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Upselling with integrity: building trust and value for long-term customer loyalty

With some forethought and customer insight, ethical upselling can be used to reinforce trust and confidence. Here are some ways to put this approach into practice.

Upselling is a crucial strategy for improving the bottom line of every deal, but how sales staff approach this essential task can make all the difference now and down the road. Upselling is no longer about arm twisting and trickery. Instead, today’s techniques for maximizing a deal require building trust and establishing a relationship, which can’t happen in an atmosphere of subterfuge and deception. 

Let’s explore how trust improves upselling and creates a long-lasting bond with the customer. At the same time, we’ll review how suspicions about your dealership’s selling process can be harmful. And keep reading for practical examples of upselling with integrity.

The importance of customer trust

If your dealership is fortunate, it has a sales staff that exemplifies trust, the lifeblood of every high-ticket retailer. These professionals understand that sales and upselling, in particular, result from the relationship established with each customer. When clients have confidence in the salesperson and the dealership, they’ll let down their guard and open their wallets. 

Yet, trust is fragile. All the hours and days a salesperson has spent creating a bond and rapport can be wasted if a customer has a hint of doubt. Selling with integrity and honesty has to be the standard operating procedure. 

But this approach doesn’t have to stand in the way of upselling, a vital and legitimate element of the sales process.

Upselling should be done with the customer’s best interests at heart, and this happens by providing value.

Customers will immediately sense this and be more likely to embrace what you’re offering. Trust leads to success.

The effects of customer mistrust

On the other hand, mistrust can devastate sales, your dealership, and its reputation. If a customer feels misled or exploited, they’re unlikely to return. In addition, a distrustful client may not hesitate to share their experience through online reviews and word of mouth. The result is a hit to your dealership’s reputation and a turn-off to prospective buyers.

Customer mistrust also means no referrals. Without these recommendations, family and friends may shop anywhere. And tales of shady car selling will undoubtedly steer them in a different direction. 

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How to sell with integrity

Selling with integrity means making the customer’s needs the central point of the interaction. These efforts require being upfront about a car’s capabilities and detailing what each option brings to the table. There also has to be transparency with pricing and financing. 

The idea is that the customer will have confidence in the deal and what the salesperson is offering. There also must be the assurance that any problems will be resolved (a quick tour of service can ease worries about repairs).

However, knowing when to walk away is another essential part of upselling with integrity. If a client isn’t interested in the upgrade or service, don’t push it. Not only is there a risk of killing the deal, but overselling sours the relationship between the salesperson and the customer. It’s the surest way to destroy trust. A customer will value that you place their needs above profit. 

Examples of ethical upselling 

With some forethought and customer insight, ethical upselling can be used to reinforce trust and confidence. Here are some ways to put this approach into practice.

  • Review options: Without coercion, go over the available options and explain the benefits of these upgrades. Be sure to detail how more technical features, like advanced safety systems, work.
  • Tailor option recommendations to customer preferences: A customer-focused salesperson will have learned what features are most important to the buyer so the conversation can reflect these interests and needs.
  • Problem solve: Upselling can also address any issues blocking a sale. For instance, if a customer only wants a base model but has to have heated seats, suggesting adding this feature as an aftermarket add-on addresses the problem and increases the bottom line. 
  • Encourage a test drive: Use the test drive experience to highlight various options. This is the opportunity to answer questions and demonstrate openness about these upgrades. 
  • Explain add-on features and services: Even if the F&I department handles the actual upsell on protection packages and warranty services, having the salesperson educate the customer about the benefits of these offerings can build trust and transparency.
  • Be transparent about pricing and terms: Ethical upselling also means that pricing, financing, and related information must be presented clearly. Failure to be upfront here will break trust.

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David Goldberg
David Goldberg
David Goldberg is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He brings a unique combination of dealership experience, a lifelong love of automobiles, and a journalism background to his writing for CBT News. He has a BA in journalism from The George Washington University.

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