"Do you want fries with that?"

Easily the most recognizable & classic upsell. But do you who invented the upsell?

Do you recognize these lines: "Shall I fill it up?"

Or, "Would you like red or white wine with your dinner?"

I know you have heard "Sell the sizzle, not the steak."

Elmer Wheeler, whom I am pretty sure you haven't heard of, wrote these. He was one of the first to seriously study what happened in the gap between delivering an effective advertisement and getting the sale.

It is a great story- still relevant today.

Wheeler was working as newspaper man in the mid 30's. He knew that his clients, the advertisers, were only interested in increased sales. Any other measure or metric of "success" was irrelevant to this group.

And Wheeler was vexed. How could his advertising campaigns deliver traffic to a well stocked store, yet there be a failure to buy? How could people who started with an interest in buying be changed into tire kickers by the time they reached the store.

Could the sales staff be doing something so wrong that they converted "ready to buy" back into "just looking"?

Wheeler was so vexed, he proposed a startling course of action to the publisher. They would experiment.

And, according Tom Sant, in The Giants of Sales: What Dale Carnegie, John Patterson, Elmer Wheeler, and Joe Girard Can Teach You About Real Sales Success , pages 125-126, what happened next was this:

"Wheeler gave 20 of the Balitmore News-Post reporters five dollars each, telling them to go to the May Company and buy as many men's shirts as the five dollars would purchase and the clerks would sell them. (Remember, this was back in the 1930's and five bucks went a long way, then. You could buy a quality's men's shirt for less than a dollar.)"

The result?

These motivated buyers who had $100 to spend - could have bought 100 shirts.

How many shirts were sold to them? 90? 75? or only 60? (Remember, it wasn't their money. They didn't have to save any money.)

Nope, the customer service staff at the May Department Store extracted a wopping 5% of the total surplus value - 5 shirts. Yes, only 5 shirts were sold.

Sant writes:

"Wilbur May, [owner] instantly realized that although he may have a million-dollar establishment, with a million dollars worth of merchandise on the shelves, the real control of his business was in the hands of his minimum wage sales clerks."

And right then and there, Elmer Wheeler switched professions from advertising into customer service and sales!

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