Add on selling, companion selling, related selling, suggestive selling. No matter what label is used, it works.
I was reminded of this when discussing the topic with some garden centre people recently – people who didn’t want to appear pushy to their customers, many of whom were regulars. I recounted to them an occasion when my colleague, Jan Collins, was doing some training and coaching with a group of garden centres.
Jan had the challenging task of improving the sales skills of this successful group of garden centres. She started off with an evening seminar for all the employees to cover in broad terms the key selling skills that can help make a difference. This was to be followed up by one to one coaching with staff members in the outlets of this group of garden centres.
Things were going well at the seminar until Jan got on to the topic of add on selling. This is when the resistance set in. These dedicated people did not want to appear pushy. They were happy to give product knowledge and advice but did not feel that it was appropriate to recommend additional products. It was up to the customer to make that decision in their view.
The breakthrough for Jan occurred from an unlikely source. One of the ladies present, who was certainly not a people person, said “Well, I always tell them to get snail pellets and a growing agent when they purchase plants from me. I don’t want them going home and killing my plants!”
While everyone had a laugh about her attitude she did get the point across. It was clear that they were doing their customers a disservice if they did not recommend to them that they purchase the appropriate support products.
During the next phase of the training, Jan was working with staff in the garden centres at a time when they had a promotion on for punnets of seedlings.
Jan observed one of the ladies, who previously had felt most uncomfortable about the whole idea of add-on selling, having great success. A customer came up to this lady having made a selection of a couple of punnets of seedlings. The staff member congratulated the lady on her purchase and asked her if she had snail pellets at home as it would be important to protect the seedlings. The staff member also recommended a growing agent. Most times that she did this, customers would purchase both snail pellets and a growing agent. Occasionally they said they already had them at home or they didn’t need them but no offence was ever taken. Customers appreciated the suggestions.
This staff member was clearly pleased with the result she was getting and the reaction from the customers. In fact, at one stage when things quietened down she turned to Jan with a big smile on her face and gave her a thumbs up sign as a demonstration of how well it was going.
Just after this an elderly gentleman came into the garden centre and selected a punnet of seedlings. He appeared to be a regular customer and the lady chatted to him briefly and after processing the transaction farewelled him without any suggestion being made about either the snail pellets or the growing agent.
When things quietened down Jan went over to the lady and congratulated her on the great result she was getting but then asked why she hadn’t made the suggestions to the elderly gentleman. In response this staff member said that he was a pensioner and she knew very well that he didn’t have much money so she felt it wasn’t appropriate. Jan said to her “So it’s alright then if the snails eat this gentleman’s seedlings is it?”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought about it like that” she said looking quite distressed. She now felt quite guilty that she hadn’t looked after this regular customer properly.
The lesson from this is never pre-judge your customers. Give them the appropriate information and recommendations concerning any additional products or services you feel are appropriate for them. They can then make the decision as to whether to purchase or not. The result of this will be increased sales and happier customers.