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Upsell FTW

How to make it easier for clients to upsell themselves.

I wandered into a Subway restaurant yesterday while my children were picking up Mexican food next door. The holiday food binging had reached its threshold for me, and I hoped to notch a small caloric win by picking a 6-inch BMT on Parmesan Oregano. I’ve been ordering the same thing from Subway since 1989. Call me routine oriented, boring, nerdy, whatever. It ain’t broke, so I don’t fix it.

Upsell illustration
Getty Images

I finished up my duel with the sandwich artist (two ingredients at a time or they start to forget) and he rang me up. “Make it a combo,” I said. “What size drink?” shot back my artist, gesturing toward three sleeves of cups swaying to the left of the register. My usual go-to is the 20 oz. small size. They offer free refills. I’ve never seen the logic in paying more for the 32 or 48 oz. guzzler cups. This day was different. The small cup sleeve was all white. No Subway logos. Almost like the small plastic cups they hand out when you just want water. The other two sleeves shone green and yellow with their enticing plastic upgrades. I could feel myself being drawn to one of the larger sizes. I wasn’t thinking, I was feeling. The part of the brain triggering this kind of reaction is called the basal ganglia. It communicates information in feelings vs. mental recall. It’s the proverbial “gut” we all perceive.

Also by Henry Clifford: Rubbing The Lamp FTW

As this need to spend more on a logoed cup swept over me, I had the presence of mind to bottle the moment, knowing I had to write about it. I went for the medium instead, knowing full damn well logic had nothing to do with it. As I reeled from the silent self-upsell I’d just experienced, I asked the artist behind the counter if his beverage sales had changed since making the small cups white. “Yes,” he said. “These are just here temporarily since we ran out of Subway small cups, but we’ve seen many more people picking the medium or large size.”

I left the store and couldn’t stop thinking about the experience. I’d spent 30 percent more on my meal for no logical reason. The sandwich artist hadn’t pressured me in the slightest. The three sleeves were there for all to see. I stepped through the door and upsold myself. Are there “white-cup” opportunities for custom installation? I think so.

We present our customers at Livewire with cup sleeve equivalent options when it comes to our services like monitored security or 24/7 remote support. Each offering has a grid that moves from basic to premium solutions. Clients are free to choose the best plan for them. The trouble is, it’s not usually a self-directed experience. The client usually has a salesperson guiding them through the process and making recommendations. A true white-cup experience should feature options so clear and simple that the client should be able to choose themselves with no outside influence whatsoever. This won’t be true for most of our offerings, but I can think of a few where we could be doing a better job:

  1. Warranties: This is pretty simple. The client knows about warranties from other purchases and will make the choice that mimics their service preference in other areas of their life (auto, home, etc.).
  2. Interconnects: If we can offer a gold, silver, and bronze solution on our projects, clients will generally gravitate towards the middle offering. Modern proposal solutions like Portal, Simply Reliable, and D-Tools are doing a much better job these days of enabling easy upsell options for clients.
  3. Video Displays: If we position our flat panel or projection offerings in an easy-to-select format using an app or web browser, clients will invariably upgrade themselves during the buying process.
  4. Budget Builders: If you’re feeling bold, let your clients play around with online tools like HTA’s technology calculator. After they fall out of their chair a few times, they’ll come back to you better informed and pre-sticker shocked.

CI may not have many white-cup upsell opportunities, but it’s a good reminder that we should always be striving to simplify our offerings and be as easy to transact business with as possible. When we remove friction, we grow the bottom line and build a bigger moat around our own fortress. After all, simple is one of the hardest things to do.

What are you doing to offer white-cup solutions in your business?