Remember the last time a vendor offered you a more expensive alternative to something you wanted to buy? They probably told you it came with more benefits than your original choice, and that it wouldn’t hurt to spend just a little more money to get a much better product.
This is actually a well-known sales strategy. It’s called upselling. And as the name hints, it involves suggesting to customers that they purchase a higher grade (and more pricey) alternative to a product they’re already considering. It’s what your local clothing merchant does when he urges you to buy a supposedly better quality (i.e. more costly) shirt than the one you’re mulling. You get it with apps requesting that you upgrade to paid versions to enjoy extra special services, and airlines nudging you to fly business class after a lifetime of doing the economy class.
Understandably, a lot of people aren’t very enthusiastic about upselling. They’ve probably had irksome experiences with salespeople trying to force them into buying expensive stuff they didn’t even need. Maybe you have had that unpleasant brush up with a seller who continued to push a product to you until you were totally worn out. Why risk offending loyal customers (or new ones) with upselling, when you can just sell them whatever they want at the first time of asking?
Let’s deal with this ethical qualm.
Upselling with the right intentions
Businesses upsell because they want to make more money. That’s a fact. But you can’t grow sales for as long as you’ll want if you have your eyes on the money alone. You’ve got to give the buyer what they want if they’re going to give you what you want.
Keep your clients’ needs in focus. Work to satisfy them. When there’s a chance to sell them something of a higher value you’re sure they can afford, take it. This is how a customer-centric business makes its money. Just don’t pitch extra pricey products to people without putting yourself in their shoes.
The do’s and dont’s of upselling
When upselling, it’s important that you
- Understand what your customer needs, not just what they want. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be able to identify what they’d be willing to buy even at a slightly higher price. This, of course, implies that you’re better off upselling to people who are already your customers- you’re likely to know them well enough.
- Decipher what they’re able to afford, and offer alternative products accordingly. Think about their (probable) budget, and suggest stuff to them if you’re certain they can afford it. Again, this works better if they’re customers you already know.
- Let them know why the product benefits them, and why it’s better than a less costly option.
- Be open about prices. Tell them why the products are priced as they are.
- Respect their decisions. You’ll be hoping that your customers buy whatever it is you’re offering them. But if they don’t, you should be wise enough to just let them go through with their decision. Don’t nudge them further, unless it’s clear they’re feeling undecided.
Now, here’s what you shouldn’t do when trying to upsell things.
- Don’t smooth talk customers into buying things they don’t need anyway. They won’t trust you to offer them something good in the future if they realize that you’re willing to hoodwink them for profit margins’ sakes.
- Don’t use misleading data or false testimonials when trying to convince potential buyers to purchase the more expensive things. If they spend precious funds on your offering and discover that they’ve been misled, you’ll very likely fall into their bad books. That’s not good for business.
- Be sensitive about price differences. If the alternative you’re offering a customer is far more expensive than what they’re already wanting to get, you may have to let it rest on your shelves a little longer. However, your decision should depend on the peculiarities of each given situation and the customers involved.
- Don’t push too hard. There’s no telling what sort of trouble you might get into for this! If the customer has made her mind up (and said so clearly), courtesy requires that you backpedal and go with her decision.
When it’s done the right way, upselling can actually strengthen your relationship with customers. If they find that your suggestions achieve great results for them, they’ll be more willing to take your advice on buying next time. In the end, you both win: your customers will get better quality products, and you’ll grow sales.