“Found! Customer Service Idea – The Lost Secret To Add-On Sales”

See if this customer service idea recalls basic retail sales training methods you learned as a youngster.

The boss says, “Why didn’t you sell her a gizmo to go with her gadget?”

Repeatedly, managers complain and chew out their salespeople because they fail to sell additional items beyond a customer’s initial purchase. Managers are frustrated. They believe their salespeople are scared — or lazy — or forgetful.

Probably not.

For a proven customer service idea, we go back to the Bible: “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Of course! He (or she) lives by belief and inspiration.

He must believe in his purpose and be inspired by it to perform well. He’s actually been known to forego bread in favor of pursuing inspiration and an idea.

I believe the lack of belief and lack of inspiration are the real reasons our sales forces fail to “add-on sell.”

Are we teaching the
wrong reasons?

Could it be that the manager him/herself is at fault? Think. Are we managers actually giving our salespeople the wrong reasons for add-on selling and selling in general?

Most people are idealistic and want to do the right thing – if they’re not so beaten down by life’s storms that they abdicate their principles for the ways of the world.

They are our sons and daughters, you know. We raised them with a healthy respect for truth, integrity, and honesty. They generally feel guilty about cheating anyone.

So, how do you think they read our exhortations to “Get out there and sell that person something additional so we can make more money”? Or we’ll add the variation, “…so you (referring to our salespeople) can make more money?”

More profit. More money. Isn’t that just a downright inspiring customer service idea?

Actually, we both acknowledge there’s nothing at all wrong with earning more money. In fact, society demands it. If we don’t earn more money, we’ll all eventually starve.

But, our puritan traditions, our entire Judeo-Christian heritage, and our inner sense of right and wrong are rightly laced with prohibitions against taking money that’s not earned.

It’s wrong to sell for
the wrong reasons

If you sell something that’s neither needed nor wanted simply to get more money — it is wrong.

However, in most selling situations there actually is a real need for “add-on” selling. What’s more, when you think through this customer service idea of what you’re doing and why, the answer to the problem is right on the tip of your brain.

The real reason for
“add-on” selling

It relates to your sole justification for being in business . . .

 . . . to satisfy the desire of your customers to have the whole job – the complete job – done for them.

Let me break it to you gently. The only reason customers keep us around is to satisfy their needs – not ours. Of course, we want income and security and love and loyalty from them. But, just fail to serve them and what do you think will happen?


So, let’s do the old “walk in the other person’s moccasins” trick to decipher the code.

When we buy something, what do we want? We want to be totally satisfied with our purchase, don’t we? How are we totally satisfied? When we get the whole job done for us – whatever that is.

Wow! Our customers are just like us. They want the same thing.

Know what? “Add-on” selling is an integral part of the whole customer service idea.

In fact, if we fail to do so, we are delinquent in performing the commission inherent in our job.

The rule to follow is the same one that’s been around for two thousand years: “Treat everyone else as you’d like to be treated.”

Let me tell you a true story and a classic example: I walk into a paint store.

The clerk asks, “Can I help you?”

“Sure. I’d like a gallon of deck paint.”

The clerk ambles to the shelf, picks up a gallon of deck paint, ambles back, drops it on the counter and says, “That’ll be $15.99, plus tax.”

I pay my $15.99 — plus tax — and take the paint home.

Upon arrival, I realize I am missing – a brush, roller, pan, drop cloth, scraper, sandpaper — and all the other tools I need to do a complete job.

I really don’t want a can of deck paint. I want my deck painted! And it cannot be done adequately without those additional tools.

Why salespeople
fail us

That clerk failed me. He failed to ask me (as a simple reminder) if I needed those additional items to complete the job I had in mind. Probably, he failed for one of three reasons:

  1. Laziness. (His presentation wasn’t just lackadaisical, it was missing entirely.) Stupid boy.

  2. Fear. He was afraid of being turned down — of being made to look foolish. His ego was tender and he could not stand rejection. Poor boy.

  3. He was afraid he’d “oversell” me – sell me more than I wanted or needed. Uninformed boy.

All three reasons for failure relate to his preoccupation with himself. And the blame falls directly on us owners. Why? No one had taught him to think of the customer instead of himself:

No one taught him the right and courteous way and the real reason to ask what kind of task I was set to perform.

No one taught him to then think of the items I would need to do that job.

Finally, no one taught him to ask in a friendly way, “Do you need other tools to do the job? Paint brush? Scraper? Drop cloth?”

However, here’s a FACT: You can cure all three problems when you explain his purpose, then teach him correctly. Why? Good training will inspire him. When salespeople are learning, interest sparks and most people lose their laziness. They perk up.

When you help them center their attention on others, people forget their own egos. Thus, they begin to lose their fear of being turned down.

Once they understand the idea & realize they actually hurt customers when they don’t offer to help with the whole job, their pride of responsibility surfaces. They no longer fear overselling customers. They are more inclined to offer what’s needed to complete the job.

And in that process, they sell more than you expected.

Ah, you say. People are no longer moved by such sentiment in this modern age. If that’s true, why is Nordstrom’s so phenomenally successful? Neiman-Marcus? Christensen’s Jewelry?

I included Christensen’s Diamond Jewelers for a reason. They’re an enormously successful store in the small town of Hampton, Iowa. Good help is just as hard to find there as it is in your area.

This store can’t afford to pay high salaries either. Yet, their associates have learned how important customer sales and service are. They try extra hard to help every customer. And the store does a lot of add-on selling. If they get the idea at Christensen’s, your people can do the same.

How to help your sales
force succeed

So, stop encouraging your people to sell additional anything.

Instead, encourage them to help customers get what they need and want.

Stop telling employees (by both word & example) it’s because you want to make more money – or you want them to make more money!

Because it’s not.

Tell them the real reason. Focus on the idea of how you and they can help customers get what they want – the whole job done for them.

Do this sincerely and actually start thinking about how to really help each customer – every time – and an amazing transformation happens.

Your sales force catches fire because you have engaged them in a labor that’s so much bigger than petty money grubbing; so much more encompassing than each of our egocentric little worlds.

And, when they really begin to engage, you’ll know. How? The money of which you have despaired will come. When you’re doing the whole job for your customers, they’ll give you money . . .

 in bushels . . .

  in barrels . . .

   as much as you can haul away to the bank!

Sources to help your
staff learn add-on

Retail selling is so important, but there’s not a great deal out there to help you learn it at an affordable price.

If you’re casting around for a speaker-trainer for your group or trade convention, Rich Hamilton does a superb job with the “Mickey Mouse” (literally) approach to selling.

As you already know, everyone knows about Walt Disney. But, you may not know how Walt achieved such enormous success. Rich has studied the Walt Disney business model in-depth. He offers terrific insights in his fun talks where you learn to sell the “Mickey Mouse” way. When you click here, you can talk with Rich about Magic Strategy. At the very least you’ll learn some intriguing ideas that pump up your sales effort.

Retail Selling Ain\'t Brain Surgery, It\'s Twice As HardJames Dion has written an excellent book called Retail Selling Ain’t Brain Surgery, It’s Twice As Hard. This $19.95 book rates 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s well done.

The government of Saskatchewan, Canada offers a neat article on Small Business Retail Selling you may like.

You can find a whole series of training books on retail selling at the National Retail Federation. Click here to find titles in the Retailing Smarts Series that cover nearly every aspect of retail sales plus associated areas. All the books are quite inexpensive and you can use them to train your people in almost any kind of retail selling. It’s some of the best I’ve found for general retail sales.

If you’re in hard goods, especially furniture and appliances, I recommend Selling Retail (Book 1 and Book 2) by John Lawhon to further this customer service idea. Mr. Lawhon offers excellent ideas, strategy and most of all – attitude – about retail selling. He entertained and educated me for many an hour with this book. I continually refer back to it.

Add-on selling is the customer service idea of the century in retail sales training and in service. It never goes out of style. Make it yours for all the right reasons.

If you’d like more stuff for a customer service idea or technique, an advertising idea, customer retention techniques, or small business marketing strategy, subscribe at the top of this page to our free monthly Maverick Strategy Newsletter. It comes to you at no charge, we never give your name to anyone else and you can cancel instantly.

I wish you well.

Rod Rademacher
Maverick Strategy
4148 S.W. Emland Drive, Suite 7
Topeka, Kansas USA 66606
Phone: 785-783-7756 or
Email us here

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