Upselling is when the salesperson tries to sell you something more expensive than and instead of what you were already buying. Cross-selling is when the salesperson tries to sell you something that is related to or can be integrated into whatever you’re already buying. A prime example is a digital camera. If you were buying a 5 mega-pixel camera, an upsell would be an offer of a 7 mega-pixel camera at a reduced price. A cross-sell would be offering a camera case, digital printing services, printers, or just printer paper. Upselling and cross-selling are crucial parts of sales process becuase you’ve already identified yourself as someone willing to buy something. Now it’s just a matter of convincing you to buy more.
Upselling and cross-selling is not inherently bad. For example, under “personalized service” I talk about how salespeople may ask about your intentions as a way of identifying products that may be a better fit. While their ultimate goal might be to make a bigger ticket sale, the end result could be better for you even if you spend more money. You may get products that are more in line with what you want, rather than what you think you want. However, this is not always the case.
To help you combat this financial encroachment into your wallet or purse, here are some successful upselling & cross-selling techniques. Once you recognize them, you can properly defend against them:
Engage, then Asking Permission to Describe
The Technique: With many products, the upsell involves another product and so the goal of the salesperson is to have the customer engage the product. Touch it, play with it, investigate it, become connected with it. By building a brief relationship with something, the customer might imagine themselves using it and thus they are more likely to buy it. Then, once the customer has engaged, salespeople will ask if they can describe its benefits to the customer. Psychology studies have shown that if you agree to something, you’re more likely to agree with additional things down the road… such as agreeing to buy! Also, by asking for permission they don’t come off as pushy because you agreed to have them continue!
The Defense: Stick to your guns, say you’re not interested and repeat you let them know they’re being pushy.
The Technique: You wanted shampoo but somehow got roped into buying a bath and body set of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand sanitizer, that poofy thing, and some liquid soap. That’s called grouping related products and offering a discount, it’s a passive cross-sell and one that is remarkably effective.
The Defense: If you don’t need it, you don’t need it. How many poofy things do you need? A favorite technique of frugal shoppers is to have a list, stick to the list, and leave even if you see a great deal. You might get a discount but it’s on something you don’t need right now.
The Technique: As you start ordering, the salesperson begin asking about your goals for the product in the hopes that they may be able to identify a better product for you. In some cases, the better product may be.
The Defense: If you’ve done your due diligence, you know what you want. You know your budget and you’ve select a product that fits the bill. You can either stick to your guys or check out the other product. It helps to understand how the store operates. For example, CarMax, a large used car lot, has a flat commission regardless of the value of the car. In that scenario, the sales person is trying to get the best fit, not a higher priced car.
Would You Like Fries With That?
The Technique: It’s a line as ubiquitous as any other but it’s actually one of the best upselling lines in the world. In fact, “would you like [insert food] with that?” is something that many restaurants use to add expensive sides to your meal. If it’s an unfamiliar restaurant, you may not realize that fries are an extra charge because in many places fries come with the meal (and the fries question there is used as a means of identifying a preference for which sides, not whether you want to buy a side!). Since it’s so ubiquitous, sometimes we are caught off guard and don’t realize it’s an upsell.
The Defense: It’s much like the “package deal” concept, except done more casually. The defense is to decline every add-on a sales person attempts. Ever buy something and get asked if you want the extended warranty? Those are the “fries” in the retail electronics market.
Bait & Switch
The Technique: This is not an upselling or cross-selling technique but rather a scam that may seem like a sales technique. Several electronics companies have been doing this lately. The scam involves listing a digital camera at a phenomenal price, then requiring the customer call the store only to be told the camera they bought is out of stock. They’re told a more expensive alternative is available but you also need to get a memory card. However, count your lucky stars, there happens to be a coupon on this one memory card so you get it for cheaper than retail. It sounds a lot like an upsell (more expensive camera) and a cross-sell (digital memory card) right but it’s actually a scammy bait & switch. If you ever cannot buy the product you want for whatever reason, walk away. No reputable company will do this intentionally as a means of selling you a more expensive product.
The Defense: Don’t buy from a place that will bait & switch.