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The Art of the Upsell: What L&D Can Learn from the Sales Team

When you hear the term “upselling,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Don’t let the mental image of a sleazy used car salesman deter you—upselling is a great strategy to make the most out of sales. When you offer a higher quality product or additional service when a customer is already planning to make a sale, you have a chance at increasing your overall revenue more easily and effectively than through attracting new customers.

However, successful upselling requires the right focus and skill. When presented at the wrong time or in the wrong way, a salesperson can come off as pushy, potentially giving the customer second thoughts. The key is to focus on the customer’s needs. For an effective upsell, the customer must be able to clearly see how he or she personally benefits.

So, how exactly does this process relate to learning and development? If you’ve been following along with our last few blog entries, you’re probably familiar with the benefits that can come from thinking of your employees as your best customers. (If you haven’t, check out the previous posts on this topic here and here.)

The comparison we’re drawing this time around may be a little less straightforward—after all, there isn’t really a direct equivalent to upselling between management and workforce. However, the tactics behind upselling best practices can be easily applied to drive employee performance improvement. Here are a few examples that break down how the art of the upsell relates to employee performance.

Acting on needs at the right time

If a prospect is going to consider spending more on a product or service, they need to see how it is a win for them. Simply recognizing the added value isn’t enough if the customer feels like their arm is being twisted into a deal. Insightsquared notes that upsells work best when the prospect discovers on their own volition that they want to buy more of your product. This means that it’s important to introduce the higher-value product or service at the right time and in the right way.

The same can be said for employee performance improvement. Much of the modern day work force places high value on opportunities to learn and grow. Obviously this benefits their employers too, provided that they are prepared to invest in their development. Neglecting the tools employees need to improve themselves, or providing them at the wrong time or in the wrong way can lead to turnover as workers seek better opportunities.

What can you do to work this upselling strategy into your learning and development efforts? Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow an avenue for employees to give meaningful feedback
  • Focus on maximizing employee strengths in performance development
  • Avoid information overload during onboarding through providing just-in-time learning

Foster engagement and loyalty through brand

The value of your product or service alone isn’t always enough to encourage a successful upsell or drive customer retention. To really make a case for a larger or ongoing purchase, your customers need to feel a deeper connection—created and fostered through brand. This kind of loyalty, connection, and influence is priceless when it comes to customers. After all, according to Forbes, an estimated 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your customers. It makes sense that a strong, trustworthy brand would have more success in upselling products.

A strong focus on brand is just as valuable within your team as well. To boost employee engagement, you must foster a strong sense of purpose in your workplace. When a worker knows what they stand for and what mission they are contributing too, they are more likely to identify with the work they are doing and personally invest their time and energy in the good of the company.

To make the most of internal brand, consider the following ideas:

  • Keep your training and development materials on-brand from the very beginning of the onboarding process
  • Help employees translate corporate brand into their own personal brands

When it all comes down to it, the factors behind a successful sale can also be used to promote an engaged and effective workforce. Does your company have any tried and true upselling techniques? How can you use those techniques to help foster development in both new and veteran employees?