Creating Successful Customers through Upselling

By Diana Mundinger, CCNP, General Manager, Eagle Crest Nursery

During the training meetings at Eagle Crest Nursery, the subject of upselling or add-on sales comes up most weeks. We talk about the fine line between pushy “used car lot” sales tactics and making suggestions on products to allow customers to be more successful with their plant purchases. Nothing worse than finding beautiful plants for the porch planters, getting home excited to plant only to realize there is no potting mix to get the job done. Suggesting planting mix at the register will save the customer time and frustration, but will also, of course, add to the sale and profit for the nursery: win–win.

Often just having a short conversation about the project the customer is working on will prompt ideas for additional products to suggest. So, let’s not call it upselling but rather insuring customer success. A successful gardening customer is a repeat customer who is sure to tell their friends of their good experience. We can accomplish this with creating impulse opportunities, inspirational displays, educating staff, etc.

A few ideas on ways to increase sales through helping customers be successful:

  • Don’t clutter the register area, but place the top few grab-and-go items nearby. These impulse items should not be the very cheapest inventory items since this is valuable space, but should be the $10 to $20 must-haves such as gloves, an organic fertilizer, or our favorite snips.
  • Place very seasonal items front and center temporarily. Going to dip below freezing tonight? Get the frost cloth close.
  • Create beautiful, inspirational displays with a theme. An end cap with plants that attract hummingbirds is just one idea for the perennial yard. Be sure plants are all blooming, signage is informative, and perhaps some tie-in products like hummingbird feeders are included­—not too many items (again, no clutter!).
  • Keep displays stocked. It is always a challenge to convince sales associates that an emptied display is a successful display and not just a chore requiring them to replace items that were sold.
  • Make sure salespeople get to know products and try them out. It’s so much easier to sell something that you have had success with yourself. Our annual and perennial staff members are given and wear a brand of gloves we sell. Guess which gloves fly off the shelf? The Felco pruners on the hips of the nursery staff show customers it’s the best tool because the professionals use it.
  • Avoid product repetition. Do you really need to stock four brands of Neem oil? A wall of insect repellents just confuses and frustrates new gardening customers and seasonal employees, too. Customers should know we scoured the country and narrowed down the products and plants we offer based on our professional experience. These products make it easy for our customers to have gardening success in our unique mountain environment.
  • Train staff on which products have natural tie-ins. Landscape fabric…gotta have anchoring pins. Trees…how about root stimulator? Annuals…need water soluable fertilizer? Pea seeds…don’t forget the inoculant. Again, don’t be pushy but make helpful suggestions. If your POS System has the functionality, you could set it up to remind cashiers to make these suggestions when these items are purchased.
  • Place product suggestions next to the plants and not just in the store hard goods area. For instance, display tomato supports in the greenhouse next to the tomato plants, or houseplant-appropriate pottery in the houseplant area.
  • Create informative self-selling signage. We all know how difficult it is to spend much time with each customer on a busy spring weekend. A perennial sign recommending companion plants or a poster with low-light houseplant suggestions can add sales when staff is occupied.
  • Create a welcoming environment where customers want to linger. Our products make this easy. A friendly, smiling staff is also essential. It is well known that the longer a customer stays in the store, the more they are likely to find an unexpected treasure and spend more. Make your store their happy place.

About the contributor: Diana Mundinger, CCNP, is the General Manager of Eagle Crest Nursery in El Jebel, Colo., which is halfway between Aspen and Glenwood Springs in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been with Eagle Crest 16 years. She invites all to come visit and promises not to try to sell you anything (but you might not be able to help it)!