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30 seconds to significant sales: How to upsell without turning off your customer

By Jeff Mowatt

113581766-mainIf you and your employees aren’t trained in effective ways to upsell, chances are you’re either offending customers by being too pushy, or leaving money on the table they would have willingly spent with you. Either option is costly.

When organizations bring me in to train employees on how to increase revenues from an existing customer base, I often find that not enough attention is paid to upselling.

Upselling refers to when you help a customer decide to buy a little extra or ‘upgrade’ the final purchase slightly. A car dealer, for example, might inform customers at the time of ordering about upholstery protection and undercoating. A shoe salesperson might suggest that when you buy a pair of shoes, you also pick up some weather-protectant spray. These are usually small purchases the buyer doesn’t have to put a lot of thought into. The bonus is they can be extremely profitable for you as the salesperson and for your organization.

Why upselling is so profitable

Consider this example. A customer buys a car with monthly payments of $395. With that size of investment, there’s very little resistance to adding $2 to the monthly payments for upholstery protection. For you, however, that additional sale is significant, as over 48 months it adds up to a $98 sale, with a huge profit margin.

Some would say that a $98 sale on a $25,000 vehicle is only a minimal increase in the overall sale. Why waste your time? My argument is that if it only takes 30 seconds to make that extra $98 sale, then you’re making more money doing this than with any other activity. If your salary is $20 per hour, then doing the math, the 30 seconds you take to upsell costs the company about 17 cents. If it only costs the company 17 cents to make $98, that’s a huge return on investment. The fact that it’s attached to a $25,000 sale is completely irrelevant. So, upselling can be one of the most profitable and best uses of your time.

Upselling should be easy

The best part of upselling is that it’s practically effortless. Since it happens after the customer has decided to go ahead with a major purchase, the hard part of the sales conversation has already been done. For instance, you’ve established rapport, identified needs, summarized, presented benefits, asked for the order and handled objections. Upselling is just presenting the information in a ‘by-the-way’ assumptive manner.

Here are the three biggest mistakes in upselling:

1) No attempt is made to upsell.

2) The salesperson comes across as being pushy.

3) The upselling is made in an unconvincing manner so the customer generally refuses.


Effective upselling strategies

Assumption is the key. You’ve got to assume the customer will naturally want this. Begin the upsell with a brief benefit, then, if possible, add something unique about what you’re selling. To avoid sounding pushy, particularly if the upsell requires some elaboration, ask for the customer’s permission to describe it.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to upsell. Imagine dining at a restaurant where you’ve just finished a big meal. The server asks, “Would you care for dessert?” If you answer yes, you might give the impression of overindulging. Thus, many customers refuse out of politeness. The result? No sale.

The savvy server, instead, doesn’t ask if the customer wants dessert. The professional just assumes when people go out for a meal, they are treating themselves. So of course they’ll want to treat themselves to dessert. In this case, the server pulls up the dessert tray and says, “To finish off your meal with a little something sweet—(that’s the benefit)—I brought the dessert tray over for you. Would you like to hear about the most popular ones?” (Asks permission to proceed.)

When the customer agrees to hear about the desserts, the server doesn’t just list them by name, he describes their benefits. So rather than saying, “This is chocolate mousse,” he’d say something like, “If you like chocolate, you’ll love this. We’ve got a chocolate mousse that melts in your mouth and makes you wonder what ordinary people are doing today.”

Focus on the customer’s needs, not yours. Don’t try to sell him or her something you wouldn’t buy if you were in their shoes. It is totally irrelevant whether or not this purchase suits your needs; what is relevant is whether it suits theirs. That perspective empowers you to upsell effectively and with integrity.

Hands-on demonstration. One of the most effective upselling techniques is getting the customer to use the product in your location. A hairdresser, for example, might put hair gel in the customer’s hand and show them how to apply it themselves. By showing the client how to get the salon look at home, they create a value-added upsell.

Group-related products. It’s a good idea to group similar add-ons and offer them as an upsell at a package price. If someone is getting a haircut and you talk to them about shampoo, it only makes sense to show them a deal that groups conditioner and shampoo at a package price.

Bottom line

Every business owner should realistically look at whether or not employees could improve the way they upsell. For most businesses, a little professional training can make a world of difference.

This article is based on the book, Influence with Ease, by customer service strategist and certified professional speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit or call toll free (800) JMowatt (566-9288).

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