This Sales Mistake You’re Making Is Like Throwing Away Free Money

When I first started my sales career as an overly aggressive outside salesman, we were taught to knock down doors for business, hunt out prospects, go in for the kill, and one-call close them. (Follow-ups were for losers who couldn’t close on the first date.)

In all my time on the job, I had never heard the word ‘upsell.’ Not in any of my trainings at two of the most aggressive B2B long-distance phone service reselling companies, and not in my early years as a broker. Instead, here’s how it went: Hunt them, sell them, and forget about them.

Holy shiitake, Batman. I left a lot of commission on the table.

There’s no better way to increase your monthly sales than to prospect your existing customers. You know, the ones you closed because you took the time to see what their needs were and the solution you could provide? The ones you’ve kept in touch with over time to make sure they were still shiny happy people?

If you’ve done it right, your clients will buy from you again. If you’ve treated them well and offered them solution-based recommendations, they will be open to new services or offerings because they will trust you. And if you know your customer, make an effort to keep up with them, and demonstrate your appreciation of their business, you’ll uncover new pain. You’ll either know whether a new solution you can offer would be helpful, or whether you should direct your customer to the company that can solve this pain.

If this is how you approach sales, you’ll become a partner in your clients’ businesses instead of coming off like a sales jockey trying to score an extra few bucks off your client so you can pay for the next round of drinks at happy hour. And because you’ll be trusted, you’ll actually make more money than if you simply pursued the next sale without regard for your customers’ needs.

All this is to say that upsells are not to be taken lightly.

The following scenarios are the three situations where upsells are generally appropriate:

  1. You uncover a customer’s new need because you’ve kept in contact with them, watch for news about them, and monitor their progress. You then offer them your solution.
  2. Your company releases a new product or service. Because you’ve taken the time to understand your client’s business, you know your new offering is a good fit for one of their needs you haven’t been previously solving.
  3. A client considers you a trusted advisor, and calls you with a question. When you ask them why they ran into this problem, they tell you about a challenge they’re facing, so you recommend another product your company offers to make sure they don’t have that challenge in the future.

When you are a solutions-based sales provider and a professional who knows his customer, you can dig into the treasure trove that is your hard-won client base to offer new potential solutions to people who have trusted you before. Because you’ve previously acted professionally, your customers are 99% more likely to pick up the phone when you call than 99% of the new prospects you’re trying to reach for the first time.

What do you do when your firm has a new offering? Do you go out cold and see who will buy? Or do you go to your client base first?

When I was a rookie salesman, I never would have thought of upselling, because nobody ever taught me anything different. It was “eat what you kill” that day and that day only. Tomorrow was another hunting day. “Follow-up” and “upsell” were not part of my sales lexicon.

Old-school sales teaches reps to close and move on.

But modern salespeople know that the close is just the beginning. You must deliver, follow-up, serve, and upsell (when appropriate!).

If I ever took the time to look at the additional offerings I may have been able to help my old clients implement and save some money, I would have sold them more services and made more money myself. But I didn’t understand the potential of upsells, and I only went hunting for new business — I only cared about the money going into my pocket.

Now I know that as long as I help clients save money and add value to their business, the money will take care of itself.

So who can you upsell today?

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