Face to Face: Secrets to "Selling Up"

September 16, 2002
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Residential carpet cleaning is a tough business. There is constant pricing pressure from "splash-and-dash" competitors who have no grasp of the true cost of doing business. True, these fools will eventually go broke. But it is just as true that some other idiot will rise up to replace them.

One way to fight back, and add to your bottom line at the same time, is to "sell up" over the base price of the job. Topical carpet protection, deodorization, additional rooms cleaned, upholstery and drapery cleaning, pressure washing and automobile detailing can all be incredibly profitable. After all, you are already in the home. Any extra sell-up work you book is gravy.

Keep in mind that ethical selling-up should never involve sleazy high-pressure sales tactics. Your customer has invited you into their home; to betray this sacred trust by pressuring the homeowner to buy more services is unethical, possibly illegal and it just plain doesn't work long-term. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with providing your customer with more home-care options that happen to give them the opportunity to spend more money with your company.

The secret to effective and ethical selling? Communication. You must inform your client and then ask for the order. The main reason people do not buy additional services from your company is because they do not know they exist. Here is how to help your customer give you more money.

Schedule more time
I was constantly beating on my employees to up-sell. But at the same time I would shoehorn "just one more job" into my tech's already-packed schedule. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Most technicians have no time or energy to sell, much less perform, additional service for the customer.

Try this for a week. Schedule one less job per day for your employees. If you normally book five, schedule four. If your people usually handle four homes, book three. Now develop a generous bonus schedule based on additional sales and tell your employees, "I want you to make more money while you work less." Then just watch them go.

Share the wealth
People will only change when they realize it is in their best interest to do so. You are asking your techs to change from a production mindset (banging the job out) to developing a "consultant relationship" with the homeowner. The only way they will do this is when you "show them the money" by sharing the potentially huge profits in sell-ups (carpet protection is especially profitable).

Can't afford to pay your employees much more when they sell-up in the client's home? You aren't charging enough. The great thing about sell-ups in the home is that there is no price shopping by your client. Charge enough so both you and your employee will make money.

In fact, giving a generous sell-up commission is an excellent answer to the common employee complaint, "I'm not making enough money." Now you can reply, "I'm putting you in charge of your income. Want a raise? Great! Just sell more!"

Keep the "script" simple
Many techs think selling is both difficult and complex. Not true. Teach your employees simple "opening lines" to start a conversation. For example, "Have you heard about our new carpet protector…?" or "While I'm here is there anything else…?" If your people just include these simple statements, their sell-ups (and paychecks) will skyrocket.

Give your employees some "props."
Customers have a hard time buying any service because they can't visualize the process or the results. Give your techs a sales book with before-and-after photos and testimonial letters from other clients. Include some four-color brochures that manufacturers usually provide, free of charge, for promoting their products to the homeowner.

Bonus hint: Print buttons that read "Ask me about (whatever service you are promoting)." Buttons are great sales tools that do not depend upon your tech having a sparkling personality!

Make it easy
Print up a detailed list of all your services with the prices included. This accomplishes two goals. It keeps your techs from having to remember so many things (anyone can hand the customer a price list) and you will help alleviate the customer's fear of being "variable priced," as in, "Hmmm, Mercedes in the driveway? I think I'll try them at 60 cents per foot for the Scotchgard."

Don't only depend on your people
At times your employees are still not going to communicate well. So inform your customers of additional services in other ways. For example, include your sell-up options in your advertising, your ads in the Yellow Pages, on your "moving billboards" (your vehicles) and in your direct mailings. Check out investing in recordings that list your additional services while your callers are placed on hold.

Giving your customers the chance to spend more with you helps them achieve a cleaner, healthier home. It gives your employees a bigger paycheck and hopefully a better life. And you make more, which you richly deserve, because residential carpet cleaning is a tough business!

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