Reaffirming Top-Down Selling

It’s always a toss-up deciding between the sales graph or handshake stock photo.

We all have things that we hold dear. And often, the things that we believe are so internalized that we take them for granted, assuming that everyone else knows what we do.

Take baking bread, for example. When leading training I often use that as an example of a basic skill.

The thing about baking bread is that if you don’t know how, you just-don’t-know. Your mind is a blank slate on the subject.

But someone has taught you, and once you do know how, and have done it many times the whole process is so obvious in hindsight that it’s hard to imagine why EVERYBODY doesn’t already.

So it is with Top-Down-Selling. It’s how I was trained long ago, back when I worked in retail electronics, and it’s an approach that continued to pay off when I went to work in other channels.

I don’t know anyone who’s ever won a sales trophy like that, but it’s the thought that counts.

If you don’t already know, Top-Down is the opposite of Upselling.

With upselling you show the customer your entry level model and then try to persuade them of the benefits of the upgraded models above it.

With Top-Down you start off by showing them the nicest, fanciest, most expensive example of what they’re looking for, and then, if they don’t immediately say “I’ll take it!” show them what they’re giving up when they go to something less expensive.

The theory here is that if you start at the bottom and upsell you will sell mostly the mid-range and entry level products. And you’ll hardly ever sell the Top-of-the-Line models.

Whereas if you sell Top-Down you will still sell mostly the mid-range, and Top-of-the-Line models, and hardly ever sell the entry level.

Broadly speaking, you’ll make more money that way, and your clients will be happier.

It works, I know. I’ve done it for years.

For what it’s worth, when I’m the customer I’m just as susceptible as anyone else, which brings me to my story.

Last weekend our dishwasher needed a new part. Again.

In its defense, our Bosch dishwasher has lasted longer than all the other dishwashers I’ve owned put together. It’s been a great machine.

But it’s way out of warranty now, and for the past few years something in it has needed to be replaced to keep it running on an annual basis.

This time it was the inlet valve, for the second time.

At this point I decided that enough was enough: The Bosch had served well, but I was done putting Band-Aids on it. It was time to retire it and go get a new one.

So we went to the high end appliance store in town to explore our options.

I told the salesman what had happened to our old one, and what we were looking for.

He walked us over to the dishwashers and the first one he showed us was the flagship model from Miele.

I knew exactly what he was doing, but that didn’t stop me for falling for it, even as I was impressed that he knew how to do this.

Sure enough, after looking at what the Miele dishwasher had going for it, none of the other ones quite measured up; none of the Bosch or KitchenAid models had that “special something.”

Previously I had said that our Bosch lasted longer than all our other dishwashers put together. This time The Miele COST more than all our dishwashers put together.

I could have bought something else, but it just wouldn’t have made me as happy.

There’s a lesson there for all your salespeople.