It was two in the morning and I couldn't sleep. I was channel surfing and came across one of those late night infomercials. They were selling the Ronco 33 piece kitchen knife set for three easy payments of $13.33. And, if you ordered with your credit card right now you’d get another 33 piece knife set absolutely free – just pay shipping and handling. At two in the morning, that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I dialed the number and immediately was transferred to a sales associate.

The saleswoman, Sarah, was thrilled that I called and with the nicest tone of voice was ready to help me right away. She didn't have to do much for me to bust out my credit card but right as I was going to give her my information she paused and started to have concerns about my safety. The knives were extremely sharp and she didn't want me to get cut, so she added a wooden block that would hold my knives. How considerate of her. Except the wooden block was an extra $49.99. Ah-ha! There it was, the upsell I was waiting for. When I asked her to remove the wooden block she insisted that I keep it because it was for my own safety. She was extremely persistent and it seemed as if she really did "care". In the end I decided to purchase the wooden block so I could protect myself from my new kitchen knives. She was good.

How did this upsell actually happen? What psychological triggers were in play to help the saleswoman make the upsell? Let's take a deeper look into upsells and how consumer behavior ties into it all.

First, we'll go over a four common examples of upsells.

  1. Complimentary items: When people buys new phones, they usually buy new phone cases. Or as we saw in the example above, when people buy new kitchen knives, they usually buy wooden block holders.
  2. Purchasing more of the same product at a greater value: Ever notice at the coffee shop that the small twelve ounce coffee is two dollars but the large twenty ounce coffee is only twenty five cents more? I'm definitely going with the large coffee. How can I pass up such great value?
  3. Insurance or damage protection: We are seeing this a lot more on almost every piece of higher end technology. For example, when you buy a Macbook or iPad you have the option to purchase Apple Care. If you go to Best Buy and purchase Bose headphones you can buy two year warranty protection for an extra $50. Even Amazon offers two and five year protection on items such as furniture.
  4. Access to more exclusive content: Today, one of the most popular online business opportunities is to sell your expertise, or coaching, in the form of content (blogs, ebooks, webinars, downloads, etc). If you are about purchase an ebook on how to be a better real estate agent you probably will be directed to sign up for the entire membership site where you can get "exclusive" content to sell houses even better.

Going back to my story above, how did Sarah get me to purchase the wooden block for an extra fifty bucks? Let's go deeper into the upsell strategy so that you too can increase order value and make more money.

  1. Be patient. In my example, Sarah waited until I started reading off my credit card information then went in for the upsell. Once the customer has their pockets open and are ready to buy, they will be more willing to purchase additional items. If you try to upsell too hard before the customer is ready to purchase the original item you might scare them off and lose the sale entirely.
  2. Learn more about your customer. The more information that you get from talking to your customer, the more you know about their needs. Once you understand their needs you can upsell them more easily. Sometimes customers don't know that you offer additional products and will be happy to buy from you rather than continue their search for another vendor. Always make sure to let your customer know what options they have.

If your customer was looking to buy a new television, some good questions to ask them would be:

The answers to these questions will give you a sense of what the customer wants to do and how much they have to spend on additional items. This allows you to formulate your upsell strategy without coming across as salesy.

  1. Do the customer a favor. One of the most important things about sales is repeat customers. An easy way to have a customer come back to you is to get them to think that you are doing them a favor. One way to do this is to provide your customer with less expensive alternatives. For example, if your customer is in the market for a new flat screen you could show them a cheaper option that still has the quality of the more expensive brand. As a salesperson you could say something like, "Honestly, you could go with this other TV that is cheaper but still has all the features with the same quality. It's the one I use at home."
  2. Don't be fake. People can see right through that. Sarah was clearly reading off a script when selling me the knives, so be real with your customers. Understand the way they prefer to interact. Be yourself and connect with them in a genuine way. This is the best way to build rapport with your customers and make the sale.

With more and more sales happening over the internet these days it would be good to read about how to build better customer relationships online.

The art of selling, upselling and cross-selling is one of many trial and errors. Let us know the techniques you've found successful in the comments below!