In the last article I talked about different strategies for selling the 'reliability' aspect of your software or hardware. I mentioned how most high tech salespeople love to talk about their "-abilities": Reliability, Upgradeability, Compatibility and Expandability. In this article I want to discuss how to sell upgradeability. When is the right time to sell upgradeability? When do you mention the possibility of future upgrades? How do you position future upgrades to software or hardware with a new or existing customer without selling yourself short? How often should your company release upgrades? These are all great questions when it comes to the art of selling upgrades.
So how do you sell upgradeability? Well, lets start with a basic question. What does the word upgradeability bring to mind when a salesperson mentions the word? If you're like myself, I think the product has room for improvement and in the future if I choose, I can upgrade to whatever new capabilities the software or hardware may offer. Microsoft Windows epitomizes the model for selling upgradeability. There are four ways to sell upgradeability:
Strategy 1: Ernest Dichter a famous advertisement executive made a statement that talked about how we as sales or marketers must use the techniques of motivational thinking to make people constructively discontent. Dichter knew people would only buy a product when they are discontent with what they currently have. The job of marketing and sales is to make 'people constructively discontent' with what they're currently using. A good example of this is our migration from the audiotape to the compact disc. Marketers reminded us of that annoying 'hiss' sound with tapes and how time consuming it was to rewind or fast-forward to find our favorite song. They went on to promise the delivery of full 'fidelity' with the compact disc along with the ease and convenience of finding your favorite song. Consumers bought the argument and the age of the compact disc was heralded in. When selling upgrades, are you making your customer 'constructively discontent'?
Strategy 2: When I hear upgrade in any sales pitch I immediately think of options. The task of the salesman is to give the customer a 'vision' of what could be possible if they chose your product and decide later on to upgrade. Upgradability indicates there are other features that can be purchased without having to absorb the cost for them all at once. A customer likes to know that if they are satisfied with the products performance that they could upgrade at any time to something more sophisticated or advanced. This piece meal approach is especially effective with customers who have limited budgets.
Strategy 3: Upgradeability, especially second or third generation indicates to the customer that your company is continually improving on the product (i.e., responding to customer needs and investing in Research & Development). This is key; many customers want to be reassured that the product has not 'peaked in performance' and that you will be improving the product over time. Upgrades should be sold on average once a year. To many upgrades a year can be seen as 'product fixes' or another way of extracting further sales from a customer leading to 'buyer resentment'.
Strategy 4: A major mistake made by many salespeople is not taking the time to show or prove to the customer how using your product will increase sales and effectiveness thereby leading to quick return on the buyer's Return On Investment (ROI). Customers want to see hard numbers on how the solution you're offering is going to positively affect the bottom line. Too often salespeople will say things like, "This is going to improve you productivity.", "This will make your employees more effective in their jobs." Or, "This is going save your company a lot of money adding this upgrade." All these statements are qualitative, not quantitative; the latter can be proven, the former is just an assertion. Customers want quantitative proof of how your upgrade is going to improve their profitability either by increasing sales or reducing their cost. Highly trained salespeople go into a customer meeting armed with quantitative proof of how upgrading to the next product level will achieve their profitability goals.
Upgrades are a great way to add an additional revenue stream to your company's bottom line. Again, think Microsoft. Every year or so, a new version of Windows comes out and many of us technophiles rush out and buy it. How can you create this type of excitement or anticipation with your company's product upgrades?
Victor Gonzalez, All Rights Reserved 2004