What is Upselling? (And 7 Steps to Becoming an Upselling *Machine*)

There are a lot of benefits to upselling. 

In the short term, it makes your business more profitable. 

In the long term, it can increase the average lifetime value of customers. (Which also makes your business more profitable.)

Upselling is great. Existing customers already trust your business; convincing them to spend a little extra can be far easier than getting entirely new customers through the door. 

You just need to highlight the right products at the right time… 

That’s not always easy – but we’re going to look at 7 tried and true techniques that will make your upselling as effective and as sustainable as possible.

In this post:

First, what is upselling?

Upselling is a sales technique that aims to increase the value of a transaction.

You see this when:

  • A software company convinces existing customers to upgrade their plan.
  • An ecommerce store increases the average basket value by promoting related products at the checkout.
  • A supermarket stuffs their checkouts with candy to increase last-minute impulse purchases.

All of these techniques can massively increase revenue for a nominal investment. 

But remember –  it’s easier to upsell when your customer base already trusts your business.  

loyal customers

How to upsell effectively in a contact center

Upselling isn’t always done well. 

If you’re trying to push products that your customers don’t really need, you’ll probably annoy them… a lot!

Customer-facing teams need to know:

  1. What to upsell. (Related products, often small or inexpensive add-ons.)
  2. When to upsell. (When a good deal is closed or as good as closed.)
  3. Who to upsell. (Happy customers, engaged in positive dialogue.)

7 steps to effective upselling

#1 Get to know your customers

You can’t even think about upselling without a strong understanding of your customers and their needs. 

84% of business buyers are more likely to buy from you if it’s clear that you understand their goals.  

Help yourself out by creating customer profiles for each segment that you target. 

Your segmentation should include the issues customers struggle with and the upsell opportunities that match. 

In the contact center, agents can use this information to spot upsell opportunities; you just need to make sure they can access that data. 

That’s easy to do – start by integrating your contact center software with your CRM.

That way, when an existing customer calls the vital data can pop right up on the agent’s screen. 

Bingo… instant sales intelligence!

customer loyalty

#2 Create upsell offers that people love

So, you know your customers. 

Now you just need the offers that will stick in their brains… 

Most effective sales teams test and refine a lot of different offers. 

Take MGM Resorts in Las Vegas for example. 

They were looking for ways to raise bookings among existing customers, so they created various packages and started offering them to different segments. 

Their most effective offer brought in 180% more bookings than the control offer. 

That strategy brought in millions of dollars, but money wasn’t the only gain; they also got a clearer understanding of what their customers really wanted.  

sales processes

#3 Sell to the people who are ready to buy…

Knowing *when* to upsell is vital. 

Trust is the main issue at stake here, so it’s often easier to upsell with customers who have been with you for longer. 

The same is true of customers who have already committed to an ongoing purchase, or provided sterling feedback scores

Customer journey mapping comes in handy because it can reveal the stages in any given journey where opportunity will arise.

But hey, does any of this actually matter? 

Can’t you just try selling to everyone and let them decide whether or not they’re buying?

Sure… up to a point. 

The issue is the sustainability of your upselling. 

Customers aren’t stupid. They don’t mind spending more if they’re getting something of real value, but if you’re nakedly trying to max out their credit card you’ll damage that relationship.

Active listening is a great technique for developing an ‘in-the-moment’ understanding of whether customers are open to buying more. 
A more tech-focused option is to use Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to spot when a customer is open to upselling.

customer experience

#4 Start your upsell from ‘hello’

The biggest mistake any salesperson can make is ‘going into sales mode’.

Customers can always tell – and they never like it!

The only consistently successful way to sell to people is to be human. What people want is to buy from companies – from people – they already connect with. 

The experience has to be positive. Salesforce recently found that 91% of customers will make repeat purchases from a company after a positive service experience. 

They explicitly rule out ‘feeling like a sales target’.

80% of customers said service experience was just as important as the company’s product. 
On the other hand, if you fail to provide an excellent service, customers are ruthless! 25% of them will immediately sever a relationship when customer service is lacking.

repeat customers

#5 Add sales to outbound service calls

Legislation has made cold calling a lot harder in recent years. 

Although that disrupted a lot of business’s sales activity, it’s not entirely a bad thing. 

For one thing, it means that a lot of outbound contact centers have focused more on existing customers. 

The relationship is already there and the potential for upselling – as a part of high quality, outbound service – is strong. 

The increasingly popular blended contact center model is especially effective as it allows agents to handle incoming queries as well as outbound sales.

The only downside for many businesses is the cost of making calls but in reality, VoIP telephony brings those costs down to almost nothing. 

voip telephony

#6 Bring your IVR into the mix…

When it comes to IVR, all contact centers walk a fine line. 

Why? Because a bad IVR setup can annoy the hell out of customers.

In short, the best IVR system is generally the one that customers hardly notice. 

So is it too risky to bring IVR into upselling?

Maybe not…

There are two ways that an IVR can add to upselling without negatively impacting CX. 

  • Supplying information. In this scenario, the IVR is only playing messages to customers while they wait so that they are informed. This is a prep stage for upselling that an agent will complete. 
  • Gathering information. Modern systems – especially conversational AI –  can interact quite naturally with customers and collect data that will inform further sales decisions. 

For either approach, it’s important that you have a fully configurable IVR system. Bottom line – you need the option to define what happens in IVR and update that at any time. 

You should also look at integrating your CRM so that the data your IVR gives out or gathers is relevant to the customer and goes on file. 

lead management

#7 Know when to stop

You won’t successfully upsell every time, and it’s better to stop early than to upset customers. 

Take the following example:

The Harvard Business Review describes how a B2B supplier monitored customer spending and based upselling opportunities on this. 

But the system didn’t consider seasonal spending reductions. The business’s reps spent time contacting its clients about sales they had zero interest in. They didn’t generate revenue… but they did frustrate their customers!

Upselling is ultimately about understanding your customers and providing them with useful offers when they need them. 

But putting in place good upselling processes isn’t the only way to improve your contact center.

For more tips and advice, download your guide to contact center automation now.

Get the eBook now:

Contact Center automation