How NOT to Upsell

Last Updated Apr 26, 2010 3:59 PM EDT

I recently met with an estate lawyer to discuss the family trust. It was a fairly standard "what needs to happen after a death in the family" meeting, but the guy used the occasion to RELENTLESSLY sell his firm's financial planning service.

Now, as it happens, the assets in the trust are handled by a close family friend, who happens to be both a CPA and an certified investment counselor, so there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that we were going to hire the law firm's financial planner.

However, rather than figuring that out, the lawyer kept up the hardsell. Every time something relative to finances came up (e.g. "you need to do an IRA rollover"), the lawyer pushed the financial planning info sheet under my stepfather's nose, pointed to the list of services on the sheet and repeated, mantra-like, "the first meeting is free and there's no obligation."

OK, so here we've got a lawyer, a professional who's supposed to handle the legal details of a fairly complicated estate -- pushing a product with all the finesse of a barker on the home shopping network. Dreadful. Truly dreadful.

In a way, I felt sorry for the guy, who clearly had no idea of how to sell, other than trot out the pitiful selling script that he learned in a 1/2 hour training session. What he needed to say was something like this:

"I've found that financial planning for estates is too complicated and has too many tax implications for most financial planners to handle. While there are exceptions to that rule, I feel that I must recommend that you use OUR financial planner, who understands these issues and can adapt your investment to the needs of the estate."
And then, having made the case, shut the heck up until the end of the meeting. Then offer to set up an appointment. And if the answer is no, let it go.

The correct way to upsell is to offer to be of additional service, and explain why your firms is the best choice for providing that service.

Don't badger your existing customer with an upsell sales pitch. Ever.

Seriously, my stepfather was ready to change estate lawyers, he was so irritated.