Down-selling is the art of narrowing a customer’s expectations and matching them more effectively with a solution that best fulfils their needs or desires.
Too often I see salespeople praying on their customer’s ignorance and up-selling even though there is no extra value being created for the customer. In this instance the salesperson is simply meeting their own agenda and getting the customer to pay for it.
Recently my company was in the market for a new office. I dealt with a salesperson at a leasing company that tried diligently to persuade me to take a larger space with more features, even though I didn’t need them. I explained on numerous occasions what my very specific needs were; but these seemed to take a backseat to the salesperson’s own needs.
The office spec did fulfil my needs, but also included an additional 33% of costs associated with features I didn’t require. I asked the salesperson what she would do if she was me. She responded, “I would take the extra features, just in case you need them.” And then proceeded to tell me “again” about all the benefits of the (irrelevant) features. As if to smoke screen her response in the hope I would lose my better judgment and simply agree to the deal.
This is a classic example of a salesperson pushing their own agenda to simply get paid with a complete disregard for what is really important to the customer.
Had the salesperson “really” listened to me and appropriately down-sold she would have provided me with an opportunity to buy-in and she would have made the sale. Instead she went for the ‘up-sell’ and not only lost my trust, but also my business and the potential to up-sell downstream when my needs better matched her extra value proposition.
McDonald’s has built a fast food empire on: convenience, average food, great systems and of course, “up-selling”. But when you drive through a McDonald’s and an attendant asks you, “Would like to upsize your meal?” and you respond, “No thank you” they don’t reply with, “Are you sure… I mean really sure?” They listen and then act accordingly.
Up-selling is a powerful skill, but only when your customer is getting more value. Not less. When you down-sell you build trust and demonstrate you are acting in your customers best interests. This may not please your sales manager sometimes, but your customers will appreciate it and thank you with their business and loyalty.
This article was first published on May 21, 2010.
Trent Leyshan is the founder of BOOM!, Australia’s leading sales training and development specialist. He is the co-founder of Expand People and author of OUTLAW: Fight for your customers and sell without fear.