For the most part, the process of up-selling remains a viable business technique that has merit both on and offline.
It is most commonly used as a way of optimising the spend from an existing customer base, as brands look to target a captive market with creative and relevant purchase options.
It also continues to cause controversy in some sectors, however, with pharmacists currently facing the threat of reduced PBS funding due to their increased focus on selling retail products.
This has blurred the tapering line that distinguishes customers from patients, and while this may represent a unique market it does highlight the need for businesses across all sectors to up-sell in an ethical and strategic manner.
4 Successful Up-selling Techniques for Restaurants
Restaurant and cafe owners need to be particularly wary, as they must up-sell face-to-face with their customers and in real-time scenarios where moods and sentiment can be difficult to gauge.
With this in mind, let's take a look at the up-selling techniques that will drive businesses of this type while delivering the most efficient rate of success.
#1 - Up-sell to Targeted Customers
This may be easier for smaller restaurants that cater to a localised client base, but the principle of targeted up-selling remains an important one for locations of all sizes.
Even if you have a high turnover of customers or a vast appeal in the market, there are ways in which you can utilise knowledge and insight to guarantee the efficiency of your up-selling strategy.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to clearly identify customers that may be susceptible to up-selling, using key product details and specific behaviour as metrics.
You may have a special that is marketed to a particular segment of diners, for example, or look to target customers that are new to the venue and seem unsure about what they should order.
These individuals are likely to be drawn to a specific menu item or open to suggestion respectively, creating small windows of opportunity to successfully up-sell.
Of course, your success (or failure) will depend on the customer profile that you are able to build in a relatively short space of time, so your service staff are crucial.
They must be trained to understand the importance of up-selling, and use developed conversational skills to get to know their customers, understand their needs and interpret core physical tells.
You can even teach them specific questions to ask customers, so that they make recommendations that lead to informed up-selling techniques.
#2 - Identify Predetermined Items for Up-selling
You should adopt a targeted approach when determining what to up-sell, as this is arguably just as important as reaching out to a specific consumer demographic.
Research and training is also key to using this technique successfully, as you must identify profitable and popular menu items that are most likely to be in demand during different times and seasons.
Let's say that you own a coffee shop and sell a particularly refreshing iced beverage, for example, and one that has relatively low costs and inflated margins.
The sales figures tell you that this is popular (especially in July and August), so during these times you can remind servers to recommend and sell this drink at every conceivable opportunity.
By creating a list of profitable menu items across all seasons, and once again training your staff to up-sell these through organic conversation, you can optimise your profits all-year round and successfully leverage your customer base.
#3 - Listen to Customers and Draw insight from Conversation
At this point, it is clear that your serving staff must have advanced conversational skills if they are to successfully up-sell products.
Otherwise, their efforts and recommendations are likely to manifest themselves as overt sales drives, which instantly undermines trust between your brand and its customers.
Ultimately, the best time to up-sell is when a customer asks directly for an opinion or feedback from servers.
This taps into the principle behind Seth Godin's insightful take on customer service, which suggests that consumers are most susceptible to marketing and up-selling techniques when they are in search of information and actively engaged with the brand.
So by listening intently to customers and using their question as an entry point into a natural conversation, you can effectively up-sell products without running the risk of annoying loyal consumers.
This is also crucial to extending the longevity of individual consumers, and maximising the amount of money that they spend with your brand over the course of your relationship.
This more than justifies any investment that you make in training your servers too, as their ability to communicate and marketing products effectively can prove invaluable to your brand.
#4 - Consider the Impact of Down-selling
The issue of organic up-selling and responding to the direct needs of your customers is also reflected in our next tip, which is so often disregarded by restaurants, cafe and bar owners.
Down-selling is an underrated and underused technique that can actually result in higher sales volumes, while also establishing trust and reinforcing your brand as a reliable service provider.
In simple terms, down-selling usually involves offering a more expensive option first, before presenting an economical alternative after this is declined.
By then effectively selling the alternative as an ideal product selection, you are still optimising the value of a potential sale while also creating the perception of fairness and honesty.
Customers will also instantly view the more economical item as having a higher value, meaning that they are also incentivised by the promise of a favourable deal.
This technique works particularly well during times of economic austerity or uncertainty, as customers genuinely become more price sensitive during such periods.
They are therefore looking to partner with brands that offer the best value proposition, while also seeking out providers who can deliver honest feedback that enhances the consumer experience.
Not only will this maximise the customer spend in each given scenario, but it will also have a cumulative impact on your revenues during times of economic difficulty.
The Last Word
With these strategic but simple steps, you can develop up-selling techniques that strike the delicate balance between maximising revenue and enhancing the customer experience.
This will also drive the long-term growth of your venture, ensuring that you maximise each customer's spend for as long as they associate themselves with your brand.