The Up-sell: A path to better sales and service

By Jim Ackerman and Paul Furse

A great thing about the boating business is that your clients always want more – more size and more “toys.” So why do most marine retailers leave so much money on the table by failing to install powerful, proven up-sell and add-on selling systems? It doesn’t have to be that way.

The fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way to build revenues and profits is by implementing a formal and assertive up-sell, add-on and cross-selling system. More importantly, failure to do so is actually a disservice to your customers.

It’s simply a matter of problem solving and perspective. Your perspective, from being so close to your own business, is that your customers and clients know what you sell and how it benefits them. But the reality is, they don’t. They don’t know about, or understand, all the things you sell or all the problems, challenges and concerns you can solve for them. In fact, in many cases, they don’t know the best solution to pursue for the problem they came to you for in the first place.

You have an obligation, in the name of honesty, courtesy and dedication to consistently add value, advantage, protection and benefit to the lives of your customers, to educate them as to their best options, then ask them to take advantage of them.

Let’s say you just sold John a high quality, two-person play tube for his kids. He is delighted and excited to get it on the water. The price of this toy is $265. Everyone wins, right? Not so fast. You know from your conversation that John has three kids, and they often bring at least one friend along.

Time for the up-sell.

Explain to John that for just a few dollars more, you could send him home with either a second two-person toy or a larger four-person toy. You chat with him about his family’s boating habits, how the kids get testy when discussing whose turn it is, and how often someone feels slighted at the end of a day on the water.

When everyone is on the same page about whether the larger toy, or the two smaller ones, would be a better fit, you simply ask if it wouldn’t be worth those few extra dollars to make all that strife go away. You have now earned his respect for caring enough about him to share your knowledge and experience, which will bring repeat business and referrals from him. In addition, you have just earned a small but significant increase in the profit on your sale.

It doesn’t stop there. What about his aging bimini and life vests? Don’t forget additional or heavier towropes, perhaps a wake board for the older kids, and does he understand the real benefits of a tower? Virtually everything you sell is specifically designed and proven to enhance boaters’ safety and enjoyment. Their benefits often build on one another.

When a professional marine retailer fails to “recommend” in a systematic, coherent and inclusive manner, he leaves that family to consider products separately, away from his shop. The result may be far less satisfying for everyone.

If you’re afraid of being seen as a “pushy” salesperson, consider this: Unless you run an amusement park, the vast majority of your customers are adults. They write the checks, you owe it to them to treat them as adults. That means presenting all their options, and your professional guidance, without prejudging their desire or ability to pay, then helping them choose the right things for them. It also means making sure they’re informed about all the problems, challenges or concerns your company is capable of solving for them, whether they have you do it today or over an extended period of time.

A good system for up-selling, add-on and cross-selling will consist of the following elements:

1. Pre-determined offers – companion products and stand-alone offers. A variety of offers at varying price points is best. And be sure to present at least three offers. Whether they say “yes” or “no” to your first add-on offer has no bearing on their answer to your second or third offer.

2. Materials to support those offers – sometimes you need sales support.

3. Scripts for you and your staff to use in presenting the offers.

4. Incentives for your staff members to implement your system.

5. Training for your staff so they know how to execute the system.

6. A tracking system to make sure the program is working, and how much it is adding to your average sale and your bottom line.

Will all customers buy everything you suggest, right when you suggest it? Of course not. But even when they say “no,” you have already pre-programmed them for later purchases.

A well-executed up-sell and add-on selling system will typically have your customers saying “yes” to your offers 15 to 30 percent of the time. If you’re seen by your customer as a true professional, the percentage of who say “yes” can easily climb above 50 percent.

It is not atypical for retailers to add 17 percent or more to their average transaction, literally overnight, when they install such a system. And the best part is, their clients thank them for it and reward them with more loyalty, more business and more referrals.

For a full, in-depth report on up-selling and add-on selling send an e-mail request to Jim Ackerman is president of Ascend Marketing, Inc. of Salt Lake City and developer of the Principle-Centered Marketing Coaching Program. Paul Furse is an entrepreneur and marketing coach who has helped businesses grow for over two decades.

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