Want Fries with That?

"Want fries with that?" We all have heard this classic fast-food up selling catchphrase many times, but we don't stop to think of ways in which such simple add-on sales techniques can be used to enhance transactions much more complex than a burger and fries.

Quite often the most neglected part of a business is existing customers. In the field of durable medical equipment (DME) one truth can be said: the customer will need additional products in the future. Do you have a plan to keep them coming back? What is your strategy to keep your company in front of your customers?

In the DME business, it is not uncommon for customers to be unaware of the company that sold them their wheelchair or other equipment. This is due to poor follow-up after the sale. An effort not to pressure customers to buy other products may result in the failure to offer items that can make their lives easier. DME suppliers are in the business of helping people with disabilities and should always be looking out for products that can further improve their customers' lives.

Basic training in any business always includes looking for the next sale. One of the most glaring shortcomings of sales training today is the failure to include everyone in the company, regardless of their position, in up selling, cross selling and backend selling. Each of these techniques involve a customer who is on the verge of buying or is already an established customer.

Up selling:Selling a product that would better suit the customers? needs and selling options that will make the newly purchased product work better for them. Example: selling a scooter that works outside if you find out your customer likes to go into the yard.

Cross selling: Selling a complementary product at the delivery of a product or after the sale of an original product. For example, you might begin selling a stander while setting up a wheelchair for the first time.

Backend selling:First cousin to cross selling, but often done well after the original sale. Backend selling is often done when the customer comes back for service or is attracted to the store by a special offer sent via mail or e-mail.

The benefits of up selling, cross selling and backend selling cut across wide spectrums of your business. Such benefits include:

  • little or no extra work to sell additional products at the time of original sale.
  • customer trust because of past and present service.
  • easy access to customers' specific wants and needs.
  • help customers live an easier, more comfortable life.
  • no expenses of advertising or other costs of getting a customer.
  • higher sales per customer without additional expenses.
  • employees are more satisfied because they can see direct results of their work.

Failure to be successful in an up selling, cross selling and backend selling program can often be attributed to little or no training of the employee. It is not enough to tell the sales rep to go out and make additional sales. The training can be as basic as having the employee remember three basic scripts.

1. Tag-on: The rep can mention other products after the conclusion of a related or unrelated conversation that the customer might have an interest in purchasing a specific product. The tag-on phrases or lead-ins could include "by the way," "you might not be aware," "others with a similar condition like" and "this product will help that from happening".

2. Personal Stories: The sales rep can use examples of past customers that were satisfied with a product. After a period of time, the sales rep will have many sales stories they can use.

3. Personal endorsements: To reinforce the impact of new products or services, the reps can refer to other customers who use the products.

When can you go about up selling, cross selling and backend selling? There are many opportunities to do so when selling any product; let's look at selling a standing frame to illustrate the following examples.

*At the point of purchase.
The best time to sell more products is right before they pay the bill for a current product. If a customer is purchasing a wheelchair, can you offer them a standing frame that will make their life more convenient? Offer examples of wheelchair/standing frame sales to others with the same disability. How have those customers benefited from the use of both products?

*When delivering products.
When setting up a wheelchair or other product, ask your customer, "Have you ever considered standing up" The reaction might be wide ranging, from "Are you nuts" to "What do you mean" Now you have the opportunity to talk about standing aids.

*When following up after a delivery.
You don't follow up? Well, you should. Even if it is a simple follow-up letter thanking the customer, you have an opportunity to include in the letter an offer of another product. You can include a flyer about standing frames or include a special offer on a standing frame when sending a thank-you for a wheelchair purchase.

*When a lead doesn't buy from you.
They must have shown an interest in you at some point. Continue to follow up with them. If they did not purchase a wheelchair or scooter from your company, perhaps the subject of standing frames has recently come up in physical therapy and they would welcome the opportunity to learn more from your company.

*In clinic.
Create a questionnaire that asks about activities of daily living including bathing and hygiene, driving, sleeping, and other aspects of life. Be sure to get an OK from the therapists. Discussing the answers to the questionnaire will provide a great forum for talking about other products.

*Keep a catalog or file folder ready.
Always be ready to show the customer a new product. Telling them about something is good, showing them is even better. If you can show them customers using a standing frame, they will be better able to visualize themselves using one.

*Offer demonstration models.
What's better than having the customer imagine themselves using a standing frame? Actually having them use one, of course! Nothing sells a product faster than trying it. Call the manufacturer or their local representative for a demonstration model.

What products to sell? Maintaining a catalog of products that you encourage your employees to sell is the first step to up selling, cross selling and backend selling. What you put in the catalog will be determined by your knowledge and past history. Keep the selection of products limited so you and your employees can create an easier, more understandable sales program.

1. Similar or complimentary products: Create a stable of products that you have had success selling in the past.

2. Products for specific disabilities or conditions: What products have others found useful? What products have been requested? Keep track of this information and use it to formulate your plans.

3. Products at various price points: Make sure the products you choose are varied. If they purchased a product in a certain price range, offer them another in different price range with more features. Do not assume they cannot afford to pay for the products.

4. Products that are reimbursable: What products have you had success with? What insurances have paid in the past? Keep track of such information.

Micromarketing and using data that you already have can give you an advantage in selling. Some examples of micromarketing include:

  • Segmenting customers to identifying sales opportunities
  • Predicting customers? potential likelihood to buy in the future
  • Locating and identifying customers most likely to either trade up or buy new products
  • Identifying niche markets and offering products that appeal to them, such as those with spinal cord injuries who like to stand
  • Understanding your target market to ensure successful new product sales.

Customers have a tendency to forget who you are. How often have you seen a former customer rolling around in a new scooter or wheelchair from another dealer, or worse, a catalog? Would they have gone to someone else if you kept in touch? Maybe, but doubtful if you had kept in touch. Do not give them the opportunity to forget you. Keep in touch any way you can. Some ways to keep in touch are:

  • In-house newsletter
  • Special product offers around holidays such as Mother's Day
  • Free repair day and cleaning day once or twice a year
  • E-mail a monthly newsletter
  • Postcard mailing on regular basis
  • Phone calls
  • Open houses

Whatever you do, however you do it and whatever money you can budget, you must find a way to keep them coming back to your business.

Approaching selling with a sales attitude will quickly turn off some who are in the DME business. Many get into the business to help people, and are turned off by the prospect of sales. One thing to help your sales reps remember is that many who are disabled are looking for direction when it comes to DME products. Encourage your employees to use their knowledge to help the customers. If you look at up selling, cross selling and backend selling with a service attitude it will make the employees feel good about what they are doing, and you will have no problem increasing your sales per customer and increasing profits.

The easiest way to fail is to not have support from top management. If the owners and managers do not believe in the concepts of up selling, cross selling and backend selling, than neither will the sales reps or others in the company. Some of the things the owners and managers can do to make the program a success are:

*Set goals.
Without them you have no way of knowing if results are being achieved. Set individual goals and group goals.

*Offer additional incentives.
Whether it's a pizza party, commissions, bonuses, awards or time off, there should be some sort of incentives.

*Conduct contests.
Make it fun to sell. Do it weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. Whatever you decide, remember to keep it up or your employees will forget as fast as you do.

*Keep track of success.
This gives you the basis to make future decisions. Keep track of failures as well as successes to analyze what to change in the future.

Do not underestimate the power of a pat on the back or congratulations.

Owners and managers have a great deal of sway over how the employees and sales reps feel and how they do their job. Without their support and direction, programs of up selling, cross selling and backend selling will not happen.

This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of HME Business.


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