Why Do Inbound Agents Struggle with Upselling?

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Do you know the three major reasons inbound Agents struggle with upselling?

When doing training needs assessment for my clients, three sales skill gaps stand out: not asking the right questions, not describing benefits, and hesitating to ask for the sale.

Step 1:  Ask better questions to discover needs you can fill.

I know this sounds obvious. But the only way to identify a need is to ask questions and listen to the answers. The better an Agent is asking needs assessment questions, the better they will be at upselling. They need to find out what the customer needs and why it is important to them. For example, one of my clients sells collectibles. Even though they take website orders, some customers still prefer to order by phone. So, customers call to buy a specific hockey related collectible as a children’s gift. As they process the order, the Agent should say, “That’s a great gift. They must be a huge fan of that team” and casually ask, “What other sports do they like?”


Step 2:  Explain how your suggested upsell helps the customer.

Think about the information your customer just gave you. What would make their experience better? Could they benefit from any other product or service? In this children’s gift example, if the customer says their child also loves football, you can mention a smaller add-on collectible that would make a good stocking stuffer, or bonus gift. The key is linking benefits to the upsell. What does it do to help the customer save time, save money, or feel better? In this case, adding a small, second item helps the customer save money by meeting the minimum purchase price for free shipping. The Agent could add, “So, instead of paying $10 shipping on a single $45 item – that’s $55 total – you can get both collectibles for just $60, with free shipping.” If you can, link a second benefit. In this case, “Think of how happy they will be getting both items.”


Step 3:  Encourage your customer to make a decision.

In my experience, inbound customer service Agents frequently hesitate to ask for the sale. Many of them feel they have done their job if they describe a possible upsell to a customer. But saying, “We also have a football collectible for $15” is NOT an upsell attempt. A true upsell attempt includes asking for a buying decision. Why do some Agents hesitate to ask? They sense a lack of enthusiasm from the client. That goes back to asking the right questions to uncover needs and explaining how the proposed upsell item can help. Of course, the customer is not excited. The Agent has not given them anything to be excited about! The key is training them to ask better sales questions and explain benefits. If that is done correctly, the customer is excited to buy. Then, Agents can use a simple assumptive closing technique such as, “I will put the order through for both items using the credit card listed on your account.”


Training and coaching your Agents to ask better needs assessment questions, explain benefits from the customer’s perspective and ask for the sale will boost their upselling performance and the customer’s satisfaction.


Mike Aoki is the President of Reflective Keynotes Inc. (http://www.reflectivekeynotes.com), a training company that helps contact centers improve their sales and customer retention results. Mike serves on the advisory council of the Greater Toronto Area Contact Center Association and was Master of Ceremonies for five of their Annual Conferences. He was also chosen by ICMI.com as one of the “Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leaders on Twitter” for the past five years.