This is the first in a series of columns on up-selling by Rick Davis, a trainer in the construction products industry who also writes the Sell Sheet column for ProSales Magazine.

The secret to up-selling is not persuading clients to spend more against their will. Successful up-selling occurs when you develop presentations to inspire your audience into the actions they want to take. Successful up-selling 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.

Recognizing Your Client

Most salespeople will tell you up-selling is an act of persuasion, and that's partially true. However, it is also true that some buyers are not good candidates for upgrade options no matter how persuasive the salesperson. Some prospects are suspicious buyers who cautiously avoid overpaying and shun upgrade options. Others are limited by budget constraints and legitimately can't afford to overspend. Before you lose a sale by aggressively trying to up-sell 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 up-sell. Your ideal candidate 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.

This consumer values status, often drives a fancy car, and focuses on aesthetics, innovation, and product options.

Sell Your Best Offer First

Start up-selling successfully by foregoing the ubiquitous "good, better, best" approach to presentations. I have never really understood any logic behind this sales myth that recommends you first present your good products and work your way up the ladder of quality. The psychological impact of this approach makes the investment in upgrades feel unnecessary, even frivolous, to the buyer. If you want to effectively up-sell, first present your best offer.

Story Image If you have a client who is willing to upgrade, present your best options first, Davis advises.

Consider the buyers of Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3-Series cars. These buyers would probably prefer the higher end E-Class and 5-Series, but know that the price is beyond their means. They settle for what they can afford while still purchasing the brand they desire. In other words, the desire for the top-of-the line status items drives the purchase of the good.

You might ask what this has to do with you and the consumer entering your showroom. The answer is simple. If you want to up-sell, start by selling from the top—best, better, good, instead of good, better, best.

Consumers walking into your showroom have limited awareness about brands in the construction industry. They rely on quick Internet searches, word of mouth, and (mostly) the salesperson standing in front of them. Thus, you become the messenger and brand representative who establishes the value behind the products for the consumer standing in front of you. Here are four actions you should use when selling to consumers.

Discover first! Ask clients what is changing in their life. Remember that your prospects are probably considering your products as part of a larger project. Discover what their objectives are for the project and you'll know what products you are likely to sell. Most importantly, be sincere. Your genuine interest in their project will raise your credibility as a product consultant.

Sell "Best, Better, Good" in that order. Even when you believe your clients will satisfy themselves with your low-priced products, promote your best products first to establish brand quality. If you promote good products first, the up-sell to your better and best products will be uphill.

Discover again! Great selling is great listening. There will be a moment when your client is ready to buy the higher grade product. If you keep talking, you'll only talk yourself out of the sale. Instead of asking consumers what they think, ask them how they feel during your interaction. You will stir emotional buying energy by tapping into the heart. The up-sell is based on decisions made from the heart, not the head.

Make a proposal. Many people feel guilt when it comes time to indulge. Others are indecisive. Some are simply unsure how to manage the timing of the project and scheduling. For all of these situations, one single tactic is the answer. Propose the next step in the process and let the client agree.

You will not successfully up-sell every consumer who walks into your showroom. Your mission is to make the best effort possible. Naturally, every idea in this lesson assumes you believe in the products you sell. If you don't believe, then your clients won't either.—Rick Davis

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