We’ve all been upsold at some point.
You know the drill:
You buy or sign up for something – or you’re in the process of doing so…
And suddenly, like a demonic Oliver Twist, somebody asks you for more.
To buy more. To upgrade to the ‘gold package’…
Or add fries you probably don’t need.
So what happens then?
You either bite and buy, or you hang up…
Or click away…
…or um, run away…
…or you just yell at the telesales dude on minimum wage stumbling over his sales script while his boss throws pencils at the poor kid’s head.
Yes you may have one or two good memories of being on the consumer end of an upsell process, but it’s more likely your memory of the experience is… kinda negative.
Maybe even sleazy.
Truth is, in most people’s eyes, upselling is unwanted, intrusive and irritating
Meaning the bad memories win out.
This is partly because we tend to store negative experiences as a kind of mental note to stop us getting ‘fooled again’…
And we form less of an emotional connection with the positive upselling instances – excepting those truly momentous occasions that turned out to be incredible deals.
It’s a shame we don’t get to experience the good times more often…
I mean, surely it’s possible to end up spending more than you intended to, and actually feel like you got the best end of the deal?
To actually walk away from a completed transaction happy, ready to endorse the other party and what we’ve bought, and – gadzooks! – to even want to go back for more?
That shouldn’t be too sci-fi a scenario, right?
(Thanks for letting me write gadzooks there by the way. Always wanted to do that.)
And as biz-owners and marketers, we should be aiming to give our customers this joyful experience often.
Because there’s more value – financial and otherwise – to be gained from one happy customer than from ten with buyer’s remorse.
Inspiring people with a better form of ‘upselling’…
It is possible to delight your customers and clients by adjusting how you – and they – think about what we usually refer to as ‘upselling’ or ‘cross-selling’.
(People often use both phrases to mean the same thing, but upselling is actually more about ‘upgrading’ an experience – like with plane tickets, phone tariffs or apps…
Whereas cross-selling means offering additional related products at some point in a sales process.
(Of course, ‘related products’ can cover a multitude of sins, which is partly why upselling/cross-selling gets a bad rep… and not just in digital marketing.
Recently I called my phone provider to cancel a couple of unwanted add-ons to my tariff that I was hardly ever using.
Incredibly, while I was waiting for my request to be processed, the operator tried – half-heartedly, and obviously as part of some daft company policy – to upsell me a couple of expensive accessories.
Yep, while I was actively trying to cut my bill, I was being asked to add to it.
A classic inappropriate corporate upsell fail. Yuck.)
Point is, we all have an awful-upsell war story or two that comes to mind.
But done right, startups, SMEs and entrepreneurs can use upselling to actually make people happy and grow their biz at the same time.
How is this magical concept possible?!?
The key is to remove the idea of ‘selling’ from the equation.
If your purpose is simply to maximise your own profits from every sale or customer interaction, you’re approaching this all wrong.
Because whether you mean to or not, you’re colouring people’s perceptions of you…
And it’s losing you business (and money) in the long run.
As I talked about here recently, successful digital marketing in 2016 and beyond is not about squeezing as much moolah as possible from your every encounter with a customer or prospect…
It’s about building deeper, longer-term relationships with people who go on to reward you with their business.
It takes patience, and respect for your market.
Let’s face it:
Nobody likes the feeling of being ‘upsold’ if it just feels like being ‘sold’, twice over…
Your follow-up process should be less about selling and more about serving.
So the question you need to ask yourself is this:
How can you create opportunities to serve your customer/client better, instead of selling them?
Dan Pink talks about this mindset shift in his book To Sell Is Human:
What would happen if in a buy/sell transaction, the focus of the seller was to upserve?
This would involve the seller elevating what they could do for the buyer and seeing the buyer as a highly valued friend.
We would want to enrich, not diminish the relationship.”
Upserve successfully and you’ve got yourself a customer for life.
Be honest with yourself, and ask:
“Will this upsell improve my customer’s life?”
If the answer’s no, you’re really just showing them how little you care about their outcome – and you should yoink that upsell outta there before it does lasting damage to your reputation.
Take it out back and put it out of its misery.
(Sorry! Been revisiting my Scorsese box-set recently.)
But if the answer’s yes, figure out the best way to make that offer to your customer or client, so they get maximum value from the result.
It should be so good they can only see this as an opportunity – not just because it’s got some fast-action deadline slapped on it…
But instead, because you/your product really can help them get to where they want to be – and their investment is simply the next natural step to follow towards that success.
So, as an entrepreneur, Saas startup or freelancer, where should you start thinking about upserving your customers the right way, so they leave (or better, return) feeling like they struck a bargain?
There’s a couple of basic rules you should follow when deciding on what to offer…
The basics for effective upserving:
For Saas startups, think about:
- Your customer’s needs – what can you offer them that makes their life easier, or their use of the app more effective? And…
- Their use of the app so far – indications of their likely interest in an additional opportunity, perhaps triggered by achievements or unlocking of features no accessible to less frequent users. We’re all motivated by signs of progress – so rather than just sending out the same offer to all users after 30 days, say, why not reward loyal users with features they’re more likely to enjoy?
Neil Patel wrote an excellent post about Saas startups and their specific upselling challenges on the Crazy Egg blog recently.
Freelance consultants: be careful to choose the right time and medium for your upserve offer – if you’ve developed a good working relationship with a client, you don’t want to sleaze it up with inappropriate upselling.
So to avoid ‘frightening the horses’, you should focus on:
- Your client’s individual needs – as someone who deals with each client directly, you have more opportunity to understand the needs of the people who hire you. Try to build some flexibility into your standard upserving offer, that allows you to include something related to a specific goal each client has in mind. Remember to make your upserve offer relevant to the service you performed initially, too.
- Emphasizing what’s in it for them – demonstrate to the client how you’re able to help them meet their goals. Remind them of the positive results your work together has already generated, and link that to how you think you’re able to upserve them further in some way. This shouldn’t be about you and your goals – always keep it super-focused on their needs, and make it clear you’re available to help if they choose, without being pushy.
Be raw-to-the-bone honest with yourself during the upsell creation process:
If you were to switch positions with your customer at this point, would you be happy or not?
Here’s Dan Pink again:
Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.
Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.”
‘Elevate what you can do for them.’
Sounds like a nice idea.
This way lies happy customers, ethical marketing and repeat business – whether you’re selling $5 apps or $5k consulting.
Because it’s great when people buy from you, sure…
But it’s a million times better when they actually like it.
Like Jason Leister of The Incomparable Expert says:
Selling isn’t something you do to someone, it is something you allow to happen…
This is how the sales process goes to me.
It is the process of connecting a solution with a problem in a way that makes the finder of the solution HAPPY to have found it, even after they walk away.”
And that’s our goal, right there – whether we’re serving someone for the first time or the fiftieth.