You know when you go to a fast food place and they ask if you want fries with that? That’s called an upsell. They already have you hooked on one product… so why not try to sell you two? Incremental sales are huge in retail, for obvious reasons. If you can get each monthly customer to spend $5 per month… that’s a pretty awesome boost!
I’ve worked as a sales associate, in management and in marketing. So I know why upsells work and I know they’re a good thing, from a business perspective. Upsells don’t annoy me, in theory. Fries with my burger? Sure. Helmet with my bike? Why not. But when a company tries to sell me something illogical, I find myself rather annoyed. I have two different examples to talk through today- I’m sure you can think of many from your own life.
Scenario 1: The Clumsy Upsell The other day, I found myself at a shoe store, trying to buy a new pair of flats. While one saleswoman went to find me another size, the second tried to sell me a shoe tree. When I asked her to explain the benefits, she said it helps stretch the shoes. I asked if the shoes needed to be stretched. She admitted that no, that particular pair really didn’t need stretching. Um… so… why are you trying to sell me a shoe tree then? If you can’t articulate a logical benefit, you’re not going to get me to buy it. She had probably been instructed to sell shoe trees and was trying to do what she was told. But it made no sense! I’m sure the pitch works on someone- but not me!
Scenario 2: Wrongly Targeted Ads Businesses today have access to a great amount of data- but they don’t always use it wisely. AARP- I’m looking at you. If you’re able to get my name and address so you can send me a membership application, can’t you pay to get my age? Because then you’d know not to bother. And then there’s my cell phone company. I get many, many texts from them advertising unlimited data plans. But the thing is… I already have an unlimited data plan. And they, of all people, should know that. I pay them for it! That information is somewhere in their database. Why aren’t they using it?
I’m not arguing that the upsell should go away, because I know that’s illogical in itself. What irritates me isn’t the upsell itself: it’s when people misuse the technique. The next time I hear a really creative upsell, I think I’m going to congratulate the sales clerk on a job well done.