Using Upselling to Increase Customer Happiness and Retention

I don’t know about you, but the word upselling always brings to my mind a quick-lube customer service rep who masterminds a $30 oil change into an “urgent maintenance” job that jacks up the “low, low” price to $200. Or what about the Jekyll and Hyde rental car clerk—at first his smile is big enough to drive a car into, but as soon as you decline his offer of “extended” coverage, he gets all curt and quiet.

Of course, we’re not in that league of Un-extraordinary Gentleman—and women (ladies, you just didn’t fit the movie reference). If we take care to use the practice of upselling in a thoughtful, sparing and customer-focused way, we’ll be helping both buyer and seller reap the benefits.

Upselling vs. Cross-Selling
You might recall the blog entry we posted last year on cross-selling, the kissing cousin of upselling. Cross-selling means identifying additional and relevant products and services that round out the customer’s initial purchase. Like, for example, a Dolby Surround Sound system with their giant flat screen TV. On the other hand, upselling is pushing a more ginormous TV than the one the customer has been watching daytime soaps on in the showroom.

In the interest of keeping it simple, I’ve used B2C examples here, but in the B2B world, both cross-selling and upselling are quite common. Just keep in mind that to successfully carry off the practice in this salesverse, don’t try to upsell the customer into something they’re clearly not interested in and/or do not need. It must be done in their best interest.

In the past we have also blogged about customers being savvy. They are. And if they think you’re trying to upsell them for the sake of upselling them (you know, to increase your commission), they’re going to know it, and probably resent you for it. So upsell only when it clearly will benefit the customer. That’s your job as a trusted advisor.

Selling in Significant Ways
It’s in the discovery phase when you—the trusted advisor—are most likely to uncover which products and services, in addition to your main offering, will more fully serve the customer’s needs. At this point, you’d discuss with them the ways additional products would make your solution that much more significant in meeting their needs. Explain to them how they’ll benefit from a deeper purchase, including, for example, getting a bundled-services discount.

Time It Right
Timing your upsell is crucial. Do it only after the customer has made the decision to purchase, but before you’ve finalized any agreement together. The examples in the B2C world are so good we’ll try another. You’re booking a hotel room and an offer pops up on the website—you can purchase the spa package at a deep discount now, as opposed to paying full price upon arrival should you wish to upgrade. That’s a good deal, and it was sold to you in a logic-based, non-pushy way.

If done meaningfully and tactfully, upselling in our B2B circles can mean you’re upgrading yourself in the mind of the customer—upselling the right way can grow your sales footprint within an established customer relationship. It works much better to upsell to a customer you’ve sold to in the past; one who already sees you as a trusted advisor and one where needs have been identified. You’ve got a higher probability of selling new goods and services through an existing account than you do to a brand new prospect. Something to keep in mind. Just ask anyone in the insurance business or at a SaaS company. Growing revenue and market share is their meat and potatoes. They might be the best in the sales business when it comes to cultivating even closer relationships with their customers and reducing customer churn.

Remember, sales person out there reading this—your work should be meaningful in this and other regards. You’re not bellying up to an all-you-can-eat buffet trying to fill your bottom line. Again, when do you upsell? Only when it’s good for the customer. And that’s good for you. Now, about that gigantor TV…