How to upsell your clients

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February 01, 2013
How to upsell your clients.

ThumbnailHave you ever just finished a project and wondered: How can I do more for this client? or perhaps you were thinking: Oh darn, now I have to look for new clients.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The most valuable clients are the ones that stay with you, not the ones that provide one-off projects. So how do you get valuable clients that want to stick with you for the long haul?

In this article, I’m going to give you the benefit of my experience, and hopefully by the end of it you’ll know how to upsell clients, so they’ll never want to go anywhere else.

Would you like fries with that?

At its most basic level, this is a fundamental part of up-selling. If all employees are trained at a fast food restaurant to ask customers, Would you like fries with that?” and 20% agree, that would increase the company’s bottom line tremendously.

So how do you translate this to the web industry?


Strategy image via Shutterstock

First you need to identify a problem that your client’s having. Ask questions like…

What are the biggest problems you face in your business? This will help you in figuring out which services you can offer to solve their problems.

On the other hand, you can extract information about the clients’ problems through simple conversation.

After you’ve identified a problem, look in your skills toolbox and make an offer by asking…

Is your brand being perceived the way you want it to be? Try to get them to explain their brand to you. Afterwards you can make suggestions on what you can do to make their brand better (eg. Oh I understand that you want to attract gamers, however your logo looks like a law firm or a bank’s. I can fix your logo so that you can better relate to gamers).

Would you like to be at the top of Google? I don’t know one person or business that would say no to that. If you are an SEO expert, then upsell that like it’s going out of style.

Do you want to prevent viruses and hackers from disrupting your website? If a client says no to this, make sure they are aware of the importance of security.

Can I maintain the site for you? Your client is going to need someone to maintain the site, make periodic updates and just make sure everything is running smoothly. Offer a maintenance package or quote your hourly rate and say you’ll maintain it every week or month.

After you’ve confirmed that there’s a problem that needs to be solved and that you have the skills to do the job, close the sale as soon as possible.

Are you trustworthy?

Clients want to know that the person they’re dealing with is trustworthy, so you need to build that relationship.

Find common ground with your clients so that you can have conversations outside of business. If you can figure out what makes your clients excited, what makes them laugh and what they value, then you’ll have no problems upselling them.

It’s always easier to upsell a client who trusts you and you’ve built a relationship with. Don’t be afraid to chat with your clients.

I know you’re looking to get on to the next job and make that money, but that’s not going to build valuable relationships. These relationships are where the bulk of your business and referrals are going to come from, so handle them with care.

Products are only a tool

World famous sales expert Zig Ziglar recommends that you only treat products as a tool when up-selling. Instead your main focus should be on the client’s concerns and having a genuine interest in uncovering their problems. This goes back to what I said earlier in that you need to identify a problem you can solve.

Keep your up-selling process nice and simple. The only things you need to learn are how to ask good questions and listen carefully. If you can master these skills, then your clients will start upselling themselves.

Consider this scenario:

You: Before you go Mr. Jones, I can offer you high quality branding materials.
Client: Thanks, but we’re going to wait on that. I’ll keep you in mind though.
You: Ok thanks.

Well that was easy and painless. You weren’t imposing on the client and they’re even going to keep you in mind for further projects, right? Not likely. So what went wrong here? You focused on the products before identifying a problem and didn’t even try to close the sale.

Now consider this alternate scenario:

You: Before you go Mr. Jones, I wanted to ask… what frustrates you most and keeps you up at night when thinking about your brand?
Client: Well, I don’t think our color scheme speaks our tone.
You: Tell me more about that.
Client: I want our colors to look professional and for some reason they just don’t seem to be working.
You: Are you aware that your current color scheme represents fun and warmth?
Client: Now that you mention it, I could see that. Could you help us feel and look more professional?
You: Yes sir. I’m an expert in brand development and understand its principles. Your brand is the face of your company and I can make sure that it’s represented memorably with a timeless logo, appropriate color scheme, company voice and I’ll provide you with a brand identity guide. By doing this, your problems with speaking to your target customers will be solved because the brand will be developed with that niche in mind.
Client: That sounds great! When can you get started?

At a very basic level, this is a great example of how you can extract a problem from your clients specific to your skills without sounding like you’re trying to sell them something they don’t want. Usually clients don’t even know what they want because they aren’t in touch with their own problems. It’s your job as an upseller to find those problems for your clients by asking the right questions.


Upsell image via Shutterstock

Remember not to focus on yourself and what you have to offer until you’ve found a problem to solve and genuinely get your client to talk about the problem, until then, your client couldn’t care less about what you have to offer.

Destructively persistent

Be persistent, but be persistent about your clients’ problems and not your products. If you’re constantly pushing your products and not caring about your client’s problems, eventually clients will begin to resent you.

All clients care about is what you can do for them. How can you solve their problems and make their life easier? And the more you can identify with that, the more you will build valuable relationships.

Let’s take Webdesigner Depot for example. There’s a problem, whether you’re aware of it or not, that they’re solving. The problem they’re solving is the lack of information on specific subjects. So instead of saying, Click on our ads and here’s how you can do it” WDD solves your problem of needing information in order to learn something, find recommendations from experts on various products or websites and more, then they have ads displayed that relate to the information. Which approach do you prefer? Would you like blogs more if they shoved their ads down your throat? I bet your answer is no, and clients are the same.

So again, be persistent but don’t shove your products down your clients’ throats, that’ll get you nowhere.

My clients’ shoes are uncomfortable

It doesn’t matter if your clients’ shoes are uncomfortable, you need to wear them anyway.

Try to find your prospect’s point of view and use that as leverage to fit in line with your products or services.

After you’ve asked a client some questions to get them to identify their own problems, find it in yourself to see through their eyes. If you have to, act as if you’re trying to get a girl or guy to go out with you on a date. To do that, you won’t be focusing on yourself because that’ll just turn them off.

Instead you’ll be trying to find common ground and how you can relate to them. Go through this same process with your clients and they’ll see you as more than just a contractor but you’ll be a friend that they can come to about their business problems. They know you’ll listen and genuinely try to make their life easier since you can relate and understand where they’re coming from.

In time, this will all seem obvious and easy to you. You’ll be able to upsell clients and get clients to upsell themselves without even knowing you’re doing it.


What I hope that you’ve taken away from this article is that relationships are your key to upselling. Hopefully you see that by asking questions and trying to identify specific problems, then offering a way to genuinely solve them is the best way to build those relationships.

Just remember that upselling successfully is not about you, it’s about your client.

Do you regularly upsell clients? What is the biggest obstacle you encounter when trying to upsell a client? Let us know in the comments.

Justin Hubbard

Justin Hubbard has been helping businesses since 2007 by creating timeless, memorable logos as part of a branding package and modern, user-friendly websites.

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