Why Customers Say No to Upsells (And How to Fix It)

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here's some advice on how to improve your upselling strategy and ultimately turn your customer's "no" to a "yes."

Customers need your help. Yet, they're quick to say no when you suggest an upsell. They say things like "can you call me in 6 months?" or "I'll let you know if I need help."

You've probably experienced something similar. Customers admit they need help with specific problems you're able to solve, and then they say no to your product or service. It's common for us to assume that a customer's "no" has more to do with our product or service than it does with our request.

Maybe they don't have the money. Maybe now's not a good time or they've found a competitor with a better product and more features. It's easy for us to make all kinds of assumptions about our product or service. But we are missing the most important sign.

We look for an explicit request, or we try to engineer one. We wait, hope and pray for the day when customers will ask us for more products to buy. It happens, but it's certainly not the norm, because customer requests are implicit.

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Successful upsells begin with problems

It can be a tangible problem they're having or an emotional one. It can be something they want but don't have, or something they're afraid to lose. Whatever it is, it's a motivator.

But most marketers ignore their customer's problems, choosing instead to lead with their "solution." But customers don't want another product. They want you to fix their problems, to meet their secret desires. Present a product that fails to do that and they reject your offer.

Customers tell you when they want to be sold

If you recognize the implicit signals they send, you'll know when they want to be sold. What kind of implicit signals are we talking about?

1. Your customers ask lots of questions

These customers realize they're not in-the-know. Some of them use questions as a way to qualify or disqualify contenders.

Win the upsell: Create content that shows your website visitors that they don't have what it takes to fix their problem. Show them you understand their problem and present the solution when they're ready.

2. They're doing it wrong

Your customers make mistakes. Most of these mistakes occur when they try to fix their problems on their own. Do-it-yourselfers aren't always aware of the risks and consequences that come with their solution.

Win the upsell: The greater the problem or danger to your customer, the more receptive they'll be to your solution. Hearing "you're wrong" creates defensiveness. Ask them about outcomes or results they want instead; create the content, tools and resources, showing them why their approach won't achieve the results they're looking for. Offer the solution that will (when they’re ready).

3. They're insecure and unconfident

Unconfident customers aren't sure what to do. It's difficult for them to determine between true and false. It's easier for them to freeze, to do nothing, which is exactly what they'll do if they aren't handled properly.

Win the upsell: Education is the antidote to their insecurity. Use blog posts, email and specialty content to fill the gaps in their knowledge; make their situation clear and concise. Upsells are easier when your customer has the information they need.

4. They're not interested

As soon as a customer says, "I'm not interested," their walls go up. Most marketers give up at this point, assuming that a no means no. But what if they're rejecting something you're not selling? What if they don’t know what they’re rejecting?

Win the upsell: Questions draw defensive customers out. Options create compromise. Use remarketing and follow-up emails to ask questions and present options. Ask the right questions (gently) to shine a light on mistaken assumptions and incorrect beliefs. Ask your customer about the options they feel would work best; make those options available if/when you can. Use email to rebuild relationships and trust with disinterested customers.

Related Article: How to Turn an Ordinary Client into Your Biggest Fan

5. They ask for more

Whoa, time to hit the brakes! When customers explicitly ask for your product they need you to confirm and clarify.

Do they actually need your product? Is this the right time to buy? What do they expect your product to do for them? Can your product deliver?

Closing the sale could be horrible for your business if your product is wrong for your customer.

Win the upsell: Thank your customers for their interest, then clarify. A one-on-one conversation via phone or email works best. If you’re looking for something you can scale, a 30 second questionnaire via Typeform or SurveyMonkey works as well. When you’re all set, close the sale.

Confirming that your product or service is right for them may seem counterintuitive but it’s important if you want repeat sales. It puts you in the position of being able to meet and exceed customer expectations consistently. It also shows them that you’re more interested serving them than you are in taking their money.

6. They don't have time

Often times customers can't (or won't) take the time to fix their own problems. They desperately need the results but they know that doing it on their own takes more time than they have. It's common for time-strapped customers to keep their deadline a closely guarded secret.

Win the upsell: Agitate the problem. Show them the consequences of a missed deadline, then offer a way out. Use email, blog posts, video – whatever method words best.

Let's say you're a personal trainer. Your client wants to lose 30 lbs. for a wedding in 3 months. Give her a clear idea about the consequences she faces if she fails to meet her goal (e.g. pictures last forever, not fitting into her dress, etc.). Then show her how you can prevent that from ever happening then ask for the sale.

Can you see what's happening? Customers don't want another "product," they want their problems solved. Catching their implicit signals gives you the “in” you need. Agitate their problems then show them how to solve it.

Related Article: 4 Diabolical Customers (And How to Deal With Them)

What if your customers don't have a problem?

What if there's nothing to solve and nothing to fix? If that's the case, you're not looking hard enough. How do I know?

Every product creates a problem, whether it's your problem or not. Buying a car creates problems. You'll need insurance, tires, gas and maintenance - things you didn't need before. Upsells depend on problems.

But, the timing has to be right

Your website and marketing should mention these problems when they're relevant. Is it easier for a car dealership to sell their rustproofing upgrade right after you've bought your car or three years later?

Obvious right? Yet, it's incredibly common for marketers to push irrelevant upsells on to their customers when it doesn't make sense.

Customers want their problem fixed

And they're ready for your help. Do it right and Yes becomes routine. Push an upsell and they're quick to say no. Want to get it right? Watch for their implicit signals and lead with their problems, to reduce (or eliminate) upsell rejection, guaranteed.

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