Upselling is partly art, partly science, which requires a fine mixture of business know-how, intuition and relationship building. It looks different in every industry, but the basic principles always apply.
Upselling may be easier to handle in times of booming business, but how can you upsell in times of economic uncertainty – more specifically now in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19.
Sure, it would be easy to throw in the towel in such difficult times, but companies that can strategically and compassionately talk about business development in economic challenges will, on the other hand, do it well.
First: The Basics of Upselling
Although it can seem daunting, upselling is actually one of the easiest and least expensive ways to generate additional revenue.
Selling more products and services that you already offer to customers you already know and trust (Quadrant 1 in the following graphic) is much less time and cost intensive than building your business by building new offers (Quadrant) 2) win new customers or enter new industries (Quadrant 3) or create new offers for new customers (Quadrant 4).
Consider these other intangible assets for successful upselling:
Position the upsell in a wider work area. How does it fit in with what you're already doing? How will it expand the current scope?
Plant the idea early in the relationship, along with a dose of helpful training so customers see you more as a trusted advisor than an intrusive salesperson.
Position the upsell in relation to a current marketing problem or business challenge that your customer is experiencing.
Show realistic projections of incremental results that you think you can help your customers with, ideally based on other customer successes.
Five Tips for Upselling in Times of Uncertainty
1. Be sensitive to the needs of the market
During recessions or other periods that create uncertain economic conditions, most companies are unwilling to spend on strategic planning projects or neat projects. Many will need short-term strategies to address the current situation and results that will keep the business going.
How can you adapt your offers to the immediate requirements of your customers? If you can support them (and delight them even more) in difficult times, they are likely to be more receptive to your future upsell ideas – when the time is right.
Be patient and flexible.
2. Speaking of flexibility: be ready to bend the rules
Regardless of how much you adjust or modify your offers, there will be customers who are simply unable to buy. and some may even have to cut your existing contracts or service contracts.
This point is more of a relationship building tactic than an instant upselling tip. But since relationships are the key to upsells, it fits: be ready to change the rules a little for your customers who are having trouble, provided you can afford to do so. You may end up helping them survive, which in the long run will be much more profitable for you than closing their doors.
People will remember how you treat them in difficult times, and they will likely pay you back with loyalty. Building goodwill doesn't hurt.
3. Identify customers who are doing well …
Use any sales data or market research to understand which of your customers survive or even thrive in uncertain times.
Put on your business development hat and try to understand how you can support it. Although a company is doing well financially, its employees are likely to be stressed and possibly overworked. Ask your contacts how you can make their lives easier.
4. … and those who are not
There is not much you can do to get an immediate upsell to customers who are no longer spending on their offers. Instead, contact a connection and ask how you can support them when business is back to normal.
Not only does this ensure that your relationship is in good shape, it also helps your company prepare for the slower times so that you are not overwhelmed by a flood of new purchases or inquiries when the sky clears.
5. Double your value support
If you really differ from your competition, now is the time to show it.
Are you a technology company dedicated to quickly solving real-time problems? Put your processes to the test.
Are you a service organization that prides itself on being the fastest or most comprehensive in your field? Go the extra mile.
Wrong props will collapse in stressful times. People can now see through the BS more clearly.
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In uncertain times, re-focus on your minimal viability market (the one audience you need to reach) and minimal viability marketing (the cheapest way to reach them) to keep your costs down and your profitability low to keep high.