The Art of the Upsell: CPQ vs. The Drive-Thru

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You pull into the drive-through, and there is a vaguely menacing, large plastic clown head waiting to take your order. The face lights up, and a scratchy voice emanates from the frozen, grinning face asking, “Would you like to try our combo meal today?”

In the B2B world, cross-selling and upselling are not only good business, they are good for the customer, as well. It’s the process of making sure that you and your customer know what is needed and what is available.

If you are like me, this kind of honks you off, because all you really want is the “Big Burger,” and the meddlesome, intrusive clown head has kind of screwed up your train of thought.

“I just want the Big Burger please,” you carefully enunciate knowing that plastic clowns are notoriously hard of hearing.

“Would you like fries with that?” The clown asks.

“Damn,” you think to yourself, just give me my burger.

But, you relent and respond, “Yeah, give me a small fry!”

Sorry, the relentless clown head will not allow you to have it your way; “Large fries are only a dime more!”

You stare at the leering plastic face of the clown and start to stutter a protest, “No, I just want …”

“That’s one Big Burger and one large fry. Pull forward to the window; your total is $8.95.” The internal light inside the clown head dims and turns dark; you have been dismissed. Your encounter with Burger Clown is over.

Does anyone cross-sell and upsell better than your friendly hamburger stand? A big plastic clown head has just taken you downtown for a load of over-salted, deep-fried starch that you really didn’t want in the first place. You were feeling pretty smug about not falling for the combo meal, but you just weren’t quite fast enough to get out of the fries.

It’s ironic that we can easily train a ninth-grader to upsell unwanted fries at your local burger doodle, but getting a college-educated sales professional to do this with a million-dollar, industrial-equipment order can be nearly impossible.

In the B2B world, cross-selling and upselling are not only good business, they are good for the customer, as well. It’s the process of making sure that you and your customer know what is needed and what is available.

How CPQ Software Helps With Upselling and Cross-Selling

Sales reps often leave this stuff to the end, and then they avoid it for fear of delaying the sale. Money is left on the table, and opportunities that should be almost no-brainers are lost. Sales managers come up short at the end of the month, and customers are even disappointed to find that their needs have not been fully addressed.

CPQ software provides a natural way to build the cross- and upselling conversation into the normal question-and-answer discussion that defines the project itself. It’s not a “special” conversation, it’s just more questions related to the customer’s needs.

Let’s say you are discussing your prospect’s requirements for an elevator. The form-driven questions might run something like:

  • Question 1 – Is the elevator primarily for passengers or freight?
  • Question 2 – How many people should it accommodate?
  • Question 3 – How much weight should it accommodate?
  • Question 4 – What type of building will it be located in?

Question 4 seems somewhat out of place and not really relevant to the performance specs associated with the elevator. But, this is an area where some upselling might be justified.

The form may offer several choices. The choices might include: executive office building, warehouse, factory or sales offices. Each of these answers can impact certain features that are offered or included in the elevator design.

Let’s look at each from the standpoint of upselling potential.

Executive Office Building

Selecting this option will drive additional selections such as an air freshener, sound insulation or carpet.

Warehouse or Factory

Cosmetics are not important here, but the floor and walls may need to be fabricated with a tougher material that’s resistant to scratching or gouging. Perhaps a removable ceiling for oversized loads would be offered.

Sales Offices

If you are bringing customers into your offices, you will likely want to consider the same options offered for the executive office building, plus you will want the nicer wall surfaces and high-grade carpet. No doubt you will also want the elevator to be outfitted with the latest in background music systems!

These questions are all presented during the specification interview, and they are driven by CPQ. The answers supplied for question one drive the question-and-answer selections available during the next round of questions.

What about Cross-Selling?

The same process may be used.

Selecting the warehouse or factory option may drive some questions related to other material-handling needs. How are goods transported to the elevator? Hand truck? Forklift? Conveyor? The point is, the elevator may be only one part of a larger material-handling equipment need.

Sell More or Take the Money and Run

Too often we encourage our sales folks to “just get the order,” and we promise ourselves to handle the rest later on. If it’s the last week of the fiscal year and the rep has a specific number to hit, there will be reluctance to risk the base sale by expanding the scope to include add-ons or other related products.

When I was in sales, we were told to never show the customer the paint-chip chart that shows all of the colors our product line came in. We were told to tell the customer the product (office furniture) came in putty or black. People will agonize over color far longer than they spent deciding to buy your product.

Sales reps learn to take these little lessons to heart. No one want’s their year-end performance shot because the customer couldn’t decide between rainforest green and autumn sky blue.

When CPQ is employed, the whole array of possibilities can be built into the specification questionnaire.  The temptation might be to just get the basic order and then go back and sell the rest. Customers hate that. No one likes to find that they really only bought half of what they thought they were getting.

Cover the whole usage scenario upfront, and maximize your sale without delay.

By building all of these possibilities into your specification script, you are making sure the customer is fully served, your product is properly applied to mitigate the customer’s issues and your delivery of value is maximized.