Looking for ways to increase sales, but need to hold the line on marketing expenses? Upselling is a sales technique that small businesses can initiate to effectively increase profits by using their current customer base.
I was introduced to the concept of upselling as a teenager in the 1960s. My parents owned a small grocery store, and their competition included two supermarkets within three blocks. To compete and stay profitable, my parents had to be very creative when it came to sales techniques. It would take me years, and a business degree, to realize how effectively they incorporated the concepts of upselling and cross-selling.
All of the clerks were trained to upsell and cross-sell. The two techniques are often confused. Cross-selling is the method of suggesting an additional, often unrelated, product or service for a customer. For example, asking a customer at the checkout counter if she needed milk or lunch meat to go with the loaf of bread in the basket. Very often, she did.
On the other hand, upselling is the process of informing customers of the benefits of increasing or upgrading a product or service. For example, in our grocery store, if customers bought two six-packs of soda pop, they would get a free ice cream bar. It was amazing how often customers would pick up the second six-pack for free ice cream.
The grocery store averaged 17 complete inventory turnovers a year. That was quite an accomplishment back then. Upselling was an especially effective sales tool that contributed to the success of the business.
What worked a half a century ago is still effective today. Looking for ways to successfully incorporate upselling in your small business? Here are some tips:
1. Develop a company-wide sales plan that includes upselling. Include each step you will take to implement an effective upselling strategy.
2. Train everyone in the company to upsell. Clerks, customer service staff, receptionists, janitors – everyone should be well trained, confident and understand that upselling offers true benefits for the customer. You should also incorporate ticket management systems with your business operation. Ticket management systems offer convenient tagging options.
3. Treat all customers with respect and don’t “oversell” your products or services. Be honest with customers; understand their limitations. Work with them to get the best possible product in their hands, within their budget. Treat your customers well for repeat trade and increased profits.
4. Offer relevant products and services. Know what your customers want. It does no good to offer higher level products or services if customers are not interested. They will just slip out the door and never return.
5. When upselling, keep it simple. Complicated offers confuse customers. That’s a sure-fire way to lose them.
6. Know when a customer really means no. Sometimes you just cannot convince a customer to upgrade. That’s okay. Do not pressure the customer. If you continue to treat the customer with respect, he or she likely will remain a good customer.
Use your current customer base to increase sales and profits by implementing a strong upselling program. Your customers will benefit, and your business will be stronger.