Research and common sense both tell us that it is more profitable to keep an existing customer than find new ones. In fact, some studies suggest it is five to six times more expensive to gain a new contract rather than keep an existing one.

The reality is that the cost of upselling existing clients is significantly less than the cost of generating entirely new clients for the same revenue because your cost per lead is nil. Today, the cost of buying a new lead with email addresses varies from about 50 cents to $1 while advertising cost per lead varies from a few dollars to several hundred for print placements. For upselling, your costs in marketing may be as limited as the cost of a simple sell sheet.  The sales costs may only be whatever you choose as a reward in terms of sales commissions and incentives. These are far more cost efficient than advertising and buying leads. A key advantage and ROI driver for upselling is that you begin with a defined target: clients who already made the decision to choose your product or service and have trust in the quality.

Training and Patience Are Key

Quality training is essential to the success of everything salespeople do. For upselling, training centers on three things:

·         First, what pain point or inconvenience are clients experiencing?

·         Second, what questions do you ask to open up the conversation positively without harming the client’s perception of their current relationship with your company?

·         Finally, how can you close the deal on the spot while the client is thinking about the problem?

 With upselling there is already a level of familiarity between the company and the client. In an upsell situation, you run the risk of hearing about problems that you didn’t know about and having to overcome them before you can talk about additional services. You need to know the client well to know when to back-off and when to pursue.

Still, highly-successful upselling boils down to salesmanship and training – a very specialized skill set. It’s not just a salesperson who is looking for the next step in their career. A great sales trainer has a skill that is often foreign to high-performing salespeople: patience. While some instructors want to tell students everything they know, a good trainer patiently guides the rep to learn the things that will benefit them the most.

Visual Assessments and Motivation

In the commercial cleaning business, upsell situations are based on a visual assessment that something needs extra attention. So the conditions are just right when the rep sees an opportunity to take care of a cleaning problem that is currently not part of the scope of work. For example, perhaps it’s the end of the winter season and the outdoor windows are showing the effects of the nasty weather. That’s a great time to point out the grime on the windows and find out if the customer is feeling some pain around wanting the windows to look clean. Then, position your window service. Similarly, as winter ends in cold weather states, perhaps it is a good time to offer a carpet cleaning to address stains from dirty wet winter shoes.

The big question is: how to motivate your sales team for the upsell? The answer is simple: money and recognition. Get creative; for example, create a contest for approaching clients with the additional service and award the rep incrementally based on defined sales targets (e.g., $ for one to five upsells, $$ for six to 10, $$$ for 11 to 15).

It is also important to celebrate and recognize upsell success and share the news with company employees. People greatly desire to be recognized by their peers and colleagues, so don’t hesitate to spread the word.

For technicians, recognition is extra important to help build their confidence. Take time to celebrate a technician’s “first upsell,” no matter how minor. Show them that their contribution was noticed and appreciated. Soon enough, the technician who earned one upsell will shoot for two or three the next time, and so on, until you’ve created an upsell machine.


Sean Kajcienski serves as Chief Sales Officer of Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System. With more than 20 years of sales, marketing, operations and franchise experience, Kajcienski leads the company’s global sales strategy.