Upselling on the Phone
The underlying philosophy of Omaha Steaks’ successsful telemarketing operation is: “I don’t have the right to determine when you’re done buying.” And that’s a good way to look at upselling on the phone. Instead of thinking of it as pushing extra product at your customers, present it as a customer service, suggests Ron Bruggeman, director of sales at Omaha Steaks International, a cataloger and direct marketer that operates its own call center.
For inbound telemarketing operations, Bruggeman says that means almost every caller is a prospect. He explains, “It makes sense: You have a captive audience of people who called you. They’re in the mood to buy.”
Telemarketing consultant Liz Kislik agrees—when it comes to generalized consumer merchandise like apparel or food. But, she adds, there are times when you have to be more selective about who to upsell. “More matching is required for high-end or business-to-business telesales,” notes Kislik, who operates Liz Kislik Associates in Valley Stream, NY.
Bruggeman says he considers upsell/cross-sell offers similar to having impulse items at the grocery-store checkout aisle. Here’s an example of how a conversation might go with an Omaha Steaks buyer, Bruggeman says: “If the customer orders six steaks, we try to upsell him to 12. If that’s OK, then we say why not cross-sell six burgers. If the customer says OK to that, again, say why not up it to 12 burgers?”
The sale keeps going until the customer indicates he’s done buying, Bruggeman notes, adding this is where TSR listening skills come into play. “When the rep gets the message that the buyer is done buying, then it’s time to end the call—not before.”
Reps Need the Right Mindset
According to Kislik, telephone reps need to understand that it’s part of their job to make these upsell or cross-sell offers. The problem, Kislik says, is that most inbound reps don’t believe their job is to sell anything. So in terms of training, the upsell/cross-sell aspect of the job should be presented as part of being “helpful and giving service to the customer.” Kislik says it’s important to stress to the TSR that the choice to buy is up to the customer.