What Is Upselling And How Can You Use It To Sell Digital Training?

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If you are a new course creator, scoring your first batch of learners is a big accomplishment. However, what comes next? Making a sale is one thing, but you want your learners to continue buying new digital training courses from you.

This is where upselling comes in.

Upselling is a highly popular sales tactic. It allows creators to drive more sales by directing their already converted clients towards bigger but easier sales.

What is Upselling?

Upselling is a sales tool. You are using upselling techniques when a customer is enticed to additional products and services directly related to the original products and services they purchased. It’s often thought of as an add-on.

If you’re offering an online course to help people pass an exam, the course is the main product. In that case, the upsell can be flashcards. Both tools help customers pass the exam.

According to Marketing Metrics, the likelihood of converting a new customer is only between 5% and 20%. On the other hand, the likelihood of successfully selling to an existing customer is between 60% and 70%.

The biggest advantage of upselling is that it gives you a bigger return on investment. You’ve already spent a lot of time and effort trying to make an initial sale. In comparison, the time and effort it takes to make an upsell is minimal. It also has a higher chance of being successful since the customer already has decided to trust you.

Upselling vs Cross Selling

Upselling and cross selling or similar. The different between cross selling and upselling is that with cross selling you are finding a product or service that relates to the original product or service. However, it’s not directly related.

With the test prep example above, the cross sell could be a course or package to help your customers gain a job in the field or get into a top school. It’s related, but not as directly related as the upsell (which were the flashcards). The flashcard upsell still helps them pass the exam. The job toolkit or get into a great school toolkit does not help them pass the exam, but is a tool the same customers might be interested in.

Why is Upselling Important?

There are several important benefits of upselling. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

Increases the Average Order Value

Whenever a learner buys a high-value course, they will raise their average order value. The average order value is calculated by dividing the total revenue by the total number of orders.

For example, if a learner purchases $2000 worth of eight different courses. This means their average order value is $250. If, however, the learner’s purchases increase to $2,400 for the same number of courses, his order value increases by $400. As the order value keeps racking up over time, it will increase the customer lifetime value.

This means that as a course creator, you will be more profitable with the same number of learners. By offering courses that result in higher value for the learners, course creators can generate higher revenue every time a person buys their course.

Lowers customer acquisition cost

The average customer acquisition cost is the average cost spent to acquire a single customer. Online trainers and course creators can calculate this cost easily. You can divide the total marketing spent by the total number of new learners within a given period of time.

The cost of acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times greater than the cost of retaining an existing customer. By targeting learners who are already in the process of buying and encouraging them to buy a higher-value course, you can reduce your dependability on finding new prospects. With a lower customer acquisition cost, existing learners can bring more profit for your digital training courses.

Builds long-term customer relationships

Upselling adds more value to a customer’s purchase. For online learning, upselling adds learner value by suggesting bigger courses or related courses that have a higher price but offer more value, quality, and upscale service.

Hence, it can increase the likelihood of customer satisfaction and cultivate stronger and long-lasting relationships.

However, the key to successful upselling is how you do it. If you frame it as wanting your learners to have the most value, then your learners will be more willing to buy that course since they will feel valued and appreciated. However, if you attempt pushy, sales-y tactics just to increase your bottom line, nothing will turn off your learners faster.

How to Identify Upselling Opportunities

If you want to upsell your courses, you need to identify the right opportunity for doing it. That’s because not every single learner you have will provide you with an upselling opportunity. You need to research and use your time wisely to identify a few customers for your upsell opportunity.

Identifying Customers Through Usage Data

One of the most effective ways to start identifying the right course buyers that might grow with your offering is through usage data. The usage data will show you which learners are very active and would be interested in learning how you can provide them with added value. A good way to do that is to set up notifications when your learners are close to hitting their usage limit with their current course package.

Once they hit the number, you can send them a short and sweet email letting them know they have hit their limit and that you would like to discuss a few options that would allow them to save money while letting them benefit from your courses.

As you can see, upselling takes advantage of the time and natural usage milestone to give your learners the offering that best suits their needs.

Maintaining Good Communications

Upselling opportunities can also be identified by engaging with your regular buyers, tracking their behavior to see what actions they are taking on your digital learning platform, and their purchase history.

Keeping a communicative and engaging relationship with your buyers will help you identify what your learners want and better position you to offer upselling opportunities that provide the right solution to your learners.

Finding the Right Moment

It is also important that you evaluate your course buyers’ various touchpoints for when they are more open to related product suggestions. These include when they are adding items to the cart, reaching out to customers or sales support, or getting close to the end of their course.

Upselling opportunities do not just present themselves during checkout but can occur all throughout the sales cycles, during customer support chats, and as after-sales support.

One Click Upsell

It is easy to upsell to a customer in person; however, it can be quite tricky to do so when you are selling online. That’s because you don’t always get the opportunity to make extra-value offerings during the checkout process.

However, if you wait and your learner has already left the checkout page, you will have to convince them to go through a long series of steps to buy a course that you are upselling. This will require the learner to open their email, click to your checkout page, read through the offer, find their credit card, re-enter their credit card information, re-enter their personal information, and then buy the course that you are upselling.

If you use a one-click upsell, your learner will be given an upsell opportunity as soon as they place their order. Their credit card and personal information still remain saved on the file and “live” in their purchase order. So all they need to do is to click on the additional upsell offer.

Cutting out five or six steps that can lead to a sale cancelation can increase the chances of your learner taking an offer that has been presented as a one-click upsell.

Hence, it is a good idea for course creators to add a “Recommended” course section while their learner is buying an online training or lesson from them because all they would need to do is to press a single button to accept that upsell offer.

When you make it so simple to purchase a higher-value course, your sales will grow more quickly.

Upselling Tips

There are many course creators who have never used an upsell. This is a missed opportunity that can transform your business. If the only thing stopping you is not knowing how to use upsells properly, we have got you covered. There are plenty of upselling tips that have resulted in a high rate of success.

Rule of 25

As a general rule of thumb, you should not try to upsell a course for more than 25% of the original course. For example, if the course costs $200, then you have the flexibility to provide an upsell that is worth up to $250. Depending on other factors, the exact cost of the upsell varies, though it should not be too far off from what your learner was originally willing to spend.

Aside from the higher price, your upsell needs to offer a great deal to the learner. It is best to offer a more value-adding course for a greater discounted price or one that offers more features at a lower cost. For example, you can add prerequisites to your online courses. Then upsell your learners a package of two courses instead of buying a single course.

The Rule of 25 ensures that your course buyer feels more encouraged to buy the higher-value course and should not feel any regret later for buying something that was unnecessarily expensive. If you do decide to go for more expensive upsells, then you should consider lowering the overall price if they are willing to pay for a subscription for the entire year. You can also offer multiple payment plan options as this also gives the illusion of reduced prices.

Side-by-Side Comparison

The side-by-side comparison allows you to compare a few different products. That way you can show your learners which one would provide them with the best value. The side-by-side comparison upselling option allows learners to know that there is a more premium course package available for them. The main objective is to highlight some features and benefits that are not present in the original course but which you know the learner will enjoy and which will encourage them to buy the more expensive product.

Keep in mind that the selection of products you display for side-by-side comparison should not be too costly from the original product (remember the Rule of 25 above!). That means that if your learner is interested in a course that costs $300, don’t upsell them courses that cost $500 or more. Instead, stay within the $400 – $420 range. This will encourage your customer to at least spend some time considering the new upsell options rather than dismissing them outright.

Another great tip for side-by-side comparison is to direct your learners towards the more premium product by highlighting the star rating for every course or course package alternative.

Don’t Get Too Aggressive

There’s nothing more annoying than being offered a product or service that you don’t want.  Always remember that the main goal of upselling is to increase your learner’s buying experience. You don’t want to put them off from buying anything at all from your digital training courses.

If you believe your customer isn’t interested in an upsell offer, don’t try to force them. It can backfire on you. Instead, give them an easy way to say no and let them leave without availing of your upsell option.

Upselling should make your customer feel happy that they got something for a steal. You don’t want to make them feel like they are being squeezed. Even if a customer does not take your upsell offer the first time around, if you give them a pleasant experience, chances are high that they will come back for more.

Upsell Should Improve the Customer Relationship

Only offer your learners other courses that they find relevant and which will enhance their learning experience. For example, if your customer has bought a course on search engine marketing, you can recommend similar products. That might include a course on PPC or social media marketing or a package that offers all three courses in a premium package. Technically, this is veering off in the domain of cross-selling; however, the process is very similar to upselling and offers your learner the same types of benefits.

These upselling and cross-selling tactics are very common. Offering additional, relevant courses during or immediately after the sales process will make the learner more likely to see the higher value and add them to their shopping cart.

Follow Up Through Email

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach existing and prospective clients. It’s a great way to upsell your courses. For example, if your prospect did not use the upsell opportunity they were provided, you can use a follow-up email to remind them of it again.

Perhaps they were in a hurry to buy the course and missed the value of the upsell during checkout. By following up with one or two emails, you can offer them the offer again. You can even sweeten the deal by giving them a small freebie, additional discounts, access to premium content, and more.

You can also use email marketing to offer upsells as part of your shopping cart abandonment reminder efforts. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 69%. Reasons for abandoning the shopping cart are numerous. These reasons might include that the person did not have the time to finish the purchase. Or maybe they could not decide whether the purchase was in their best interest at that time.

By offering upsells through shopping cart abandonment emails, you can increase the likelihood of the customer coming back and completing their sales.

Run Exclusive Limited-Time Offers

If you offer something of value with a deadline, you can bet that people would rush to get it. Running limited period promotions offer you a lot of benefits. These include creating a sense of urgency, maximizing sales from first-time or infrequent buyers, and targeting a demographic group that was not sufficiently penetrated.

Previous buyers are more susceptible to limited-time offers and may respond favorably to them. For example, if a student purchased a course from you, you can send them an upsell offer to buy another course from you at 50% off the price if they do so immediately. In fact, even small discounts like 5% off can be effective in tipping an interested learner over the edge and buying an upsell offer.

You can offer exclusive limited-time offers at checkout. You can also offer them through the add-to-cart stage, follow-up emails, or even the pre-consideration phase.

FAQs on Upselling

What types of upsells work best?

Upsells are a great way to boost your sales, but not all upsells are equal. The best upsells offer something complementary to the original product or service.

For example, if you’re selling a new car, an upsell might be an extended warranty or a set of winter tires. If you’re selling a piece of software, an upsell might be a subscription to a related service.

The key is to find an upsell that provides real value to the customer and that they’re likely to actually use.

How do I upsell?

There’s no hard and fast rule for upselling, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to make it more effective.

First, don’t be too pushy. Upselling is about offering something that’s an upgrade. You don’t want to force someone to buy something they don’t need.

Second, make sure you’re clear about the benefits of the upsell. What makes it worth the extra money?

Finally, don’t try to upsell too much at once. Overloading someone with options will only overwhelm them. At that point, they may choose none of your options and you walk away without a sale.

What are the types of upselling?

There are a few different types of upsells that you might come across.

The first type is an additional product or service that complements the original purchase. For example, if you buy a pair of shoes, the salesperson might suggest buying a matching belt or purse.

The second type is an upgrade to the original product. For example, if you buy a phone, the salesperson might suggest buying a more expensive model with more features.

The third type is an offer for extended warranty or insurance. This is usually presented as a way to protect your investment or get peace of mind.

What are the benefits of upselling?

Upselling is a great way to boost your sales and increase your profits. When done right, it can also be a great way to improve your customer service and build customer loyalty.

Upselling can be an effective strategy for several reasons.

First, it allows you to generate more revenue from each customer.

Second, it gives you the opportunity to sell a higher-quality product or service that your customers will be more satisfied with.

Finally, upselling can build customer loyalty by demonstrating that you’re willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs.

Bottom Line

Upselling can be a very effective marketing and sales technique. But course creators need to be careful about being transparent and not deceiving their customers.

You can’t automatically add the products to their basket without getting prior permission from a customer. You should also avoid deliberately misdirecting the learner to a more expensive product. These types of activities will cause potential customers to lose faith in your business.

The most successful upsells happen when you consider whether you are providing a clear, relevant, and significant benefit to your customers. Upsells offered at the precise time when your learners are most likely to see the value in the upsell work better.

By focusing on the needs of your target customers, course creators can use upselling techniques to effectively increase their order values, gain loyal customers, increase their bottom line, and ensure success for their digital training platform over a longer period of time.

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of coursemethod.com. After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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