One Egg or Two? Selling Multiples

The story of how F.W. Woolworth increased its lunch counter sales may be apocryphal, but its sales principle is tried and true.

F.W. Woolworth lunch counterIn its heyday, Woolworth was a nationwide chain of more than 3000 five-and-dime or variety stores, sort of junior editions of today’s Wal-Mart stores. The Woolworth lunch counters, forerunners of today’s food courts, served breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

Although Woolworth was never known for salesmanship, a directive to lunch counter managers embodied just that — good salesmanship.

It required waitresses to ask “Would you like one or two?” whenever a customer ordered an egg.

The power and simplicity of the principle — selling multiples — is breathtaking. The customer is already sold on the item and the store and the person selling it. All that’s required is to ask “One or two?”.

The principle really works. I always devoted my first sales meeting in a new department, store or district to telling the story of One Egg or Two. And it always paid off in a 10-15% increment that stuck long after the larger increase from my pep talk had faded.

Of course, I always got objections. “We’re not selling eggs here.” “That won’t work with washing machines.” “Nobody needs two cars.” “Our customers can hardly afford one.”

But the fact is selling multiples works no matter who’s doing it, where, or what’s being sold from apples to zoot suits. It works because the product is presold, and because people often buy multiples to have a spare, as a gift, for a second home, to lock in a price, to save a trip to the store, etc.

Egg on you if you don’t ask “One or two?”

Illustration created from photos found on Michael Strauch’s streetcarmike.com. Thanks Mike!

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