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The More You Know: Upselling is Just Another Word for Educating

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iStock-525815022.jpgPeople give themselves permission to purchase through the process of education.

Pay no attention to the person who gave you a nasty look when you said, “upsell.” They’ve had a bad experience. Maybe someday they’ll find help.

For the uninitiated, or those who’ve suffered from its incorrect use, upselling is another way of describing the process of being offered and accepting extra things we don’t need. When applied correctly, upselling is a way of deepening the relationship you have with a customer by uncovering an unfulfilled need. As Martha says, it’s a good thing.

So, what is upselling, really?

It’s not a tactic. It’s a strategy—the process of selling a more expensive version of a product or service that a customer may already have or is about to buy. Most of the time, the revenue source is from extra features or an upgrade to the product.

The customer was going to buy the standard version of your product, but you upsell them to the deluxe version because not only is it 20% bigger, it comes with an extended warranty.

How is that different from cross selling?

Glad you asked. Again, it’s a strategy that results in additional revenue from a customer because you help them establish a relationship between what they’ve already decided to buy and another product or service you offer.

In both cases, you receive more revenue from the customer. And while that’s nice, the strategy of upselling creates something even more valuable. Loyalty.  


Upselling becomes that unpleasant thing that generates nasty looks when it’s done lopsidedly and incorrectly. You win, but the customer does not. Sure, it’s still an upsell—but it will probably be the last time that customer ever spends a penny with you.

Upselling must create an advantage for both the buyer and the seller. Upselling is the process of educating a customer. You tell them how they will benefit. When you educate a customer about the advantage of purchasing something they hadn’t planned to because it offers them a better value, you win because you’ve secured additional revenue—and your customer wins because they get more than they bargained for.

They’re going to give you more than just money. You’ll also receive their loyalty. That’s why upselling is a strategy. It’s preparation for future events, as well.

Discounting today to make a bigger sale tomorrow

Upselling isn’t always about high profit margins. Often the price of a product or service offered in an upsell is discounted. This is usually the case in a cross-sell. A buyer wasn’t intending to purchase the cross-sell. However, once educated on the advantage of the relation—and discovering it’s discounted…well, it’s a no-brainer for them.

Strategy makes a return engagement, here, too. The cross-sell—or even an upsell—can be an opportunity to have yet another interaction with the customer. That’s an additional chance to deepen the relationship.

Upselling is easier

According to research by the authors of the best-selling book Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance, the probability of selling to a new prospect is between 5% and 20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%.

Which odds would you rather take?

There’s no mystery about the big gap, either. The psychology of loyalty from an established relationship makes it much easier to sell again to an existing customer. What created that loyalty? Trust gained during the education process when you made the upsell.

You want X. But, if you buy Y you benefit more because you also get Z.

Effortless upselling

If you’re having a difficult time selling the more expensive version of your product service, or convincing people to buy the Y to go with their X, it’s likely because you’ve failed to educate them on the benefit. Take a deep breath and relax if you think there is a window of opportunity with a limited time.

People prefer to educate themselves. They do that by consuming the content you provide. Your relationship begins by showing them you understand their problem. It deepens as you provide more content showing you have the expertise to help them with solutions. Ultimately, you’ll ask for the sale.

And, because you’ve done such a good job of educating them with your content up to that point, you’ll succeed with your upsell because it’s simply an application of additional education.

The more they know, the more permission your customers give themselves to buy from you. Repeatedly.

You’ve got all that content ready to go, right?

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