When Upselling Works… And When It Doesn’t

By Alexis Rodrigo | Entrepreneurship

Jun 18

at home and waiting.

If you've been marketing for some time, you know that you should be upselling to your customers in order to boost your income.

But fist, what is upselling?

My own definition is:

Upselling is the process of offering an additional product or service to the one your customer originally wanted, in exchange for additional fees.

Any successful business, from McDonald's to your favorite Internet marketing guru, swears by upselling to skyrocket their earnings.

Whether you sell products or services, you'll find that upselling will do the same for you as well. However, there is a right and wrong way to upsell, as you'll see in my example.

Nice Try, But No Dice

The other day, I went with my sister to the car rental company. She's visiting us for a few days and decided to rent a car so we would be free to go around even when hubby was at work (alas, I have yet to get my Ontario driver's license).

My sister had resesrved a Dodge Grand Caravan, because we're a big group. There's my three children, plus my two sisters and me. We've rented the same vehicle before and we all loved the spaciousness.

When my sister picked up the Grand Caravan, though, the car rental staff (let's call him Rajid) tried to persuade her to take a Lincoln Navigator instead.

In spite of my sister's protest, Rajid insisted on showing her the Navigator. He pointed out how big and luxurious it was, including the sun roof and remote-controlled doodads. And Rajid reminded us that we could get all these features for only an additional $20 per day.

As can be expected, my sister still refused this upsell. We didn't need the extras of the navigator; we wanted the familiar comforts of the Grand Caravan.

In other words, Rajid's upsell failed.

Another Example, One That Worked

Compare Rajid's example with my own upselling efforts recently.

A client requested me to write a set of autoresponder emails for two lists of prospects. We agreed to make one set of emails, but tweak them a little for the other list.

However, when I began working on the project, I noticed that List B had a slightly different set of needs that should be addressed in the emails. To do this, I would have to write two more emails for List B.

I offered to write the two additional emails, explaining to my client why she needed them. I also offered a discount on the additional emails.

My client accepted the upsell immediately.

What Made the Difference?

Why did Rajid's upsell fail while mine succeeded?

I think the answer boils down to addressing our customers' desires at a no-brainer price.

Rajid's upsell was irrelevant to what my sisters and I wanted: a smooth-riding car that's big enough to haul my entire family.

In contrast, the additional service I offered my client would help her to serve her prospects better and convert them into customers.

The main goal of the upsell should be to help our customers meet their goals faster, more easily or at less cost. It is not so we can pocket more cash.

However, if we consistently make upsells that meet that criterion, then increasing our profits is the natural consequence.

This just goes to show that pursuing our customers' happiness is the best marketing strategy of all.

Let Me Ask You

Do you have an upsell strategy? If so, how successful have you been? What more can you offer your customers so that they'll want more of what you've got and happily pay you more?

Let me know by posting a comment below.

PS: When you do offer an upsell, don't be a pest about it. Your customers shouldn't have to say “no” more than once!

Creative Commons License photo credit: aurevoirkatie


About the Author

Lexi Rodrigo is a communication and marketing professional for multimillion-dollar businesses, co-author of Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye, and host of "Marketing Insights LIVE!." Connect with Lexi on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

  • Nicole Dean says:

    Excellent example – unfortunately for you and your sister.

    Ages ago, I worked at a fast food store. And, it’s so funny the different responses you’d get when upselling.

    Some people would gush “Oh, thank you! I almost forgot the potatoes!” and others would say “If I WANTED potatoes, I’d have SAID potatoes.” lol.

    But, overall, it definitely brought in more sales and taught me a lot about marketing. 🙂

    Keep up the great work!

    • Alexis says:

      Hi Nik, thanks for dropping by! You sure learn a lot about marketing and business in a fast food store.

  • Rachel says:

    tbh, upselling just pisses me off. I deliberately avoid stores that behave this way. I’m sure I’m not to the only one.

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