Adding Value

Nervous of upselling? Try the term ‘adding value’ to increase sales instead says Caroline Cooper.

Tipi in a field
Photo: Getty Images

As business owners we know that often the profit is in those all important additional sales – more so now than ever if you have a reduced capacity. But gaining that additional revenue from each booking isn’t always easy.

Over the years I’ve delivered many workshops focusing on ‘upselling’, and written training materials for clients that included sessions on it. But whenever I get involved in this topic there are always one or two people who find the idea of upselling uncomfortable.
The challenge is we (and our team) often feel reluctant to upsell. We don’t want to be pushy or be seen to be manipulating customers into buying something they simply don’t want. Which means there’s hesitation in how and what we suggest, which of course the customer can sense.
Or worse, we simply don’t even attempt to upsell as we’re fearful of losing the customer’s trust. But just think about it for a moment… Let’s see what can happen when we don’t upsell on experiences.

Imagine you’ve just been on your holiday of a lifetime to Fantastique (made up place, obviously!). Because it was a special holiday you decided to book through a personal travel agent. You had a wonderful time, and when you get home you’re chatting with some friends about your amazing holiday. Then one of them asks you, “What did you think of Awesome Island?”

You look at them blankly, and ask “where?” To which they reply “What! You mean you went all the way to Fantastique and didn’t go to Awesome Island?! You would have loved it! It’s the best thing about the place!”

How do you now feel about your holiday? You know you’ll never go back there, but now you find out you’ve missed one of the best things to do/see. Why on earth didn’t your travel agent tell you about this place?!

When upselling is done for the right reasons it’s a good thing, as it can add real value and enhance the customer’s experience. Although we don’t want to be pushy, if we don’t offer other items we may leave the customer not even realising they exist. Result? Disappointment. Frustration. Regret.

So, if you or any of your team don’t feel that upselling is a part of their job, reframe the way you see and describe it. Instead, get into the mindset of ‘adding value’.

Adding value

It isn’t just about increasing the customer spend, it’s about giving the customer a better all-round experience, giving them something they might have forgotten to ask for, never thought of, or maybe never even knew existed.
Just like that little prompt we see when we buy anything on Amazon “Customers who bought this item also bought…” or “Frequently bought together” – we are simply giving the customer a choice.
I didn’t know you did that!
One of the most frustrating things to hear from a customer is when they say to you, “Oh, I didn’t know you could supply that; I’ve just bought it from so and so down the road!”
Not only have you lost out on a potential sale, but you’ve also given the customer more work, and potentially allowed them to go to a competitor.

A thorough product knowledge is crucial for everyone in your team if you expect them to make the most of opportunities to upsell. There are three factors at play here:

1. Product knowledge
This might sound obvious, but try this exercise with your team. Ask everyone individually (you included) to write down everything your venue can offer a customer. Don’t worry too much at this point about dividing it into different categories, in fact it’s better if you don’t as very often we forget to cross sell between departments or different types of booking/events.

Now ask everyone to share their list (and ideally capture these on a flipchart as you go). I can almost guarantee you that as you go round your team there will always be one or two products or services on someone’s list that no one else has thought of.

Repeat this exercise for everything you can source for your customers through joint-venture partners/other local businesses. You’ll be amazed just how much is potentially on offer. Admittedly, not everything on this list will be things you typically want to promote; they may be loss leaders, or involve a disproportionate amount of effort, but at least you can make a conscious decision as to whether or not you want to promote these items/services or not.

2. Spotting opportunities
Involve your team in identifying situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to upsell not just in their own department but across all areas. Putting themselves in the customer’s shoes. What might be a logical addition to get the most out of their stay/event, based on the needs, expectations, and the type of experience your customer wants to create?

Know your audience and review the buying patterns of your most profitable customers. What types of things do they frequently buy together? Is this something you already offer, or is this something where a joint venture with another local business would make things easier for you and your customer, but still keep the business in house?
It’s also about timing – bombarding customers with all the potential extras from the outset may be overwhelming, whereas once the priority products/services are secured, a customer may be more open to consider additional items.

3. Getting emotional
Much of the buying decision for additional sales will be based on emotion rather than logic. Describing something with enthusiasm and feeling can be hard when you’ve not had any first-hand experience, so as far as is reasonably possible expose your team members to as much of the customer journey, products and services as possible. This not only makes them more memorable, but your team will also be more willing to promote if they’re confident to talk about them. And it will certainly be easier to evoke emotional appeal through vivid descriptions of taste, smell, feel, if they’ve experienced things themselves.

Use your internal team to train others so they can cross sell. For example, your pastry chef will do a better job of describing your desserts or afternoon teas than a manager who isn’t involved in making the cakes or puddings. Involving others in the team who you know have an interest and passion for that service and/or products and who will be more than happy to share their knowledge, allows their enthusiasm to rub off.

If you don’t have the knowledge internally, ask your suppliers to help your team feel confident in explaining to customers what’s available. No one is going to be able to explain all the options for marquees or stetch tents like your suppliers can, but they can at least give your team a head start.

It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope! Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Gift bags at an event
Photo: Getty Images

Outside the box

Many upselling or cross selling opportunities can never truly be foreseen. It’s only when you listen carefully to the customer and understand their expectations or dreams that we see the opportunity; that quirky little factor, or one component that adds that magic touch.

It’s one thing, spotting these opportunities, but it’s quite another for your team to feel confident in suggesting or offering this to your customers; to suggest something that is not on your normal offering, but could be the one thing that really makes the difference.

Empower your team to think creatively and be flexible; give them authority to do whatever they see is the best fit for the customer. You may still want to set a limit on this so they know at what point they need to get sign off, but the more flexibility you give them the more likely they are to meet and exceed that customer’s expectations.


The simplest form of recognition is to share and review good examples of upselling and cross selling and the impact on the business and the customer’s experience. Assuming you do some kind of regular team briefings or a debrief after each event, this is a good time to review your upselling and cross selling success stories. This helps your team recognise best practice, which in turn helps and encourages them to spot further opportunities.

You may consider linking your upselling activity to some goals. If you do go down this route, there are a few factors to bear in mind. Whatever goals you set ensure they are clearly measurable and achievable, so there is no subsequent dispute. Check that any incentive is equitable, so everyone is motivated to contribute; the last thing you want is one person undermining or working against a colleague in order to qualify for the incentive. Finally, make sure that any incentive does not lead to pushiness or inappropriate recommendations for customers.

In summary

Letting your customer know about other products or services that might complement what they already have, you can really help to enhance the whole experience as well as your bottom line!



Caroline Cooper is the founder of Naturally Loyal and has over 30 years’ training and development experience in hospitality. Recognising that managers in hospitality often get promoted into positions without much training, her key focus is on developing newly promoted and junior managers to lead and engage their teams effectively. Caroline has a number of free resources and guides you can access at

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