Upsell, Baby, Upsell

Josie Leavitt - July 7, 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.

7 thoughts on “Upsell, Baby, Upsell

  1. Lukas

    It can always backfire on you as well. There is an art of the upsell. I have run screaming from a few stores when it turned into agressiveness…guess you are better at it than many.

  2. T.A.

    I like talking to people who know a lot about books, so I’m sure I would enjoy talking to you while I was shopping. I often know what I want, but sometimes I don’t. And I do like hearing about new goodies.

  3. Spellbound

    I guess this goes in the category of upselling. Our avergage ticket price was a bit lower than I would have liked this spring, so I started a Summer Reading Program for Parents. (Ours is a kids-only store.)Spend $20 or more and choose a grown-up book for free. This also helps me reduce the stacks of ARCs and review copies that were making it impossible to walk through my living room!

  4. Kate Messner

    Wait…I am still stuck on the first paragraph. There are people who leave a bookstore only with the books they came for?? I am in awe of their self discipline but suspect that these are the same people who eat just one of those tiny little walnut-sized candy bars when there’s a whole dish sitting there.

  5. Alana Abbott

    That’s such a beautiful way to upsell! It is so easy to feel like you’re being pushy when you’re trying to upsell (‘Can I get you a large? It’s only 30 cents more.’). But what you’re doing sounds less like traditional upselling and more like just trying to help people find what they’re really looking for — which should be the essence of good, community oriented sales. It’s always a win when the customers go home happy!


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