Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, we started e-mailing a series of Special Reports on upselling that featured “Sell Sheet” columnist Rick Davis. Here are excerpts from his first two.
The secret to upselling is not persuading clients to spend more against their will. Successful upselling occurs when you develop presentations to inspire your audience into the actions they want to take. It begins by recognizing when clients are eager to buy higher end products to enhance their social status or desire higher quality and are willing to pay for it. It ends when you deliver a presentation that inspires action by establishing brand value that people want to own.
This effort should include a group that might not spend a dime in your showroom: architects. Care about them, because architects influence buying decisions that result in billions of sales dollars. Thus, you should treat them like paying customers.
Some buyers are not good candidates for upgrade options no matter how persuasive you are. There are suspicious buyers who cautiously avoid overpaying and shun upgrades. Others are limited by budget constraints. Before you lose a sale by aggressively trying to upsell every client who walks into your showroom, recognize that some will never buy the upgrades you offer.
Conversely, many consumers are eager to invest in the latest and greatest technology, and this type of client offers you the best opportunity to upsell. Your ideal candidate among consumers is the status seeker whom I call “Mr. or Ms. Jones Plus,” a consumer who doesn’t merely strive to keep up with the Joneses, but to keep ahead of them.
Get involved early. Many salespeople don’t start working until a call comes from a contractor seeking a price. That’s too late. Consumers already have been searching the Internet for inspiration, products, and prices and make decisions ahead of the contractor. Architects are even more likely to surf during the months long design phases of the project and influence client decisions long before drawings are complete. If you wait until bids go out, you’re too late. Upsell during the design phase. Project budgets rarely increase, but frequently decrease.
Ask about big-picture goals. Discover whether motivation is based on lofty issues such as lifestyle and resale value or more practical issues like energy efficiency and repair. Genuine interest in their challenges will raise your credibility.
Map out your campaign. Plan a series of relationship-building calls to architects to gain referrals to consumers. Your introductory calls to architects should focus on understanding their design process and target audience. When you find the one who actively works with consumers, plan several brief follow-up visits to provide samples, technical data, and design advice. After that you needn’t call; they’ll call you when it’s time to start a design.
Lead the process. Your consumer clients are emotional and unfamiliar with the design and construction process that you take for granted every day. Upselling efforts improve dramatically when you describe the entire process up front and shepherd them each step of the way. They will eagerly follow.
Sell your best offer first. Reject the ubiquitous “good, better, best” approach to presentations. The psychological impact of this approach makes the investment in upgrades feel unnecessary, even frivolous, to the buyer. Present your best offer first.
Don’t stereotype. I hear architects get described as detail-obsessed nerds or as unrealistic artists who produce impractical designs. My response is that all professions have a mix of competents and buffoons. Architects are no different. I like to joke that, in the end, architects are very similar to people.
Play for the end game. The end game is people, not products. Your goal is to leverage relationships, be it with architects or with individual buyers. You want to become the credible expert as well as the preferred provider of choice for your product category. This is how you become the expert who upsells higher-end product categories.