Upsell, Baby, Upsell

Josie Leavitt -- July 7th, 2009

This is a quick post about the art of upselling. Upselling means getting customers to buy a little more than they came in for. As I told my staff, if we can get six customers to buy one more $15 book or toy, that’s almost a hundred dollars more towards the store’s bottom line. Do this every day and you’re suddenly having a month that’s three grand better than it would have been.

Upselling isn’t hard selling. There’s no buyer’s remorse involved — that should never happen at any store. Customers should leave content and happy with their purchases, not feeling queasy because they bought too much, or bought the wrong thing.

Upselling is asking questions and knowing your stock. A grandmother was in the store yesterday and she had been offered help and said she was okay. I came in and saw her and asked if she was finding everything. The fact that she was going book by book in the transportation section let me know she had only a rough idea of what she wanted. She said, yes. I pressed gently, "How old is the child?" Well, they were her grandsons ages three and four and she wanted a book they could share, but didn’t know what the family already had. I suggested a truck matching game that we had four of, that’s great but wasn’t selling. She bought that, as well as a truck hardcover. If I hadn’t mentioned it, she would have never found the matching game or been really happy about it. And then, because she bought two things for them, she bought two things for her granddaughter.

Another family came in yesterday looking the picture of summer: a mom and three sons. The older boy found something right away, but the little guy was having a hard time. He was offered help, but shyly said no. His mom had tried to get him to choose a book. Finally, the family was checking out, and this little guy looked so sad. I asked him, "Are you sure you don’t want a book?" He looked at his mom and she nodded it was okay. Well, now the whole family got involved, telling me what he liked last month and how well he reads. I gave him The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and he took it and looked pretty happy about. Then I remembered A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears and ran to get it. I showed it to him and included the whole family in my little book talk. They bought that, too.

Upselling takes handselling up a level. It’s being aware that your customer is looking for something they don’t even know they want. It’s asking someone who’s buying books for other people, "What about you? Do you need a book?" Sometimes, it’s just getting them to talk more about who they’re buying for. It’s the enthusiasm and art of handselling with a keen business eye (don’t recommend things that are you’re out of) and soft touch. While I didn’t upsell six people yesterday, (I only got to four), I did earn the store about $75 more just by asking questions and listening. It was a pretty good day.

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