Sales professionals give advice on how to up-sell

Up-selling—it’s a necessary concept for a distributor’s sales team, but it’s not always the easiest to accomplish. We asked reviewers of the National Association of Electrical Distributors’ Electrical Products Education Course (EPEC) to give their best advice for making the up-sell:

Art Griswold, Inside/Outside Sales, Granite City Electric Supply:

My first tip for up-selling is to think outside of the box. If a contractor comes in looking for a piece of wire make sure to ask about the application its being used for. From there, a salesperson can use “the triangle” and ask if the contractor has any product needs based on each section of the triangle.

Above: Triangle diagram from NAED’s Electrical Products Education Course (EPEC)

Photo gallery: Easy products to up-sell 

The more you can sell to the contractor the better you are. The contractor will get comfortable with you and the more comfortable they get the more they will come back. Salesmen are a dime a dozen, but the top salesmen are hard to find. Never sell yourself short. Always ask the question. A dumb question is the one that was never asked. Contractors always leave the counter missing something, take the extra few minutes to ask questions and make sure they have everything.

Dan Asaro, Inside Sales Manager, Frost Electric

We make the solution complex, but it’s really pretty simple and it’s what EPEC is all about—knowledge.

  1. Get to know the products you have to sell.
  2. Understand their application or the job parameters if you are helping specify.
  3. Know your customer’s challenges. 

When you know these things you are in a position to help up-sell to meet the needs of the customer and situation

Rock Kuchenmeister, Branch Manager, K/E Electric Supply Co.

The goal of EPEC is to find the best product for a customer within the customer’s budget. The best product could be one that costs more, but saves the customer in time, labor or energy—saving money in the long run. The best product could also be an inexpensive, temporary solution.  What if the best product is not readily available?  Is the next best product available on your shelf?  EPEC provides the student the expertise to suggest the best solution for a customer.

Related story: Electrical Safety Month presents up-selling opportunities 

What is truly special about this program is learning the relationships of products within the triangle. The idea is to try to sell a customer on one more item that he already needs, but may not realize it at the time of the order.  For instance, a customer calls up and orders a fixture with lamps.  Does he need a toggle switch or sensor with that order?  How about wire or a steel box to mount the fixture?  What about tie wraps or wire nuts?  With each item the salesperson adds to the order, the sale is increased significantly.  The customer is happy too because he may need those items and not realize it until the salesperson suggests it.

Alan Hazlett, Outside Sales Representative, Blazer Electric Supply Company

Try to put together, in your head, the project the customer is putting together with the material he/she is ordering. Fill in any gaps the customer may be missing. It may be as small as a 10 cent lock nut. Know what the customer needs, just as well as he/she does. Stay in tune to what’s new and offer suggestions.

Robin Adkins, Regional Trainer, State Electric Supply Co.

Being in the industry, we should always be on our toes for the newest and greatest items out there.  We need to be prepared to assist customers with the materials they need—whether they fully realize they have the need or not.  It’s almost like being a mind reader.

Chris Miller, Outside Sales, United Electric Supply Co.

I like to think of up-selling as similar to creating what I call a cohesive product mix.  In this idea, I consider the ability to rely on our product knowledge of how items work together to be just as, if not more, important than adding unnecessary bells and whistles to an item that may just add cost to the bottom line.  As sales professionals, it is important to match the needs with the products that fill those needs cost effectively while providing a mutual benefit to the customer, end user and supply house.

If I was to have a conversation with someone regarding up-selling, I would like to remind them how important plans and specifications are.  When you review the plans and specs, you can begin to build a baseline of what project materials are needed based on the engineer’s design.  This is really the place to begin the up-sell.  General questions, like available fault current, integral or remote mount TVSS and surface or flush mounted panel cans all have pros and cons in certain projects and are the best places to begin up-selling the material. A good example would be to offer a Nema 12 or 3R panel, rather than a Nema 1, if you know the area may be subject to occasional moisture intrusion.  Another example would be to add pilot lights to a combination motor starter, or even to add feed through lugs to a new panel to allow for future expansion.  All of these examples are add on items to baseline requirements. These types of up-sells often add cost to the bottom line but in the long run, you may save the end user larger, future expenses. It all works together in adding value to the transaction and the relationship.

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