Monday, February 22, 2016

Inside Sales in Tough Times

If restaurants can upsell, why can’t we?

After a whirlwind trip around the country and a couple dozen meals in places ranging from pizza to posh, I want to share an observation:  Restaurants know how to upsell.

From the lowly “do you want fries with that?” to the more sophisticated and expensive, “at least let me show you our dessert tray,” food service folks have created a culture of upselling.

Aside from the pounds I’ve managed to pack on, I wanted to gain something from the experience.  How can restauranteers train surly teenagers making minimum wage to automatically upsell when we struggle to convince professional, commissioned inside salespeople to do much more than say “thank you” and push forward?

Thinking back, I don’t recall a single moment of agitation caused by this constant upsell campaign.  When poorly done, I simply smiled and said “no, thank you.”  But, getting back to the dessert tray, I was actually glad I was re-sold.

Distributors encouraging their inside sales or customer service teams to upsell, add-on sell, or otherwise pro-actively impact business, always get pushback.  Typically, complaints fall in to five major categories:

  1. My customers don’t want to be sold.
  2. Our products don’t lend themselves to upselling because they are too technical, too expensive, too bulky, etc.
  3. Our people don’t know what to recommend as an add-on.
  4. Our inside/customers service people don’t know how to sell.
  5. Our customer service/inside people revolt whenever we ask them to sell.
Our attempt at an upsell...

A few weeks ago we wrote “Tough Times Call for Tough Love.”  I believe now is the time to determine why your team isn’t upselling.  If your company falls into category five, something needs to change.

Some Thoughts on Starting
Start simple.  Instead of asking for a product sale, ask if the customer is aware of some new program, training event or if they receive the company newsletter.

Develop a list of add-on, lower cost commodities.  For example, electrical distributors might want to consider asking for wire markers or the multi-color tape used for identifying cables.

If your computer system allows for “suggested other products,” invest in populating the data fields for your top 200 items sold.  

Hold a weekly “Inside Sales Huddle” to reinforce the need for add-on sales.  Ask each rep to share their successes.  Talk about the customer value of properly done suggested sales. 
Here are a couple of topics to discuss with your team:

  1. The phrase “Would you like to supersize that order?” has been estimated as generating over $1.3 Billion in added sales.
  2. Amazon recommends additional products (add-on sales) by saying “customers who bought this item also bought…” and lists other products.
  3. The young lady in Chicago who suggested that I “just look at the dessert tray” ended up adding $14 to my bill.
    You'll notice these are all examples of painless ways to upsell.  They are not forced, but rather have a natural flow.

We need to begin the journey now…
Times are getting tough.  I just read a great report on the Electrical Trends Blog indicating the electrical market is trending downward for the first time in seven years.  For years, distributors have talked about getting started in with upselling.  A few have been successful.  Most have simply allowed the topic to wither on the vine.  Now is the time to make it happen.


David Gordon said...

Frank - thanks for the mention (the link didn't work but people can go to

I agree regarding the need for up-selling. And many times it isn't upselling (which for salespeople has a negative connotation). It is reminding customers of what you offer ... and many times they realize that they do want / need something.

In looking at your list of "excuses" of why companies don't do, I thought, "the last 3 issues are training issues." For the kid in the restaurant (and especially at McDonalds!), they are "trained" to ask those questions; it is "scripted"; and it is an expectation. Could we say those occur in distribution? Do companies let their salespeople manage them or does management need to manage the salespeople? If more companies had a metric management culture, would performance change?

Thanks for the thoughts.

The Distributor Specialist said...

Many thanks for the comment. The link is now fixed. I recommend Electrical Wholesalers read the fine work laid out on your blog.

You are correct, much of this is about training. Not just one and done training but continuous ongoing training for everyone within the distributor organization.

Priyanka Sekar said...

Thanks for sharing this Informative content. Well explained. Got to learn new things from your Blog on SAP SD


This post is like able, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations. Deer Meat cuts in Pennsylvania