Why It’s So Hard To Get Retail Employees To Upsell – And How To Get Them To Do It Anyways
By Bob Phibbs
I was buying a small electronic item when the cashier asked me, “Do you want to buy the extended warranty?” I replied, “No.” She then continued, “I didn’t think so but my boss makes me.”
While that isn't an example of upselling, that is the germ of why employees don’t upsell.
It’s like their parents saying, Clean up your room or Mow the lawn. No one likes to be told what to do.
Rarely does anyone connect the dots – that retail manager to the part-time employee, or the parent to the child about why they should do it.
We’ll leave parenting for someone wiser than me…but just saying, because I told you to doesn’t work.
Upselling is taking someone from a bargain, sale, or standard product to a similar one that has more features. That means to a better product that delivers more benefits to the shopper.
The upsell item should make life more convenient, deliver better results, or have less maintenance. And yes, it costs more too.
Before you try to figure out how to dialogue with your employees about upselling, a caveat…
If your hiring process is little more than what shifts can you work, you’re screwed.
You don’t care about them. They won’t care about you. They’ll begrudgingly do what you tell them, but don’t expect their frontal-cortex brain to engage in creative ways to get customers to buy something better than what they came in for.
On top of that, employees who figuratively are only there because they can fog a mirror probably have few social skills and don’t give a wit about your job much less your KPIs.
All they want is the extra money to buy video games or go to the Cheesecake Factory.
So the first way to get more upsells is to upgrade your employee selection.
Ask them during their potential employee interview if they know what upselling means. Ask if they have been trained on how to do it. Ask if they like to do it and if so, why. If they don’t know what it is, give them an example.
The crucial point in getting more upselling is to be able to get your retail sales people to see that they upsell themselves all the time.
Start with something you know they use or do.
If they come in with a Starbucks cup, ask them what drink they have and its price. Challenge them a bit. Say it is a Zombie Frappuccino that cost $4.50. Ask them why they purchased that instead of just getting a Slurpee at 7-11 for half the price. Then let them know they upsold their selection on novelty, Instagrammability, or taste.
Whatever you are showing them to upsell, make it clear you’re just doing what they, as shoppers, do on their own.
You could do the same if you are a salon and ask what your stylists use to shampoo their own hair. If they already use your brand, ask if they use a conditioner and how often. Challenge them a bit. Ask why not just buy something from the grocery aisle with a coupon? They upsold themselves based on performance and their own knowledge of haircare.
Then make the point their clients don’t have that knowledge and not upselling them to a system of haircare means they walk around looking less than their best. And that affects how much they return to your stylist for more work.
In that case, upselling is also smart marketing.
Whatever you sell, you need to make it clear upselling is part of everyday life – all you’re asking is for your team members to proactively help shoppers who are just like them.
Finally remember that if you do not buy products in different qualities – say a black dress for $75, $150, and $300 - or a bike for $500, $1000 and $1500 it will be very hard to upsell.
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