Upselling Is An Art


I used to work retail. I’m very familiar with the marketing world. I know that in order to be successful and rake in profit, you need to sell your products, services and promote your brand. In the world of all things digital, I witness the strides taken to do just that. However, despite the advances in technology, there’s an area nestled in the marketing world that seems to have fallen short and needs to be addressed. The art of upselling.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve had a positive encounter with an employee’s attempts to upsell. That’s a grim number considering I’m in my early 40’s and make purchases several times a week. And, during a week’s time, I fall prey to an employee’s attempts to upsell at least once or twice. Most of the time, my gracious “no thank you” is enough, however, when I continue to be bombarded with flimsy upselling strategies that push me to my limits, I’ve been known to walk away and go elsewhere.

Upselling has been a common practice for decades. I understand the concept behind it. You want to persuade a customer to purchase a more expensive or popular brand, upgrade and increase the sale to make it more profitable. And, once the sale is almost complete, you throw in a little cross-selling. Ultimately, your goal is a flawless upselling transaction where you’ve turned a $300 sale into a $500 sale. How often does that really happen, though, considering the amount of customers who walk through the door?

As a customer, I expect employees to try and upsell. It’s a given. Whether I’m buying a new laptop or gas grill, I know I’m not going to escape upselling strategies. What I can’t figure out is why the process is broken and falls short in so many areas. I can’t get too upset at the employee. The company and marketers standing behind them are pushing poor scripts without really teaching the FABs (Feature, Advantage, Benefits). There’s a sense of urgency to sell a specific quota and companies are providing very little upselling training so the employee are able to serve their customers efficiently. In addition, companies are offering perks to the employees who upsell the most. Incentives are great, but when the sole focus is sell more to get a reward, the focus shifts. Instead of making the overall customer experience exceptional, it becomes a mission to get the customer to spend, spend, spend.

For example, a few months ago I was in the market for a new sofa. I knew what I wanted. I needed something durable, could withstand the wear and tear of 2 adults and 3 dogs, manual recliner, preferably 2 cushion, pillow arm rests, lumbar support and it had to be comfortable. I had a budget. I wasn’t interested in all the bells and whistles. After doing several hours of research, my budget was well within the range of getting what I wanted.

Within a 3 week span we visited four well-known furniture stores with an inventory of possibilities. The first 2, we walked out. The employees, at these 2 locations, were adamant about selling us a leather power reclining sofa with USB ports. He proceeded to rant the upselling pitch before we had time to let him know what we wanted. The price tags on these sofas were almost double what our budget was. The employee at the 3rd location did everything in her power to persuade us to look at the new lines of decorative sofas that would “brighten up any room.” No thank you.

By the time we visited the 4th location, we were frustrated. The employee sensed our frustrations. She listened. Her focus was on us. She showed us the sofas we had seen online. She was honest and informed us that 2 of the selections wouldn’t be the best fit. She suggested a couple of other brands we hadn’t taken into consideration. Although slighter higher in price, it was within our budget. She didn’t try to sell us a power recliner. She knew the details of each sofa. She wasn’t annoying. Her priority was selling us a sofa that fit our needs and would last for years. Score! A week later, our new sofa was delivered.

A lot of companies and marketers alike could learn a lot from the 4th company. Get to know the products you’re selling. Get to know the customer. Be honest. Don’t be annoying. And, take the time to go into the field and familiarize yourself with what’s happening.


About Author

Proud Mom of 3 rescue dogs, dog biscuit baker, geek, writer, social media guru, java junkie, and a believer in all things Wabi Sabi. Technology touches my life every single day. And, you can bet I have something to say about it.

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