Upselling: Art or Obligation?

Selling successfully means enhancing your customers' experience while increasing your revenue — it’s win-win

Upselling: Art or Obligation?

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Is there really an art to upselling? When you think about being “sold to,” how do you feel? Maybe you feel mad because you assume someone is trying to take advantage of you. Maybe you just want a single product and have no desire for more, so an “upsell” is annoying. Either way, no one likes feeling trapped by a salesperson. Part of the problem is the common definition:

“Upselling is a sales technique where a seller induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale.”

Just makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

If you think about it, you’ll realize that you’re “upsold” almost every day. From the candy bars (conveniently shoved in your face) in grocery store lines to the optional built-in Wi-Fi in a new car, upselling is common practice. The point is, when done properly, an upsell will benefit the customer just as much as it benefits the seller’s bottom line — there’s nothing annoying about that.

From the salesperson’s point of view, an upsell means more revenue. Not to mention that with the right product at the right price, an upsell can truly enhance the customer’s experience. Let’s apply this logic to your sanitation business. If an upsell can truly benefit your business and the customer, it’s a win-win situation.  

Know your sales style

First, do you know the difference between cross-selling and upselling? The word upsell is applied to pretty much any instance where you suggest (or push) a product in addition to the one being purchased, but that’s not the case. Knowing the difference between upselling and cross-selling puts you at an advantage. 

Upselling is encouraging the purchase of anything that would make the primary product more expensive. For instance, a camera might come with an offer of batteries. A printer purchase might prompt the suggestion for ink.

Cross-selling is the suggestion of any other product to be purchased in conjunction with the primary product: the suggestion of a printer when a computer is purchased or a conditioner when shampoo is selected.

To choose wisely, you have to know what the customer wants and what they need. 

Why upsell?

Upselling is the lifeblood of many business models. Some companies are even willing to sell some items or services at a loss, banking on the hope of a future upsell.

You know how competitive the portable sanitation industry can be. If one company drops prices, everyone else tends to follow suit. If you want to keep up with the competition, you almost have to buy your way into the market. With lower prices come worse profit margins, but there’s hope. This is your chance to upsell. With patience and practice, you can price competitively and still increase your total sales.

For example, maybe you can knowingly take a loss on toilet rentals while upselling additional service calls or other features to help make up for the loss. It’s just one example, but you can see where I’m going with this.

The truth is, it’s hard enough to get buyers all the way to the finish line as it is. You can’t throw them off course with a suggestion from out of left field. Your suggestion has to fit the buyer’s exact needs at the very moment he or she plans to buy. Otherwise, you could lose it all.

Don’t let these facts weigh you down. These tips will help.

Try it like this

  1. Make the upsell relevant to the customer’s original purchase. If you’ve ever ordered at a McDonald’s, the cashier may have asked, “Do you want fries with that?” Fries go with burgers. Their upsell is relevant to your original purchase. So, if you sell a portable restroom, sell a portable sink and so on.
  2. Make your customers sell themselves. Do you have built-in limitations in your business plan? This is a strategy that many digital service providers use. For example, you purchase a new phone, and it comes with a data plan. The company offers more data at an upcharge, and you have to make the decision to purchase more for the added convenience. In the sanitation industry, let’s say you rent 20 toilets to a large event venue. The rental includes a single weekly service, but you inform that customer that you offer upgrades for additional cleaning and servicing, if she would like. The customer can then choose for herself, based on the experience she wants her customers to have.
  3. Keep upselling recommendations limited. When it comes to upselling, more options won’t necessarily increase the chances of a sale. It’s important to keep in mind that more choices simply generate confusion and often overwhelm consumers. Successful upsells begin with a solution to their problems, not more questions. Stick with just a few, well-targeted recommendations to maximize your shot at a successful sale.
  4. Try bundling. Bundling encourages both upselling and cross-selling. Therefore, it can be a wise idea to package items together into bundles. For example, let your customer rent a portable toilet, sink, and service with deodorizer all together in a bundle as opposed to separately as stand-alone items. The chances that a consumer will purchase all of these items increases dramatically if he or she can do so with one single purchase, as opposed to multiple purchases. This, in turn, boosts your company’s revenue. 

These are just a few tips that my experience, various Fortune 500 companies, and hours of research and training have taught me. That said, everyone has his or her own unique approach. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t upsell if you don’t know what it is or how to do it. Spend some time researching on your own, and develop your own style.

Here is a list of good sources to begin your journey:

Regardless of which strategy you implement to help your upsell technique, there’s always room for improvement. Research, practice, and raise your sanitation company’s revenue.

About the author: Joseph Hummel is the marketing manager for PolyPortables.  


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