In retailing, as in all types of selling, a customer with pricing on the mind may insist they can get by with a cheaper product even when you know they are ultimately going to be dissatisfied with it. It’s important to sell this customer the right product the first time if at all possible, because they will probably blame you for their dissatisfaction later—even if you sold the cheap product to them under protest. Even worse, they may spread the bad word to their friends. Selective memory is a powerful force for evil.
One way to up-sell them is to play up the differences between the cheaper and the better products while you stress the very small differential in their prices by breaking it down into smaller amounts. Over the life span of two brands of high performance tires, for example, how many pennies per mile does the twenty-dollar price difference amount to?
Good salespeople always have their eyes and ears open looking for opportunities to up-sell their current customers. Here are some good ways to find more of them:
● Be alert to changes. Has the customer bought a new car? Of course, that’s an obvious opportunity to start selling. But how about if they’ve moved to a new house with a bigger garage? Can’t you envision that rack full of tools they have room for now?
● Disappointment breeds more sales. Let’s be frank: if your customers won every race they entered, they wouldn’t need you, would they? So when you hear one grousing about coming in second all the time, make a few well-chosen suggestions about how they can move up a notch while you’re empathizing with them.
● What’s new? New products are coming into the vibrant performance market every day and you owe it to your customers to tell them about them! An email newsletter can do the trick—and so can a simple telephone call.
When you take the sales initiative, opportunity knocks a lot louder.
You and your other salespeople may be reluctant to use these tactics because of expected customer resistance or even resentment. But as long as you watch how they are reacting, listen to what they’re saying to you, and don’t try to cram something down their throat, that problem won’t be nearly as bad as you think. Remember, you’re dealing with somebody who has already decided to spend some money with you, so they must be pretty comfortable with the way you do business.
The biggest obstacle to increasing your sales this way, however, is simple laziness. It’s a lot easier to just give the customer what they ask for, take their money, and say goodbye. When you do that, though, you’re actually doing the customer a disservice because you can’t be sure that what you sold them will really meet their needs. How much do they know about what they are buying? Do they really understand what alternatives they have or what the differences are between various products? Up-selling is a good way to get to know what they truly need, which puts you—the professional—in a position to make sure they buy the right thing.
When you understand it that way, you realize that you are creating value for the customer while you are bringing more dollars into your store. That’s about the best formula for business success I’ve heard since someone advised me to buy low and sell high.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.