For two decades a supersalesman named Elmer Wheeler has made a handsome living advising U.S. businessmen: “Don’t sell the steak—sell the sizzle!” This week, with the congressional elections of 1954 just a week away, there were clear indications that the Republican Party had paid too little attention to that sales formula.

3 October 1968, Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, “Elmer Wheeler Dies; Master Sales Expert,” pg. C18, col. 2:
MEXICO CITY (UPI)—Elmer Wheeler never counted modesty among his talents.

He called himself the world’s greatest salesman and was credited with popularizing the slogan, “Don’t sell the steak—sell the sizzle.”

Wheeler, who died here Wednesday, while enroute to a European speaking tour, wroe 28 books, many of them dealing with selling. Amon the most popular, however, were his chronicles of how he lost 40 pounds in 80 days. They became known to millions of men as ‘The Fat Boy’s Book.”

Wheeler’s sales philosophy revolved around slogans and catch phrases.

OPERATING FROM a Fifth Avenue office in New York in the 1930s he was owner, president and the sole employe of the Tested Selling Institute. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, February 19, 2009 • Permalink