‘Upselling’ – your clients actually want it

Craig Toyne, Accounting Director & Business Adviser

I spent my Christmas holidays on a cruise ship with my kids. The home of the endless happy hour, a place where the day of the week is irrelevant and somewhere truly free from emails made it a relaxing break.

It was during one of these moments of relaxation, as I lazed on the Lido deck by the overcrowded pool with a cocktail in hand, that I got to admiring the business model of a cruise ship. And no, not the use of low cost labour and the ability to operate a casino in international waters, but the ease at which they can upsell to the passengers.

The whole trip is an endless procession of upsells from photos, sightseeing tours, drink packages, duty free shopping, cocktails of the day …….. the list goes on.

In a world where we are becoming more sceptical of being sold to and where we learn to develop automatic objections to sales pitches, exists the cruise ship experience where I will happily buy all sorts of things I don’t really want or need.

Now a cruise ship has a number of features that makes it unique from most businesses, namely;

  • Captive audience with virtually no competition
  • Customers in holiday mode that will spend more easily than normal
  • A non cash system that allows customers to add a purchase to their account without the usual emotions of handing over cash or worrying about a credit limit

As Pituck, my waiter hailing from Chang Mai in Thailand who had amazing skills at making animals out of folded napkins, arrived with another Tahitian Sunset (cocktail of the day for $11.50), I began to ponder this issue further. Most businesses don’t have the luxury of these unique features to help them upsell to their customers, so how can they create the same environment.

As the effects of the Tahitian Sunsets took over it finally struck me. As a customer I don’t want to feel like I’m being sold to, I want to feel in control, but not just the ability to say yes or no, I want to be telling the seller what I want. Paradoxically though, if a business can create this feeling in their customers, they get the opportunity to sell them more.

How can a business make this happen? They do this by breaking down the sales decision into a whole range of steps and giving the customer the choice on whether to buy each component.

Buying an airline ticket is a great example of this. Rather than feel like I’m being sold to, I feel empowered by the ability to get a “low cost” fare and choose what add-ons I want. Overall I feel like I’m making good buying decisions and saving money. However, in reality I am buying things I never even thought of buying before. Paying more for certain seats, paying for baggage, buying travel insurance on domestic flights and even donating to charities is something a customer does now that they would not have thought of paying extra for in the past.

So how can you make this work in your business?

You need to break down each component in your product and service and let your customer choose which they want. The choices you give should range from the basic to options that you may not have normally have been included, like extended warranties or ongoing maintenance. However, more importantly, you should include options that customers may have never thought of being an option to pay for before. For example, a dentist might offer a choice of pain relief through using gas, I know I would pay more not to have a needle! Or the option of an after hours appointment for an additional cost.

Apart from increasing your profits, it may reduce the number of customer disputes, as the customer has the choice of what exactly they include in their purchase and they cannot complain later that there was a misunderstanding of what they were buying.

Put the power in your customers/clients’ hands by allowing them to be more involved and see what amazing packages, services and products they decide they need…

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Rethink your possibilities.