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How to make a good upsell

Thanks to cloud services, my hardware needs have shrunk substantially in recent years. This makes it easy to pace and plan hardware upgrades for what little hardware I have left.

However, reality sometimes gets in the way. Yesterday, my wife’s laptop died so I had to take immediate action.

It was a lesson in fulfillment, point of sale retail and how to make a good upsell, or not.

Bad upsells undermine trust

Every time I update Java, the Oracle-owned technology’s installer offers to install the “Ask Toolbar” as an option.

The default is “Yes, install the Ask Toolbar” and may also ask to change your home page to the Ask search engine page. My guess is that Doug Leeds (CEO of Ask) doesn’t even use Ask as his home page.

According to three different independent references in Wikipedia, the Ask Toolbar is considered malware: “ is noted for a malware toolbar that can be surreptitiously bundled in with legitimate program installations, and which generally cannot be easily removed from most common browsers once installed.

Every time I update Adobe Flash Player, the Adobe-installer offers to install McAfee anti-virus. Naturally, the default is “Yes, install MacAfee.”

Since Microsoft bought Skype, the Skype installer now asks to switch your default browser, switch your default search engine and install a browser plugin that changes what happens when you click on a phone number. Of course, “Yes, please make all those changes.” is the default.

In all three cases, these defaults are the last thing you want to do.

The point is that these actions give the impression that these companies are willing to damage their reputations (and our computers) and undermine any trust we might have in them by injecting these out-of-context (or damaging) upsells into the process of using their products.

Why bad upsells annoy us

As long as we’re paying attention, these things are easy to bypass and only take a moment to do so. Anytime we’re installing software on a computer, the prudent user should be paying attention. We should not be clicking through the install to “just get it over with”, yet many do exactly that and find themselves victims of these unscrupulous install processes.

They amount to bad upsells.

These situations annoy us because they change our experience with the vendor’s product and make us be on our guard at a time when the vendor’s trust should be assumed – when we allow them to take brief control of our machines so their software can be updated.

It’s the worst possible time to do something to undermine trust, yet that’s exactly what these and other vendors do. It’s the worst kind of upsell, even though we aren’t being asked to open our wallets.

So how does that relate to a new laptop?

Good upsells are helpful

Deciding what to upsell is as important as the act of asking about it. When someone asks me how to make a good upsell, I suggest that they focus on being helpful.

If someone brings a couple of cases of canned drinks to the checkout stand, a helpful suggestion is “Do you need any ice?

If they bring five quarts of motor oil to the checkout, it makes sense to ask about the kind of vehicle they have so you can help them select an oil filter.

Even though we buy gifts for people all year, only jewelry stores tend to ask if if we’d like complimentary gift wrap for a purchase made January through October. Gift wrap is an upsell, even if it’s free.

We get distracted or forgetful in these situations by thinking beyond the moment, so the right kind of upsell can save us time, fuel, frustration and embarrassment by reminding us about important but briefly forgotten items.

As with any marketing, you should test your upsell to see what works so you can stop doing what doesn’t. A better ice question might be “Do you have enough ice to keep these cold all day?“, but you won’t know this unless you test different questions and measure the results.

Does the upsell help the customer remember something that compliments their purchase? Does it help them make the purchase more effective, more productive, more valuable to them?  Does the upsell build trust or undermine it?

Bottom line: Does it help them?

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*Which* fries do you want with that?

So I’m on Amazon to pick up a copy of “Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives“.

Like any good salesperson would, the Amazon cart reminds me…

“Wait! You need to add $5.23 to your order to qualify for FREE Super Saver Shipping”.

Fair enough. But what would fit that bill?

Amazon shows me a few things in my “Saved items — to buy later” list and it also shows me some things that other people bought when they bought this book.

But it doesn’t show my Amazon Wishlist.

And it doesn’t show me the most recent items on my Wishlist (or Saved Items) that cost $5.23 or more.

You know the thought process: If I need to spend $5.23 to get free shipping (worth about $5), I’m going to be more willing to spend $5.23 than I am $15.23.

So why don’t they show me those items that are most likely to get me over the edge?

Now, put on that Amazon hat and look around your store or your online shop.

What can you do to push them over the edge and make it easier to buy?

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Don’t Shoot the Photographer

Last week I was talking with some friends about shooting weddings. Everyone in the conversation has a strong interest in photography, often concentrating on different subjects and all are at different stages in their photography life.

One of the guys mentioned that there was a nationwide event called “A Million Little Pictures” where small one-use cameras will be used all over the U.S. to document the summer of 2009. In September, the photos will be brought together to form a single exhibit in Atlanta and one other city.

During this conversation, I mentioned to the guy whose wedding photography business is taking off that he shouldn’t be surprised to find these on every table at a wedding. It’s been done for a good while, at least a decade, even now that digital has take over.

Someone else said a future wedding they will be attending is going to have digital point and shoot cameras on the tables with a central docking station to print small prints on photo paper embossed with the bride and groom’s name.

And then it came: Someone mentioned that another wedding photographer they know feels that is a direct attack on the professional photographer’s profits.

He doesn’t get it.

That was my comment about the other wedding photographer thinking point and shoots were cutting into their profits.

After some brief discussion, someone asked why I said that.

First, a couple of obvious reasons.

The wedding is about the bride and groom and their families, not the photographer.

The photography that comes from tabletop amateur one-use digital or film cameras is going to be at least a level of magnitude weaker than the quality of the shots the professional will produce. Different enough in quality that even an amateur will be able to see the difference.

This amateur photography will cover plenty of things that the photographer could miss. Not important stuff to the wedding party and the families, but fun for the guests.

At a wedding attended by 100 (much less 500) people, the photographer or photographers can only be so many places and most of that will be focused on their primary duty: making sure they get “those shots”.

You know, the shots that you have to have if you expect the mother of the bride to speak to you after the wedding day, much less place a big print order.

The mother and the families aren’t going to order 20″ x 30″ wall sized prints of their casual point and shoot shots. They might order an album of 4″ x 6″ copies of them, but so what? You’ve got formal portrait and album orders.

Focus on the high margin stuff.

Smarter than the average bear

Arguing with the bride’s family about these fun amateur photos is a great way to lose a client. Instead, be the only one who doesn’t make a fuss about these cameras, get the job and do it right. If you do, these casual, shot from the hip images can be the icing on the cake.

The thinking photographer can use these one-time cameras as another source of print and product sales by offering to simplify the post-wedding task of dealing with hundreds of photos – and print them using your print/order systems.

The primary photographer doesn’t need to spend hours editing these shots. Worst case if you feel the need to do that, it can be outsourced to an intern. Print orders of this nature can be offered via your online portrait store, automating the print process and making it easy for out of town guests to get the prints they want.

Photographers can take advantage of these amateur shots by offering to include them in unique products to purchase as part of their print order. Most of these print orders will be for small prints, so the quality from one shot cameras will be sufficient.

Photographers looking for an edge can provide the digital one-shot cameras to the wedding guests as part of a higher end wedding coverage package. Little things like a one-shot digital camera on every table can get you that coverage upsell. It doesn’t have to be logical to upgrade, it just has to be a big enough carrot.

A unique edge that a confident photographer will use with their branding on the cameras while their competitors complain about those same cameras “taking their profit”.

One last benefit…

Offer a DVD of the images to every guest. Make the price whatever makes sense to you (or include it in your coverage package), but low enough that 100% of them take it. They just paid you to put them on your newsletter mailing list.

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Coffee: The new “Do you want fries with that?”

Mystical station
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jsome1

Anyone who has studied business or marketing for any period of time has looked at the impact that one sentence has had on McDonald’s.

It gets used in sales training every single day because almost everyone is familiar with that upsell. In some cases, it has become a punch line. The increment on each sales transaction was minor, but it adds up store-wide in a big hurry.

The “new black” in MickeyD upsells is moving people to a McCafe coffee drink. Bet on it to be HUGE financially for McDonald’s, even if it is primarily a get-it-and-go sale.

I suspect Ronald McDonald knows better than to think his stores are going to be the next “thirdplace”. Still, with a new upsell of $2.50 to $3.50 to their average transaction, there’s a big payoff.

Thirdplaces can relax, just a tiny little bit

I don’t expect it to hurt Starbucks and independent coffee shops all that much because they tend to be a thirdplace: a meeting place, an escape from the office, a hangout with friends, a place to meet clients and the like.

However, the new McCafe habit could easily impact the drive-up coffee kiosks that saturate street corners and unused parking lot areas nationwide – particularly if they don’t stand out with outstanding service and great coffee.

Having a good reason to drive past McDonald’s wouldn’t hurt their case.

For example, one of the coffee shops here stands out by having a cowgirl theme. The ladies in the kiosk dress like cowgirls (modern day, but still), their branding is Western cowgirl oriented and it flows nicely across their entire business – including their catering trailer. I know people who drive miles across town past 3 or 4 other kiosks just to get coffee from the cowgirl drive-ups.

That’s what standing out will do for you.

I was kidding about the relax thing. Relax? Are you nuts? 🙂

Starbucks just sells coffee.

Look closely at your business. Is there a complementary upsell that you can add to your line of products / services?

Maybe it won’t add 50% to an average transaction like a McCafe drink can, but you should still be looking for things that your customers SHOULD be buying when they buy what they came to the store to get.

Do you let them walk out the door with plywood or 2x4s without asking about nails, screws, liquid nails and other necessities?

Do you sell them a website without asking about other business services that complement their site?

I hear it coming: “Oh, but we just do websites.” Sure. And Starbucks just sells coffee.

If their website looks like it was built with Microsoft Front Page in 1995, it’s reasonable that other aspects of their business could use a refresh as well.

Chances are there will be all sorts of inconsistencies with their stationery, business cards, and in fact their entire marketing message. They may need other help as well. Once all this new stuff rolls out, will their sales staff need training? Will their delivery people or service staff need a reboot on how they do things? Probably.

The tough question: Are you selling them a pile of HTML and graphics or are you giving them the tools they need to take their business to the next level? No one wants to buy HTML. Everyone wants to buy the magic pill that transforms their business, even if that means buying HTML along with a few other things.

Even if you don’t want to, can’t or are not interested in doing those other things, you can always find someone you trust who *can* do them.

Save them from themselves

Remember, an upsell doesn’t have to be an extra. It might be what saves that customer an extra trip back to the store (or worse, to a competitor’s store). It might be what they REALLY TRULY NEED.

Save them money. Save them time. Make sure they have everything they need before they hit the road. I guarantee they’ll remember it if you start saving them return trips to the store, regardless of how much extra they spend during that first trip.