The Art of Upselling: Why Most Attempts Fall Flat

Many retailers aspire to upsell to their existing customers, recognizing the cost-effectiveness of enticing those already in-store to make additional purchases. Yet, the execution of upselling often leaves much to be desired, and here’s why it might not be working as intended.

The Repetitive Routine:
A prevalent issue in upselling lies in the repetitive and predictable nature of the approach. Staff members frequently initiate the upsell with the classic line, “Would you like…,” creating a scenario where customers preemptively decline before fully hearing the offer. This not only leads to discouraging results but also demotivates staff members who receive constant rejections.

Breaking the Mold:
To enhance upselling effectiveness, it’s crucial to break away from the conventional script. Research indicates that customers anticipate upselling attempts, so the element of surprise is lost. The common closed questions such as “Are you interested in…” or “Do you want…” create a buy-or-ignore dynamic, providing customers with an easy way out.

A Shift in Approach:
A more effective strategy involves engaging customers in a short conversation rather than directly proposing a purchase. Eliminate closed questions that pressure customers to buy, and instead, opt for open-ended queries that gauge interest. For instance, starting with “Have you seen our special today?” allows customers to express curiosity without feeling coerced.

Product Awareness, Not Upselling:
Change the narrative by reframing the concept of upselling. Instead of labeling it as such, consider adopting the term “Product Awareness.” This shift emphasizes the goal of making customers aware of offerings they might not be familiar with, fostering a more positive and collaborative interaction.

Examples of alternative approaches include:

“Has anyone told you about…?”
“Were you aware…?”
“Have you tried…?”
By incorporating these subtle changes, the upselling process transforms into a genuine exchange of information. Customers appreciate not feeling pressured, and staff members are more inclined to view each interaction as an opportunity to enhance product awareness rather than a potential sale. So, if upselling feels like an uphill battle, perhaps it’s time to rethink what you say and how you frame the conversation

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.