Rick Davis

If you want to successfully upsell, get to the bottom of the supply chain where there is the greatest degree of heat. In the end, only the consumer is emphatic about upgrades to products and the desire for the best of your "good, better, best" offer. Therefore, salespeople who want to upsell must discover how to navigate the supply chain and ultimately wield influence with the consumer. Your role might not put you in contact with the consumer on a daily basis, which means you need to discover creative methods of influence.

Allow me to digress and illustrate a common misconception in the sales of construction materials. The unspoken belief is that expertise increases as you go higher in the supply chain. That is to say that the sales representative for the manufacturer and distributor are more skilled than the retail sales representative calling on the builder and contractor, who is in turn more skilled than the salesperson calling on the consumer. This false perception is the obstacle to successful upselling.

Before I go further, let me validate my assertion by reiterating a comment from one dealer who said to me, "Our manufacturer representative came to thank us for supporting him to achieve recognition as the regional salesman of the year for his company. We laughed when he left and all agreed that we'd probably buy more if they fired him. He wastes our time." This is not an uncommon occurrence.

At the dealer level, builders become creatures of habit too. The dealer sales rep is more involved with daily transactions, but nevertheless can rely on some degree of loyalty. In fact, I've calculated that loyalty from contractors to dealers ranges between 80-90%, believe it or not. In other words, the attrition rate at which a contractor stops doing business with a dealer is between 10-20%. So what has all this got to do with upselling? A lot.

I am not saying that salespeople working for manufacturers are inherently worse than salespeople calling on consumers. I'm instead saying that they can get away with inferior sales practices by virtue of their position in the supply chain. So, depending on which audience in the supply chain you sell, your sales approach will vary.

  • Sell "Best, Better, Good" to Consumers. The big mistake dealer salespeople and manufacturer sales representatives make is to promote the "good, better, best" product selection down the chain. The proper motivator is lead with your best product first; this is how you establish value in the brand. Consider that the only reason people buy the 3-Series BMW or C-Class Mercedes is they can't afford the 5-Series or the E-Class. They want the brand, but settle for what they can afford. If you lead with your low-cost product first, people will shop other low cost products. If you lead with your best products first, you've done the shopping for your clients and they will buy what they can afford from the brand you recommend.
  • Stop delivering "feature-benefit" presentations to builders and contractors. Dealer salespeople make the common mistake of promoting product features and benefits to builders and contractors as if they are the ones who will own and use the product. Instead of promoting a list of features and benefits to contractors, demonstrate how a great brand will infer quality in all the work they do. Consumers will respect the quality of the brand and therefore willingly pay more for the contractor's product and service. If you feel compelled to speak about features and benefits, do it as a sales training exercise for the moment your contractors are selling to consumers. Don't tell them how great the product is; teach them to tell the consumer about the wonderful quality of the product.
  • Sell the "program" to dealers. The mistake that manufacturer sales representatives and distributor salespeople make is to promote the product to dealers. A paper towel salesperson doesn't brag about the design and absorbency of the product. Instead the salesperson talks about merchandizing, order simplicity, service support, return on investment, and lead generation. This business-to-business selling approach works for manufacturer reps and dealers alike.

The toughest job in the supply chain is the consumer sales representative sitting at the kitchen table. There is no repeat business; every sale is a new challenge to be closed. The power of influence is tested on every sale in a way that manufacturer representatives and dealer salespeople do not experience. Regardless of where you work in the supply chain, the key to upselling means recognizing the unique motivation of your audience. Dealers want a product that contractors and consumers will demand. Contractors want a product that they can upsell to consumers. Everyone wants to win. The best way to succeed up and down the supply chain is to work cooperatively to get the end user, the consumer, to buy the upsell.

Rick Davis is the President of Building Leaders and the premier sales trainer in the construction products industry. Visit his website www.buildingleaders.com to learn more about his 15-city spring tour for the "Beat the Price Objection" Seminar. Or reach him directly at: rickdavis@buildingleaders.com 773-769-4409

Articles in Better Business, Sales | April 01, 2014