By Ed Avis
Mark Kadanoff, president of RPG Digital Print Solutions in Laurel, Maryland, recently sat down with his customer service staff to discuss the importance of appropriately offering additional products to customers when they call -- in other words “upselling.”
“We’re trying to make that part of our culture,” Kadanoff says. “At our most recent meeting we asked everyone to think of one thing they’re comfortable upselling.”
Making upselling part of the sales culture is one of the first pieces of advice experts give to business owners who want to increase revenue. Your customers have their wallet already open, so to say, so it makes sense to sell them a little extra if you can.
But upselling doesn’t mean being pushy – it means making sure that the customer is aware of appropriate additional products or services that you sell.
“We were looking at our different revenue sources and seeing some areas we would like to improve and asking, ‘How can we go about doing that?’ The absolutely simplest thing was to increase the value of each sale,” Kadanoff says.
There are a number of important issues to consider when you think about ways to grow the amount of upselling your sales staff does.
The first is being appropriate – don’t suggest that a customer buy something that doesn’t go along with the purchase already made. And no matter what, don’t use upselling as a way to unload junk that’s otherwise not selling. Why not? Because you want to preserve the long-term relationship with that customer, not just maximize today’s sale.
“We try to steer customers to what we think they need, not what just costs more,” says Ken Karbeling, general manager of American Reprographics Inc. in Rockville, Maryland. “We’re probably not as aggressive with the upselling as some other shops, but we want to see these customers over and over again. We only let them know about what makes sense for them.”
Another “rule” about upselling is that you should always wait until you have all the necessary information for the main sale before attempting to sell something extra – don’t risk that primary sale. Furthermore, experts advise that an upsell should not exceed 25 percent of the cost of the primary sale. That figure seems to be a subconscious threshold in the buyer’s mind.
Six More Tips
Here are six more tips from experts on upselling:
1) Plan ahead. Upselling doesn’t happen by itself – you need to plan to do it and instill that plan in the minds of your sales staff. As Kadanoff did at RPG, hold meetings to discuss the importance of upselling. Teach your staff when it’s appropriate to suggest an upsell, and what makes sense.
2) Know your stuff. Upselling works much better if your sales staff is well educated about your entire product line, because then they will quickly know about obvious upsell opportunities. If a customer orders a banner, for example, the person taking the order should be knowledgeable enough about your shop’s services to know whether lamination, grommets, or a banner stand are appropriate upsell items.
3) Remember the obvious. Sometimes a salesperson thinks everyone knows that they need holes punched in copies destined for a three-ring binder, but don’t assume it! Here some potential upsells in reprographics that might seem obvious to you, but probably aren’t to your customers:
a. Lamination on any job that might need extra protection or durability
b. Mounting for projects that would benefit from rigidity, and better quality mounting board when the project will have a long life or a lot of abuse.
c. A set of color prints when a customer sends CAD files in color and asks for a monochrome set. (Click here to read more about the rise of color CAD printing)
d. Grommets, stands, frames or other display hardware when a customer orders a tradeshow graphic.
e. Image clean-up, indexing, file storage, and other digital services when a customer orders scanning.
f. Downstream document management – offer to pick up and recycle (or shred) the documents you just printed when the client doesn’t need them any more.
4) Incentivize. Your sales staff may already be on commission, but add a little extra for the upsell. What gets incentivized gets done.
5) Consider a bundle discount. If your margins allow it, consider a discount when certain items are purchased in an upsell situation.
6) Remember your website. If you do a lot of sales online, make sure your website automatically suggests appropriate upsales. Think about Amazon – every time you buy something, it suggests something else.
Upselling can bring more money to your bottom line, but don’t forget to think long term. You want that customer, not just that upsell.
“We see upselling as a way to get a customer to start buying that item regularly from us rather than a one-time thing,” Kadanoff says.