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Suggestive Selling – All You Have to Do is Ask!! (By Nicole Lee)

A simple, relatively normal thing occurred while in the drive-through at Del Taco with my boyfriend the other day. After placing our semi-high maintenance food order, the person taking my order, in a forced monotone voice, unenthusiastically asks, “Would you like to add our new blah, blah, blah for dessert?” All my sweet-tooth-driven ears heard was “dessert” and I wanted something sugary to complete my four-course drive-through meal. My boyfriend asked if I wanted the donut thing they were trying to push, but I ended up going with a churro. As we received our food, my boyfriend told the server, “Good job on the upsell.” In which we received the same unenthusiastic “thank you” in reply.  This all led to a discussion about suggestive selling, how easy it is, how to do it correctly, and how beneficial it is. Of course, this Del Taco drive-through upsell experience did not meet our standards of how to do it correctly, but it worked!

Easy-Peasy

Both my boyfriend and I have sales and hospitality backgrounds and understand how easy suggestive selling can be. All you must do is suggest and ask. It is not difficult to do; it is just words coming out of your mouth. Literally, by suggesting and asking you will receive one of two answers, “yes” or “no.” One answer results in a sale; the other in a few seconds of your time that did not result in a sale, but may have reminded or brought attention to the guest of a service or amenity that is offered at your establishment.

Of course, it is the “no’s” that discourage one from this repetitive cycle of suggesting. Often employees, especially seasoned employees, may find suggestive selling tedious and unproductive. Eventually, this will lead to not even trying to suggestive sell.

So how do you overcome the difficulty of the discouragement and repetitiveness of upselling? Firstly, employees need to have proper training on how to effectively sell suggestively. With proper training, the success rate will increase. During training, prepare your employees for the barrage of negative responses they will be receiving. Many server and front desk employees may not have experience with the nature of sales and preparing them for this is beneficial. Secondly, an employer must encourage and, in some cases, incentivize employees to suggestive sell. As a server in a restaurant, an upsell results in a higher check and possibly a higher tip, which is an incentive. In the hotel and lodging industry and fast food industry, most front desk and fast food restaurant employees do not get a tip for successfully upgrading a guest to a more expensive room or selling them that extra churro. By offering an incentive this will encourage employees to remember to persevere through the “no’s,” even if it is just motivated by the incentive.

If You are Going to do it, Do it Right

My Del Taco drive-through churro upsell experience was not exactly how suggestive selling should be done. He got the concept right, ASK. However, the execution was all wrong. There needs to be excitement and engagement in your voice when you are attempting to suggest an item, service, or amenity for purchase. If you make that ocean view room or strawberry shortcake dessert sound just so-so, then it will not entice the guest.

Read the guest's body language and verbal cues.  If they seemed rushed or annoyed, make your suggestions concise.  If the guest seems engaged, take this cue to suggest with a more detailed, enticing description. If you are interacting with your guest in person, your body language is important as well. When suggesting smile and use an upbeat tone while speaking. When asking if they would like to add or upgrade, slightly nod your head while asking. This type of body language on your part will increase your success.

The Benefits

From a business position, successful upselling increases sales and revenues. To increase profits, a business must lower costs or increase sales; upselling is a cost-effective way to do this. From a consumer standpoint, upselling increases customer satisfaction and loyalty through customization and personalization of the experience.

As an employee or employer, what are some techniques you have implemented to increase suggestive selling that has been effective? Tell us about a time you most successfully used suggestive selling to increase a sale in a hospitality setting. 

About the Author

Nicole Lee is currently a junior at Cal Poly Pomona Collins College of Hospitality Management with a focus on event management. She is currently working with a small event coordinator, bartending for Wedgewood Weddings and Events, and for a mobile bartending service, all of which allow her to gain experience from exposure to a wide array of events. She enjoys hiking, white water rafting, paddling boarding, and spending time with friends and family. Nicole would love a career in events that allows her to create special memories for others while fulfilling her passion to travel.


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