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    Marketing & Sales | 3 min read

    “Would You Like Fries With That?”

    How many times a week do we experience the subtle nudge of upselling or cross-selling? Upselling occurs when the consumer is presented with an opportunity to take advantage of more ‘value-added’ services. Cross-selling happens when the consumer is presented with the opportunity to purchase something else to go with what he or she wants. Let’s look at this from the financial institution’s perspective.


    For upselling, the intrinsic notion of increased value is present. A borrower is obtaining an auto loan, and the loan officer offers Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP). This simple notion takes only a few seconds, but it introduces the borrower to a service they may not know they need or want. How do you do that in a subtle way? It’s as simple as asking, “Do you have something in place to protect you in the event of an accident and the insurance payout is less than what you owe on the loan?” Did you get that? By asking this question, you are helping the borrower realize he or she could be caught short in this situation, and you are helping them purchase peace of mind in the form of GAP protection.

    We experience these tactics so often, I bet we don’t even recognize them when they occur. Several years ago, my husband and I were at a fast food restaurant. Instead of asking the usual, “Would you like to super-size your meal?”—a question we were already prepared to answer—our cashier asked, “How hungry are you today?” She proceeded to mention we could ‘super-size’ the meal for a few dollars more, which we did! She planted the concept that we were hungrier than we thought, and we needed that super-sized meal. In an instant, she was no longer the fast-food cashier; she was a consultant. A consultant, you ask? Absolutely! According to consulting.com, she became a consultant the moment she engaged in the business of giving expert advice in a specific field. She knew her business (fast food), and she knew how to guide the consumer by asking how hungry we were that day. With her gentle guidance, we realized we were hungrier than we thought, and she increased the sale.


    Cross-selling is the proverbial, “Would you like fries with that?” The borrower is purchasing one service, and we recommend another one. In the credit union world, this could be offering a credit card to a new member who is opening a share draft account. Or, it could be offering e-statements to go along with the share draft account. Most service representatives are in tune with this skill, and it is a sure fallback. The key to succeeding in upselling and cross-selling is knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them.

    The key to asking strong, open-ended questions is avoiding questions that lead to “yes,” “no,” or one-word answers. It’s important to keep the consumer involved in the conversation and spark their inner dialogue so they realize they need more than what they came in for in the first place.

    Here are some examples of how to transition from common questions into open-ended ones:

    Traditional Open-Ended
    Would you like to add Payment Protection for this loan? How prepared are you for large, unexpected expenses?
    Would you like to add GAP to your loan? Are you prepared to cover the gap between what you owe and the value of the vehicle should it become a total loss?
    Would you like to purchase mechanical breakdown protection for $X? What would you do if you had a major mechanical failure on this new vehicle?

    There you have it. You became the consultant—an expert in your business guiding the consumer. The bottom line is developing a mental shift from being an ‘order taker’ to a ‘consultant.’ It doesn’t take any more time with the borrower, but it offers services that he or she may not know you have or may not know they need. How are you going to change your questions the next time you are speaking with a consumer?

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    Kathy Thuneman

    Kathy Thuneman is a Trainer and Performance Consultant at SWBC. She joined the team in 2019. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Drury University and has completed the Certified Credit Union Executive designation. Kathy helps credit union lenders by training and coaching them on the SWBC products. In her free time, Kathy is a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher and when she is not in the classroom training, you will find her out training for her next triathlon.

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