Marketing Monday: The Art of the Upsell

Everyone who’s ever sold anything has probably been told,  at one time or another,  “You have to upsell if you’re going to make money!”,  which is good advice if you’re comfortable with selling and not so great if you aren’t.   Basic selling can be difficult for those who work in creative fields,  so upselling may feel like trying to do advanced algebra when you’ve just mastered 2 + 2 = 4.  Fortunately for us all,  upselling isn’t as difficult as it seems,  and mastering the technique can bring huge benefits to your business.

First,  let’s talk about what upselling means.   Upselling is essentially convincing your customer to make a larger purchase than they had planned to make.  If the customer planned,  for instance,  to spend $50,  you can use upselling techniques to get them to spend $75.  The idea is to offer the customer such great options in such an honest and helpful way that they can’t resist purchasing based on your suggestions.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a quilt shop and primarily sell fabric.  Customers come in and buy fabric and go home and make quilts,  which is great,  but if they’re only buying fabric from you,  they’re spending money other places to get thread and needles and rotary cutters and all the other supplies and equipment they might need.  So,  start small.  Bring in some thread you really like. (This,  for instance, is a good choice.)   When your customer comes to the register with their fabric,  ask if they’ve heard about this great thread.   Talk about why you sell the thread you sell.  Pick out a color that works well with the fabric and hold them together.  Talk about how thread can add or detract from a quilt,  and how poor quality thread can ruin a quilting experience.  Don’t be pushy,  just be helpful and be an evangelist for whatever you’re offering.  Not every customer you upsell will leave with fabric and thread,  but more will leave with both than would if the thread was simply sitting on a shelf.

One thing to remember when upselling is this:  relevance.  The thing you’re upselling has to make sense with whatever the customer has already committed to buy.  Relevance is why McDonalds asks if you want fries with that burger,  or the oil change place asks if you need a new air filter.  The trick is to add value with the upsell,  giving the customer something that will enhance what they’ve already decided to purchase.

Understanding what the customer’s goals are is also important when you’re attempting to upsell.   Time can be at a premium for any business owner,  but it’s often worth taking the time to chat with customers.   Ask why they’re making the purchase they’ve already decided to make,  and what they hope it will accomplish.  Try to pinpoint any needs they have that aren’t being met,  or goals they’re pursuing with which you can help.   Yes,  doing this takes time that could be spent on other tasks,  but it will hopefully result in a bigger sale.  Upsell enough customers in this manner and the extra time more than pays for itself.

One thing to keep in mind when upselling is that the focus has to be on helping the customer,  not on generating more profit.  Pushy upselling will get the same reaction any kind of pushy sales technique does,  an unhappy customer who may not come back.  Successful upselling comes from a place of service,  you’re letting the customer know about something that will enhance their existing purchase,  not just mentioning something you want them to buy because it will increase your sales total.