Bizdev: How to use upselling at your agency

Written by: Karl Sakas

Upselling is well-known as a sales technique—but does it translate to business development at agencies? And should you upsell at your agency?

The answer to both is “yes”—but how you upsell is critical. First, a definition…

Definition of “upselling” for agencies

Upselling is a sales technique that encourages a client to spend more money than they originally planned. You can use it with prospects and with current clients.

How can you apply the technique at your agency? More on that in a moment. But before that…

Upselling is not inherently sleazy

Let’s clear up a frequent misconception about upselling:

  • Some people think upselling is inherently sleazy—the idea that agencies are selling services that clients don’t need.
  • The concept is only sleazy if you’re pushing clients to do work that they don’t need. Instead, choose to recommend things that benefit the client or prospect.
  • Consider doing a downsell instead, if downselling is more appropriate. (As you may know, a downsell can cement long-term loyalty, when you recommend a client spend less today.)

Agencies should consider using upselling because it grows revenues while helping your clients—something we all want. Not every client is suitable—or open—to being upsold, but the key is to think in terms of how your client will benefit from the upsell.

Will upselling make help a client reach their goals? Then offer an upsell option. Looking for examples? Read on.

3 ways to use upselling at your agency

Here are three ways to approach this at your agency.

1) Frame your upsell as a win-win.

Upselling is easier when you offer choices to your clients:

We’ve identified three options in our proposal, based on what you shared about your goals and your budget. The “best” option is $20,000/month, the “better” option is $15,000/month, and the “good” option is $9,000/month.

Maybe the client is leaning toward the middle $15,000/month option but they want some things from the higher-end option.

Part of your upsell could include highlighting the benefits of highest $20,000/month option—or you could mix-and-match and upsell them components from the expensive one so that they’re spending more than $15,000/month. Thanks to your upsell framing, perhaps they’ll spend $17,000/month instead.

The key is that you’ve framed this around client benefits, not the agency’s needs: Make your client the Hero.

2) Help your client upsell themselves

Ideally, you can encourage clients to upsell themselves. As a buyer, I did this recently while hiring a freelancer to help me with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Among the three options, her highest-priced one was the most compelling because I was getting way more for a small increase in investment and I’d see a much larger potential return.

I got the sense that she expected me to pick the middle option—but the most-expensive option seemed like a much better value to me.

3) Use value-anchoring to close your upsell.

Related, you can use value-anchoring to frame the highest-priced offering as the best choice. There are two ways to do this in your sales proposal:

  1. Make the most-expensive option amazing—and price the middle one to be just a little less expensive, to make the top one affordable in comparison.
  2. Build the most-expensive option to be amazing, yet very expensive. It makes the middle one come across as less-expensive… which creates an upsell from your cheapest option.

Upselling isn’t scary or sleazy when used correctly. Indeed, it should be part of every agency’s business development plan because it’s a win-win for both the client and the agency: your clients benefit from the additional help.

Just like I found with my experience buying PPC services, you can generate more value for a relatively small increase in expenses—and your clients can experience the benefits, too.

QUESTION: How will you use upselling to serve clients at your agency?

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