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Tuesday / July 16.
HomemibusinessStop ‘Up -Selling’ and Start ‘Down-Selling’!

Stop ‘Up -Selling’ and Start ‘Down-Selling’!

The first time I heard the phrase ‘up-selling’ I was repulsed to say the least. Imagine if doctors ‘tried’ to solve our problems by working upwards from one suggestion to the next, ‘hoping’ that we would end up with the right path to health. And yet this is precisely how hordes of businesses have treated the key issue of creating success with customers and prospects, using the expression ‘up-selling’ as the way forward. Up-selling is in fact the way backwards because it suggests a tentative, optional approach to serving the market.

To succeed in business we must learn to ‘work backwards’ from what is right for the market, irrespective of whether customers and prospects agree with our ideas and recommendations or not. This is the professional approach to selling, and if we call it ‘down-selling’ it will mean that we will start with the best solution and then face the fact that we may have to come down from that point as some customers may not be able to afford the best outcome, or because they prefer to proceed in a different way. Remember that customers always make the second and final decision, because it is their money and their future at stake. However we must make the first decision, which concerns our commitment to offer the very best and most practical advice to reach the optimal result. Just like a doctor’s prescription.

The choice then for business is to pursue the ‘optional’ or ‘optimal’ path to progress. The major reason that most people don’t have enough superannuation planned is that financial planners have not learned to down-sell. The same can be said of businesses and families that have insufficient insurance cover, and this problem affects small sales as much as major transactions. For example, I bought a 20-litre container of chlorine not long ago and when I tried to pour some into a smaller container to take to the pool, I spilled it and ruined a pair of trousers and socks. When I returned to the shop and told the salesman how difficult it was to use the container, he meekly said, “Oh, we sell another top to use which acts as a tap, and that makes it easy.” Great. Not only did he not down-sell to me by starting with the best solution, he also forgot to up-sell!


This is the professional approach to selling, and if we call it ‘down-selling’ it will mean that we will start with the best solution and then face the fact that we may have to come down from that point.

A good business should not rely on trying to please customers by using, or trying to remember to use, a tentative approach to helping customers. I consulted for a shoe chain once and the boss complained that staff forgot to up-sell, or did so in a timid manner. I recommended that they use a leather tray that could be presented to customers at the point where they were saying yes to the shoes, and on the tray the sales person would place the various accessories that compliment the shoes. If the sales person and company is not serious about selling the best solution then why should customers be any different?

When I was at hair care company Schwarzkopf, we sold treatment products for salons to use as the basis for selling a salon treatment service, and yet most salons hardly ever sold the service and therefore bought very little of our product. I contacted a top salon in the U.S., and asked the owner how many clients had a treatment service, and he said, “Everyone does.” When I asked him how he achieved this remarkable result he said, “I have built the treatment into every service I offer, so it isn’t optional. It’s something clients have to have.” That is powerful, courageous, very professional and highly rewarding for clients and the salon. To down-sell it is necessary to listen to what customers want, ask questions to find their needs, and then explain that you will start with the best solution and leave the decision up to them as to what they decide to do in the end. Customers and prospects look up to those who sell down!

John Lees is a sales and marketing specialist engaged in speaking, training, consulting, business coaching and he is also the author of 11 books on business development. For more information, contact John Lees via email: [email protected] or visit his website: www.johnlees.com.au