Upselling the Wrong Way “Hurts”

Upselling That "Hurts"

Upselling and cross-selling are both vital components of successful businesses. These practices help increase sales as well as increase profits.

Upselling is the practice of encouraging a buyer to purchase a more expensive product or service than originally intended. Cross-selling is the practice of selling additional products or services which compliment the original product being purchased.

However, upselling (and cross-selling) isn’t always used with good intention. These sales tactics are often used in a way that is not best for the buyer.

My Recent Rental Car Upselling Incident

I recently flew to Detroit, Michigan to visit our preferred supplier of foam products. They manufacture many of our foam fingers and other foam products on our website such as custom sponges and spirit waivers. Developing good relationships with our suppliers is vital to the success of our company, and a factory visits are important components of continuing to build those relationships.

I flew into Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and had to rent a car to drive an hour west to the factory in Brooklyn, MI. While at the car rental counter, the customer service rep tried to upsell Navigation and SiriusXM Radio. I declined due to the extra costs. After all, my phone has navigation and all the music I need, so I did not feel the need to pay extra for it. I was given the key and set off to the over-sized parking lot to find the rental car.

Once I found the car, I cranked it up. Lo and behold, what features do you think I discovered in the car? That’s right, GPS Navigation and SiriusXM Radio. Mind you, I had declined coverage, and was NOT charged for it.

So now, I’m questioning every aspect of the prior transaction. What else did I elect to “upgrade” for which I would have had anyway as a standard feature on this car? I can tell you the company immediately lost my trust. How can I ever trust they are offering me valuable “upgrades?”  If I had agreed to the upgrade, I would have paid extra, received those additional luxuries, and never known the difference. All would have been well. However, the moment I declined and found out I was lied to, everything changed.

The relationship was damaged. Trust was broken.

Now I’m not going to mention the rental car company, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out pretty quickly from my overly obvious clues.

I will say if this is a normal business practice for this company, I guarantee it hurts their customer relationships.

I have other options for car rentals next time.

The Right Way to Upsell

Upselling and cross-selling should not be practiced with the sole underlying reason to make extra profit. Your motivation should be to help your customers. In all of my business decisions, I try to always ensure it is a win-win-win. That means a win for my supplier, a win for my company, and a win for my client. If there is a loss for any of the involved parties, it’s not a wise business deal. It hurts you.

In the case of the questionable upselling of Navigation and SiriusXM Radio, that would have been a clear win-loss. A win for the car rental company and a loss for me. If I had agreed, I would have paid extra money for something standard on the car I was renting.

Maybe they could have offered brakes for an extra $20 per night or perhaps windows for an additional $10 per night?

The Conclusion

Upselling for sake of increasing a profit hurts your reputation. However, when done correctly, it will lead your customers to make better buying decisions and more often than not be happier with their purchase.

However, if you continue upselling standard features or upselling lesser quality products for a higher profit, your customers will find out. And once they figure out they were on the losing end, you will lose them as customers.

If you always ensure a win for everyone involved in the sales process, you can never lose. Always for the win-win-win.

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