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Mastering the Up-sell

September 15, 2008
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Mastering the Up-sell “The fact is, everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you need to sell.”
- Jay Abraham

Sell. Odd how such a seemingly innocuous four-letter word can strike terror in the heart of even the most grizzled carpet cleaning-company owner. (And let’s not even think about a timid young technician as he or she is pressured to up-sell their customer!) Simply put, most of us will jump through flaming hoops of fire just to avoid the dreaded selling of anything!

Yet the weird thing is, you are selling every day whether you recognize it or not. For example, as your tech greets the customer at the front door, he is (hopefully) selling himself as an experienced, competent and trustworthy individual. When you take a prospective customer’s call, you are selling yourself and your company as a caring, reliable entity. And let’s not get started on the “selling” you did on your first date with the beautiful girl who eventually became “sold” on the idea of spending a lifetime married to you!

All of these sales situations are easy simply because they depend on indirect selling. You sell through your actions and attitudes, which eventually morph into a professional relationship that automatically leads to a sale. We freeze up when we need to actually ask someone to take action based on our “sales pitch.” Then the infamous fear of rejection rears its ugly head. (So that’s why you didn’t get married till you were 34!)

In this article we’re not going to focus on selling yourself to the homeowner. If you haven’t mastered the “Emotional Dynamics” of dealing with the homeowner, you need to search the ICS archives at www.icsmag.com. Start with the words “customer cheerleader” and settle back for many hours of reading past columns of To Your Success! Instead, assuming you have already gained the confidence of your customer, let’s analyze how can you master the up-sell.

Up-selling is just tactfully promoting additional products and services to the customer while you are already working in their home. These services can either be performed right there on the job (which is more convenient for the client and simpler and cheaper for you instead of making a separate trip) or scheduled for another visit. Restaurants (appetizers, drinks and desserts), car dealers (after market options, financing, insurance, etc), appliance retailers (can you say “service contract”?) and even Wal-Mart (every cash register offers a multitude of impulse buying opportunities) all depend on up-sells for much of their net profit. You should too, especially in these difficult economic times.

And yet most carpet cleaners (assuming they don’t fall under the bait-and-switch category) do a pretty bad job of up-selling. So sad, because since you have (hopefully) already covered your overhead costs of doing the job with your basic cleaning charges, your up-sell will be almost all pure profit! Now more than ever in these challenging economic times it is essential to focus on maximizing your profits on every house you clean. Heck, you need to up-sell if only to cover your gas costs of driving to the job!

So lets avoid the traditional carpet cleaner games of seeing how much you can underbid your competitor or the incessant Internet bragging on how much you overbid him. Instead, let’s focus on dramatically increasing your net profit on each job by mastering the up-sell.

  1. Never, ever push. I don’t care how desperate you are for money. It is both morally wrong and financially counterproductive to high-pressure a customer in the inner sanctum of their home. When a stranger (and many techs are very “strange”!) is working in a residence, the homeowner inevitably feels vulnerable, trapped, anxious and very afraid. So to ignore or, even worse, manipulate these negative emotions is unethical and just plain wrong-headed.
  2. Showing interest is always a positive. An attitude of care and concern for the customer’s home goes a long way toward calming the negative homeowner emotions we uncovered in No. 1. As you interview the customer about their concerns/use of the home, additional services and products they can honestly benefit from will become apparent.
  3. Information is always appreciated. If your customer cared enough to hire a professional for their home, they will thank you for sharing ideas and tips on how to protect their furnishing or how to better maintain their flooring. Part of this information strategy should be “pre-up-selling” your customer by letting them know about your optional services before your tech ever walks onsite. Your Web site is a great way to pre-inform the client. Once you have shared maintenance ideas and tips this will logically lead to…
  4. Asking for the order with your Opening Question. Most technicians (assuming they don’t have fork marks all over their face) are fairly comfortable with the first three steps of the up-selling cycle. But due to our normal fear of rejection, when we hear the dreaded AFO acronym we freeze up. But relax; it doesn’t have to be this way. Here is the simple way to AFO with an Opening Question: “Mrs. Jones, you mentioned your concerns about the rapid re-soiling of your traffic lanes in the dining room. Have you heard about…?” These four little AFO words, “Have you heard about” take all the pressure off of you or your tech because now the customer feel in control (very important given the negative emotions of the home owner) and will usually invite you to explain the benefits of the service or product.
  5. Feature/benefit. I realize all the sales professionals reading this are yawning mightily at this sales cliché. But most carpet cleaners just assume the customer will automatically grasp the benefits of the product or service in their home. Not so! Instead, notice in this feature/benefit discussion how we spoon-feed the customer, “Have you heard about renewing your carpet protection by re-applying carpet protector? (AFO question.) When we re-apply protector it protects your carpet by surrounding each individual carpet fiber with an invisible, durable shield (Feature). So protector improves the fibers’ resistance to water and oil-based stains as well as soiling from everyday use which means that if you maintain the carpet correctly it should stay looking good longer (Benefit). I can renew your protective finish today for…” (AFO again.)
  6. Up-sell, then down-sell. Don’t ever let your greed for more money out of any one job trap you into misleading or promising too much to your customer. Much better to “under promise, over deliver.” For example, let’s return to the protective finish exchange. After the customer orders the protector, you should say, “Now Mrs. Jones, remember that any protective finish will not perform miracles. With your family and pets the carpets are still going to need cleaning. But your protected carpet should look nicer, vacuum more easily and resist permanent staining longer.” Sell up, then sell down with an honest and realistic appraisal of their situation. You are looking for a long-term relationship here, not just a quick sale.

Does all the above seem a bit over-complicated? Then let’s cut to the chase. Most carpet cleaners can double their up-sells (and triple their net profits) with just two little words: Just ask. That’s right. Think how often you left the home without even giving the customer the opportunity to spend more money with you! The choice is yours, but I always say, “All other things being equal – it is better to have money than to not have money!”

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