Promotional products salespeople are, for the most part, eager to get the order and run. But by asking a few additional questions, they can gain additional sales and, ultimately, earn massive profits. By keeping the right upselling questions in your back pocket and using them, you will see a significant increase in your business and your profitability.

If you’ve heard my presentations at industry events, you know my mantra is: “Sales feed egos and profits feed families.” I encourage
you to embrace this mantra as well. It sets the tone for this article because while upselling is about increasing sales, it is first about increasing profitability.

The Value Of Upselling
Look at the big picture and you’ll see that upselling can result in increased dollars for you, but it can also have a positive impact on your clients by helping them to increase their sales, gather data, secure feedback, promote brand awareness, and leverage and elevate their respective brands.

A Case For Suggestive Selling
Let’s look for a moment at McDonald’s Corporation. Many years ago, the impetus for developing an upsell initiative for my business came while sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant in Dallas, before a PPAI show. While there, I watched various members of the counter crew robotically go through the motions of taking orders: burger, fries and Coke; burger, fries and Coke. But I watched one team member ask every customer, “Would you care to super-size your meal?” “Would you like an apple pie with that?” He was upselling. Today, there are 36,000 McDonald’s restaurants in 101 countries, serving 69 million people daily. Imagine if every counter team member tried to upsell those 69 million customers? Imagine that only five percent (which I’m sure is low) said “yes.” Imagine that each upsell increased the total order by one dollar. How would that affect the bottom line?

Five percent of customers said yes = 3,450,000 people
3,450,000 people x 365 days a year = 12.5 million yeses annually
$1 per yes = $12.5 million in additional sales
If food cost is 30 percent, additional profit would be $8,750,000 —just for asking a simple question.

Now I know that your business is not on the scale of McDonald’s, but imagine if you were able to upsell 25 percent of every order you sold in a year. What would that mean to your bottom line?

The Upsell Opportunities
Packaging When selling any promotional product, always look for ways to add value with packaging. Boxes, poly-bagging, kraft bags, gift boxes, mailing tubes, tins and cans are just a few of the containers available, and all can be customized for the client in a variety of ways. Now more than ever, many of these options can be ordered with minimums as low as one piece. With low minimums you will pay a premium, but it may be worth it to target that one exceptional client.

Accessorizing is another way to add value for the client and profits for you. Accessories are those little extras that add a higher perceived value to the promotional product. The ones I recommend to clients and prospects, depending on the product or program being considered, are belly bands, hang tags, razor tags, hangers, garment bags, pressing, folding, zipper pulls, rubber bands and stamped buckles.
Accessorizing a custom cap can add extreme value, sales and profits. When I was CEO of supplier Headwear USA, I was always amazed at how infrequently salespeople would share additional ways to embellish a cap. For example, on a six-panel cap, there are 26 different places for customization. Here are four ideas:

1. Seam tape: Seam tape refers to those three strips of material on the inside of the cap that cover the seams; they are mostly there for cosmetic reasons. However, they can be imprinted in a variety of ways to convey a safety message, web address, phone numbers or decorated with custom accent colors.

2. Woven label: Personalizing with a custom label is a great way to further brand a cap. These labels can either be printed or woven—certainly the woven labels have a higher perceived value and cost only pennies but are worth more in your profits.

3. Under visor: This large imprint area can be used to drive home a message; for example, safety. Additionally, the printing can be tone on tone or in contrasting colors, and the cap fabric can carry one of the corporate colors of the client. The variations are limitless.

4. Sandwich: This is the underside edge of the visor. There are many ways this area can be customized. For example, carry through a safety theme by using printed or woven material with a step and repeat message or use a reflective material here for safety purposes. The possibilities are endless, inexpensive, and profitable if positioned and sold correctly.

Consultative Services Too many distributors try to make their living selling stuff; rarely, if ever, do they get paid for their innovation, creativity and consulting. I’ve never understood why the most important part of the process is always given away for free; agencies charge for these services. Now some of you may say, “We’re not an agency!” While that may be true, many of the things your company does are agency-type activities, and for that reason I encourage you to reconsider your business model. There is nothing in writing prohibiting you from charging for your time for these types of activities. In fact, several of my consultant clients bill for their creative time. This is indeed an “upsell” activity that should be considered.

• Warehousing, Kitting And Fulfillment
Having the ability to warehouse products and collateral materials, and provide kitting (grouping and packaging separate but related items as one unit) and fulfillment, (receiving, packaging and shipping orders) is another opportunity to upsell, and you don’t need your own facility. There are many companies that offer good service in this area, and you can hire them as a third-party vendor and still profit from the relationship.

Selling The Value Of The Upsell
Merely suggesting an upsell is not enough. It’s imperative to not only have the idea for the upsell, but to be prepared to answer the “why.” For example, your client is likely to ask, “Why should I consider doing that or paying extra for what you’re suggesting?” Years ago, I made a presentation to a client who was interested in purchasing 3,500 t-shirts. The art was prepared and camera-ready and the purchase order was complete, but before running out the door I asked three questions:
• How are the shirts being delivered?
• How are they to be packaged?
• When do they need to be delivered?

With these answers and looking at how the shirts were being used (they were rolling out a new product/program), we suggested they package the shirts with a cover letter in a custom mailing tube. We offered to roll and tube the garments, size and label the end of the tube, and handle the mailing. The cost to the client for the fulfillment was $1.60 each plus mailing costs. To win that upsell, we had to sell the value.

In this case, the value was that we had a clean-room facility and could complete this in one day. The client was assured they would receive all 3,500 shirts (no shortages) and they would not need to hire any temp staff or take permanent staff away from their regular jobs to fulfill this task. The client saw the value and agreed to the upsell. My cost was 43 cents per piece and we realized a profit of $1.17 on each shirt. At 3,500 shirts, this job earned over $4,000 in additional profit gained by asking a few simple questions. The worst thing the client could have said to the upsell proposition was “no”—and we hear that all the time.

It’s a Lonely Road, But A Profitable One
Once you begin upselling, you’ll find you’re in the minority. You see, only about three percent or less of all salespeople upsell. That’s good news! If you start looking at yourself in a different light—if you’re always driving value, creativity and innovation—you will see the rewards in higher sales tickets and increased profitability. As for your clients, you will have created substantial value for them by continuing to elevate their brand and making it stand out in a very crowded marketspace.


Cliff Quicksell, Jr., MAS+, serves both as a consultant and acting director of marketing for distributor iPROMOTEu. He has been in the promotional industry for more than 30 years 
in various capacities. Additionally, Quicksell is president of his own international speaking and consulting company, speaking, coaching and consulting on ways and methods that companies can grow, expand and prosper. He has helped and spoken to audiences in more than eight countries and has published two books and more than 900 articles on sales, marketing and creativity. He publishes a weekly blog “30 Seconds To Greatness.” Contact him to subscribe: cliff@quicksellspeaks. com, 301-717-0615 or via his LinkedIn profile.