Sell in a Tough Economy.

Nothing was working! The first month as their sales manager I found myself watching our sales numbers take a dive right before my eyes in the current tough economy. My initial knee-jerk reaction was to give bigger discounts. That didn’t work. I changed direction with focusing on the “perfect solution” sale followed by strong closing tactics. It was important to capitalize on the few opportunities we were getting. That didn’t work either. If anything these changes were making things worse.


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An Epiphany

Ironically these potential customers “wanted” all the features we presented. They liked the idea of the perfect solution and yet we were being kicked out of their buying process early on. Why?

After doing a Quincy Analysis… we found that our competition was not proposing to the customers needs but were playing off their desire to practice conservative spending. We gave them the perfect solution… they gave them the basic needs to get by until economic times change. Even with a great discount we were too high and not addressing the real issue. Designing the “perfect solution” was not winning deals. A change in strategy was needed. Up-Selling became the answer.

“Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason.” –Ayn Rand

Customer Driven Up-Selling

Just to be clear… I’m not talking about you up-selling the customer but the other way around. This is an important distinction. While I show/explain how I can solve their issues I don’t heavily sell to them. I will definitely explain the value and ROI if there is one. But that’s it. If I have done my job… up-selling by the customer takes place. Let me give you an example.


The customer would like 20 phones. I have talked about all the phone choices previously not necessarily hard selling in any one direction. The initial proposal includes only basic phones. Until we can get in front of the customer to go over choices we are now priced competitively. Upon discussion of the proposal, almost always the customer will up-sell themselves to a nicer phone for some if not all users. I let them build their own perfect solution. This strategy is crucial as it keeps me in the game against my competition much longer. Simple but effective.

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Up-Selling Success

1. Probe for solutions: Find the “hot spots”.

2. Propose the basics: Be especially careful to not quote “would like” products but focus on the basics with “definitely need” products as options.

3. Let the customer add options: Up-selling themselves.

Strategy Explained

When the customer would look at all the proposals they would see ours as too high. Ultimately the competition would be as high but they were letting the customer up-sell after the fact. We never really got a chance. We looked like we were pushing product… they looked like they were consultants with the customer making wise decisions.

In today’s economic environment creative “out of the box” tactics are needed. We have found that customer driven up-selling is a sound sales practice. Customer is happy with the solution… we’re happy without giving away the farm… a win-win.

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Chris Lott is a business solutions consultant with over 10 year’s sales management experience including business ownership, product management and marketing. He also owns and contributes to SalesBlog! and totallysales.


5 thoughts on “Sell in a Tough Economy.

  1. As a new startup company I found this to be very relevant to my needs. I am educating and creating a new client base and have struggled with sales options. Thank you Chris for giving me another way of making my service more appealing to my potential clients.

  2. ‘Let the customer make the choice, and don’t push product, be a consultant’
    I think this strat would be effective, and the skill lies in being able to lead the client to make those choices, rather then telling them to make that certain choice.


    1. Good point, Jay. I visited with a potential client the other day, and he told me one of my competitors treated them just like a car salesman would. Isn’t it amazing how our customers are really intelligent if we let them be. We need to treat their pain more than we carve sales out of them.

  3. I’m not driven to reading about marketing solutions often but this article has a very unique solution to an all encompassing marketing problem that all marketers can learn from. I like your style, Chris.

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