The fast food industry has shown us the way to increase sales and profits. We should learn from these marketing masterminds how to increase our add-on sales and how to “supersize” that order. The wholesale and distribution industries have continued to struggle trying to find ways to dramatically increase the amount of goods sold or to expand the items per order from their customers. The key to accomplishing the task of “adding fries with that burger” is training; and once again, the restaurant industry leads the way. If you think about it, every time you go to your favorite eatery, how often are you offered their specials for the day, drinks, desserts, coffee, etc.?

Darrell SterlingThe moment you enter a restaurant, you are peppered with options that are designed to up the ticket price of the meal and increase the profit per customer. The restaurants have figured out how to train their employees to ask their customers important questions. The formula for their success is that they require their waiters and waitresses to memorize the specials for the day and to repeat them to each and every customer. Why can’t we do that in our business, you ask? You can, but the question now becomes whether or not your counter staff or sales team even knows what your specials are. Does your team know what products are on sale in your company's flyers or on the website? How often do you review with your employees how to even present these options to your customers? It is all about training!

It has been said that repetition is the motherhood of all learning. You should take 15 minutes at the start of each day to quiz your staff not only on the valuable products on special, but also on the right way to offer these specials to your customer base. You must constantly drill your staff until it becomes second nature for them to offer additional products or direct your customer to the goods that are currently on special.

Does your staff stay curious? Have you trained your team to ask customers probing questions? If done properly, these questions could produce either a quality lead for your outside sales team or lead to an immediate need for additional products that your customer did not even know that you carried. The right type of curious questions that you can incorporate will include who, what, when, where, why and how? People love to talk about themselves. The secret is to not talk about yourself and your great company, but instead to get your customer to open up about what they are working on, or find out who decides where to pick up supplies, or why the customer buys one product over another.

The more curious you can train your staff to become, the more profitable your business will be. It does not matter what industry you're in, opportunities to “supersize” an order are always present. Here’s an example: If you sell motors, does your customer also need a capacitor to go with that motor or do they need any belts? If you sell pumps, does your customer need any flanges with the pump or an isolation valve? If you sell HVAC products, does your client need any gases such as R-22 or R-410A? Your team must be trained so that they automatically ask for these add-on sales. It should be engrained into your employees’ DNA, just like the folks do at your favorite restaurants.

Profits gained will far exceed the costs of training your staff, but don't be fooled into thinking you can casually mention add-on sales once a month in a training meeting and this skill will just automatically materialize in your employees. You should have different team members conduct short sales meetings because the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. I used to have my staff review the sales or counter person who conducted the morning training. The peer review was an important component in training a cohesive staff. You want consistency in your team and the message that they are relaying to your customers. I would recommend meeting two to three times a week for very short sessions where the only thing that is allowed be discussed is how they had succeeded in either up-selling or completing an add-on sale opportunity.  Success breeds success, so having the team sharing in each other's accomplishments will only strengthen what they have learned. You will need your staff to implement what you have taught them. The more they are discussing their victories on a repetitive basis, the more it will reinforce the positive actions you want. The industry doesn't matter; what matters is the process, which should include lots of meetings (repetitions) and different team trainers who will share their victories in an enthusiastic manner. The more the message is emotionally charged, the more memorable the content will be. The meetings should be short and should only cover this one goal.

It is incredibly important to have your management team totally committed to this new way of life. It has to be a culture change inside your business just like in the fast food industry. The employees are expected to ask the right questions to try to get additional sales. It is just part of the job. The management team must give positive reinforcement. The changes won't happen overnight. As the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand mile starts with the first step. I mentioned to my staff if a minimum wage teenager at a fast food restaurant can learn to sell fries with that burger, we surely could learn how to sell accessories.

The most profitable sales are in the small ticket items that can easily be added on to any order. The impulse buy products exist in the wholesale and distribution industries just as they do in the supermarkets or restaurants. You just need to identify what products are easy to add on to your customers purchase orders. The only way you're going to find out that information is by asking your customer what they are allowed to purchase without having to ask for permission from their service manager, dispatcher or office personal.

If you really want to get sales to pop, start packaging products together to sell. The more you can make it easy to buy a whole kit of products that go together, the more you will sell. How often have you ordered the “Number 2” meal off the menu through a drive-through? All you had to say was a number, which greatly speeds up your ordering process, taking your employees less time to process the request. The customer received three to four items by just mentioning what number that they wanted. How many products do you have packaged together? You can increase productivity and customer satisfaction at the same time if you stop and think about what items you can sell together. It is high time that we follow the lead of billion dollar restaurant chains by “super sizing that order” or “adding fries with that burger.”