Summer 2016
How to Upsell During the Holidays

Want to up-size your profits during the holiday season; or for that matter any time a customer visits your shop? Upselling is the no-brainer way to increase sales and profits instantly. The good news is that it’s not difficult if you know what you are doing. “We approach upselling during the holidays the same way we approach it throughout the year. Upselling is easy when you think about it as helping the customer: What else do they need to have the best experience with the items they are buying?” says Linda O’Boyle, a retail owner in Syracuse, NY. If you want to make the most of the coming holiday season, you should put a plan together now to increase your chance of upselling. Use the best practices compiled below to create and implement your upselling strategy.

Add qualified staff

Hiring experienced sales-people to staff your shop is one of the most important steps to increasing upselling. Liran Bracha, Vice President of Guru Retailing of Doral, FL, says he finds it best to hire employees that are motivated, want to learn, and want to make money. Begin looking for qualified salespeople now, even if you do not start them until the holidays. What’s going to attract good people? Good money, of course. Bracha offers his employees bonuses and commission. Randy Torban, Director of Sales and Strategy for Nova Point of Sale in Miami, FL, recommends paying staff on a step commission plan. For example, a specialty retail staffer who makes $1 to $500 in sales would receive 5 percent commission, but could earn 7 percent for sales of $501 to $1,000, and 10 percent for sales of $1,000 and up.

The right presentation

The way you you present an upsell opportunity to your customer is important. O’Boyle says, “When a customer is ready to make a purchase, we never ask, ‘Are you all set?’ Instead, we quickly look at what they have chosen and make a suggestion that makes sense as an add-on sale. A simple ‘Did you see this?’ is an easy way to suggest an appropriate additional item without being perceived as pushy.”

Another important presentation tactic is to include a well-chosen, popular product—maybe two, if you have room—at the cash wrap. O’Boyle says she’s had a great deal of success with this strategy. “I wanted to add 20 percent to our average transaction price of $40, so I chose a product with a price point of $7.99 (20 percent of our average $40 sale) and put it at the checkout. We made talking about and demonstrating this product part of the checkout process; it was easy to do. The extra sales really added up.”

A break on pricing

The next tool you can exploit is your pricing. Torban says that if retailers have a firm understanding of their margins, they can make pricing negotiable to a point that they are still making money but leaving their customers with the victorious feeling of getting a good deal. Torban says his ultimate secret to upselling is offering additional products to customers and giving them a discount so that they leave the sale feeling like they got what they wanted for less than retail price. O’Boyle suggests a similar strategy: offering good, better, best products. “Show them three choices of what they are looking for at three price points, and discuss the features and benefits of each,” she says. “Customers appreciate choices that show them what is available in the next higher price point, and more often than not they will choose the higher-priced alternative.”

To make a discount pricing strategy work, Torban says it’s essential to provide your staff with the knowledge and tools they need to do this, and train them to present information to your customers in a professional manner. For example, a cosmetics specialty retailer can attract shoppers with an age-defying lotion and then upsell the customer to purchase the serum that goes along with it, offering a 20 percent discount if the customer buys the two products in one transaction. The sales person can also encourage repeat buying by offering a $20 gift card toward the customer’s next purchase. If the salesperson knows the margins and the discounts they can offer while still making a profit, he or she will be effective at upselling.

Training your employees

Take time before the holiday season kicks off to train your staff on upselling. Inform them about your pricing strategies and merchandise, and make sure they understand the commission structure. “Detailed product knowledge is key to the success of retail sales associates who excel in upselling products and promoting add-on purchases. I encourage retail sales training that includes each staff member familiarizing themselves with every single new product, identifying similar products, alternative uses and locating complementary products already in-store,” says Becky Tyre, retail consultant, speaker and Founder/Editor of the Retail Details blog.
Train your staff on how to greet everyone who enters your shop and create a rapport with your customers. Modern sales is very much about creating a relationship with the customer. “A good salesperson is a conversationalist,” Tyre says. “Open-ended questions identify what the customer wants, why they need it and how a better product will address both.” Spend time modeling and rehearsing the best questions and best answers with your sales team. It will pay off during the upcoming holiday season and beyond!

Get technical

Take advantage of the technology available to you. Many POS systems, like the Nova POS system, have upsell suggestions built into the software. Check to see if your POS has this capability, and get it up and running if it’s not already. If you need to upgrade or replace your POS system, now is the time.

The success of this coming holiday season is in your hands. With just a few improvements like a well-trained, commissioned staff; better upsell merchandising; and the technology needed to upsell better, you will have the opportunity to make this holiday season the best yet.

Melissa M. Kellogg

Melissa M. Kellogg is a freelance writer specializing in small business, marketing, social media and retail business management. She is based in Edwards, CO, and is a regular contributor to GIFT SHOP magazine. Her work has also been published in various newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Mexico
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