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TW Magazine
November, 2002
Upselling: It's Sales AND Service

People often regard upselling and cross-selling as sales techniques: sales strategies to increase sales. Yet each has a customer service component to them as well. I prefer to think of them as forms of both sales and customer service.

When a customer calls to purchase one product or service, and you offer them a better, more appropriate or more versatile product you are fulfilling additional needs. That's a form of service!

When you receive a call from a current or potential customer, your full array of products and services is often at your customer's disposal. By employing your listening skills, asking pertinent questions, and thus better understanding how they intend to use your product(s), you may uncover additional needs, more elegant solutions or advantageous strategies they may employ. You're delivering service when you cross sell or upsell.

Let's review a typical interaction. A customer calls with a stated need.

1.     You, as a knowledgeable rep, know the product lines best: their strengths and weaknesses. You've done your homework and know all of your products' and services' capabilities and compatibilities.

2.     You, as a skilled listener and problem solver, understand their needs and can make informed recommendations.  You ask closed-ended questions to determine a baseline of pertinent information; you ask open-ended questions to elicit details of the customers' experience, intentions and understandings.

3.     You, as a persuasive and skilled rep, can make the additional sale.  Listening to their current needs and anticipating future needs, you can identify products or services to solve tomorrow's dilemmas as well as today's problems. You may even show customers better and more innovative ways they can conduct their business.

In the course of these conversations you may offer them training or consulting to accompany their sales, companion products to accompany their primary purchase, or other additional or more powerful tools and services for success.

Suppose that you are selling transaction commerce systems by telephone from a call center. As calls come in, follow these techniques:

Ask Questions to Uncover Needs:
  • "What is your greatest current need in a system?"
  • "What is your  current volume  of business?"
  • "How much to you project your business will grow in 12-18 months?"
  • "How big is your department?"

Listen Intently:

  • Listen to what they say. Take notes.
  • Listen between the lines to what they're implying. What picture does it paint?
  • Confirm your comprehension of their situation by paraphrasing for agreement.
  • What are their critical issues? Price, compatibility, ease in upgrading, etc.

Know Your Product Line:

  • Be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each product
  • Understand which accessories work well with each primary product
  • Be clear on your profit margins when proposing different/additional products
  • Know "Migration Paths" for graduating to newer or better models.
  • Recommend "add-on" products to enhance utility of their existing products
  • What's new?  Put another way, what don't they know about yet?

Propose Solutions:

  • Recommend sets of products that past customers have raved about
  • Cite past successes in recommending suites of products, add-ons for customers
  • Speak the language of Benefits instead of just stating Features
  • Emphasize value instead of price.  Reliability, reputation, warranties, etc.
  • Anticipate concerns and allay their fears with positive statements about each.

Action Steps:

  • Post your product list and, as a team, match accessories to products with magic markers.
  • Role play the conversations between yourselves where you uncover new needs.
  • Work backwards!  Pick a product and, as a group, figure out ways of leading Customer conversations toward this product as a solution!  (Step one: what are the benefits of this product? Step two: what "itches" can this benefit scratch?, etc.).  

When you up-sell and cross sell effectively,
all that's left to do is to Sellebrate success.

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Craig Harrison is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and consultant who provides sales and service solutions through speaking.  Contact him as for more information: Craig@VoiceOfCustomerService.com, www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com, or by phone: (510) 547-0664.


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