The Art Of Upselling

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Mar 1, 2018 12:00:00 AM

Fine Tuning Your Sales Techniques

It’s likely that your self-storage facility has a new budget and set of goals in place for 2018. Typically, those objectives include elevated sales targets that are intended to increase the facility’s revenue. How do we increase revenues in the self-storage industry? There are primarily two ways we can do this. One is to bring your facility to full economic capacity, then wonder if you’re charging enough for rents. The other way is to upsell at every opportunity. Upselling is the mantra for virtually every bustling facility, no matter the type or size; it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge sophisticated corporate facility or a privately owned one within a rural area.

While the new sales goals may seem daunting, they are attainable when you master the art of upselling. When you attempt to exceed every customer’s needs, upselling is more of an extension of thoughtful customer service rather than a last minute, inadequate suggestion. By asking open-ended questions to understand each customer’s storage situation, you can easily recommend the products and services that best suit their individual needs.

Upselling should not be viewed as merely a means for making more money. Instead, think of it as a way to provide unsurpassed customer service and add value to each tenant’s storage experience. In fact, there are probably many beneficial offerings available at your facility that new self-storage customers may not know they want, need, or even exist. It is in the best interest of your tenants and your facility to prompt customers to take advantage of the products and services you provide.

Make Upselling Natural
Although it’s sometimes necessary to introduce conditions to upsell, there are numerous conditions that can seamlessly segue into an upsell. For starters, consider your facility’s physical location. Are you located in a dry, desert climate that is conducive to dust? If so, tenants who are storing fabric/upholstered belongings should be encouraged to purchase your plastic furniture covers, mattress covers, or shrink wrap. Is your facility in an area with high humidity? If so, let customers know that you sell items that thwart dampness, such as dry packs or desiccants, to prevent mold and mildew from destroying their stored goods.

The current weather and/or season can be used to steer upsells as well. Climate-controlled units are an easy upsell, provided that your facility has them, since extreme heat and freezing temperatures can be damaging to electronic devices and other delicate items. Humid conditions warrant a suggestion for climate-control features too, especially when tenants are storing electronics or priceless antique wooden furniture that could swell from the excessive moisture. What’s more, stocking tarps, disposable ponchos, and/or plastic wrap in your retail area during rainy seasons will certainly benefit the unfortunate tenants who must move during inclement weather conditions.

You may also want to take seasonality into account when customers are planning to move into units prior to your facility’s peak time of the year. For instance, consider telling those customers that they can lock into your current rental rates by prepaying for a set number of months to avoid price hikes during your busier months. Moreover, take advantage of your market’s weather patterns when suggesting that customers opt into your tenant insurance programs or protection plans. Simply reminding them of the possible damage that can result from floods, wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, and other potentially dangerous storms can assist with selling various protection plans. Pointing out your plan also has no deductibles and helps avoid potential future insurance rate hikes due to even the smallest claims may make all the difference in their final decision.

In addition, upsell suggestions can be established based on the demographics of your customers. You can have several “canned” recommendations ready for various age groups. For example, if you sell smart locks, make a point to tell your younger renters about them when you’re mentioning the facility’s high-tech security features. Or, let’s say your facility partners with a moving company; be sure to share that information with elderly customers who may be unable to lift heavy objects. Likewise, your facility may find it beneficial to have a rental program in place for customers who need to utilize moving aids such as dollies/hand trucks, furniture pads/blankets/slides, lifting straps, grip gloves, bungee cords, etc.

As you can see from these examples, there are plenty of ways to logically—and almost effortlessly—plug your various products and services without a hard sell.

Begin The Sales Process
Besides using an instinctual strategy, upselling can be accomplished with good sales techniques such as asking great questions, leading the conversation, and using strategic closes that properly entice customers.

After a cordial greeting, you should first determine their situation. Asking “What brings you in today?” is a great opener. When the client begins to reveal the bigger picture, their other needs will become apparent. As they tell you why they need to rent a storage unit, ask follow-up questions to keep them engaged and lead the conversation strategically. This will enable you to establish rapport and help you decide which products and services would best fit their needs.

All the while, keep in mind that your customers likely require self-storage space due to a life-changing, and potentially distressed situation, so be careful not to overwhelm them with too many questions all at once. Being sympathetic to their situation and giving them time to tell their story is what separates you from other facilities.

When clients reveal certain conditions, like they are moving under duress or they are transporting their belongings over long distances, additional questions naturally produce upsell opportunities that will resonate and be interpreted as quality service. As a self-storage manager, you should make adding value to their experience a priority. This can be easily achieved by offering professional advice and suggestions—both of which can directly translate into upsells.

For example, the customer who must pack all of his/her possessions for a cross-country move may be interested in packing supplies that would keep the items safe during travel such as dish sets, cardboard partitions, mirror boxes, and plenty of bubble wrap. You might simply ask an alternative choice trial closing question like, “Do you plan to use dish sets or bubble wrap to protect your valuables?” An affirmative answer to either choice offered means yes to your suggestion and yes to moving forward with the rental.

Be sure to ask your customers what they plan to store in their units at the front end of your conversation. This question is important for upselling as well as safety, since there are certain items that customers are not permitted to store. Of course, their responses should prompt you to ask follow-up questions such as “Are you storing any expensive (furniture, valuables, heirlooms, electronics, etc.)? This is a good question for additional upselling opportunities. Certainly, tenant insurance, climate-control features, and/or other protective products should be suggested to any and all tenants who are storing pricey or irreplaceable goods.

Upselling can be difficult when a self-storage customer begins to control the conversation. If they are asking all the questions and dictating what they need, attempt to redirect the discussion. This is done most effectively by asking open-ended questions. Next, you may want them to fill out an information sheet while you are setting them up on the computer with basic personal information. On the other hand, when you are in control of the conversation, it becomes much easier to ask the right questions that help people evaluate their situation more carefully while pondering suggestions they otherwise may not have considered. A strategic set of questions will definitely reveal details that will enable you to drive the conversation towards select upsell items.

Closing Techniques
When a transaction is moving at a high pace, and you sense the client is pressing to move quickly, it can be hard to comfortably upsell, even when a need may seem apparent. To slow down a transaction and create opportunities to upsell, you can take back control at the conclusion of the meeting by tacking on numerous closing questions. When asking for the business, you may use an alternative choice question, such as “Will you need one large unit or two smaller ones?” “Will you be moving in today or later this week?” “Will you need boxes and other packing supplies, or perhaps assistance with your moving?” Alternative choice questions should always provide two positive choices, so either choice will move the transaction forward.

You may also ask a question in the negative, where a “no” will actually mean “yes” they want additional service(s). For example, “You don’t want to leave such valuables locked up with a cheap padlock, do you?” Or, “Have you taken any measures to secure and or protect your valuables?” It’s easier to say “no” than “yes” in many situations, especially in a sales scenario, so simply rearranging the question to elicit a “no” can be very effective.

Finally, an assumptive close is also a powerful means for upselling. You could try a question like, “You’ll need insurance for valuables like that, won’t you?” Or, better still, make it a statement rather than a question: “According to our company policy, you’ll need insurance on those valuables; we have a protection plan for only $10 a month.” This means no out of pocket expense for a small claim and no possibility of an increase in your future insurance rates. You could also say, “If you don’t have homeowner’s insurance, we have a protection plan for only $10 a month, and there are no deductibles either.”

Adding more questions adds more value and allows upselling to be a straightforward proposition that makes sense.

Bundles And Choices
Upselling to top of the line products can be made simple. You may find opportunities to “shoot long and be satisfied short”, a technique from the filed of negotiations. Create a package with all that you traditionally offer. Then shoot for that full package which bundles all you have to offer (boxes, tape, box blade, pads, bubble wrap, rope, protection package, etc.), and begin from there. This top of the line approach starts with your best quality and highest priced package. You then whittle away at items not needed by going down the list. When you recognize that money/budget is not likely an issue, it serves both client and company well to offer this type of full package with this kind of an approach. Simply present it with straightforward language with an assumptive tone. This can make short work out of big profit packages while providing the best possible service. Recognizing which clients prefer quality and convenience over price makes these types of opportunities easy to sell. Another simple approach for selling high-end top of the line product and service is the Triplicate of Choice technique. Communication expert Carmine Gallo suggests retailers pay more attention to the “Rule of Three”, which he explains to be a powerful tool given that people’s short-term memory can only remember roughly three “chunks” of information at a time. With too many choices you run the risk of providing too much information, potentially frustrating your client, and rendering them unable to make decisions. Having three options is a good benchmark, and that is why so many companies put together three packaged deals: daily special, standard, and premium. Strategically cuing up three choices best serves all when done properly. Your least expensive offer should perhaps be lacking in quality but have a great price. The high-end package should be priced-high, as should any and all quality items. It is the middle package that should be most attractive and produce the highest profit margins, because it is the one most frequently chosen. This approach is good business and provides quality service at the same time.

Upselling Protection
Selling protection packages is a popular upsell for self-storage. This service is a win-win and should be presented to every client. You may not think valuables need protection at your fine facility, but many items in storage do get damaged one way or another for a number of different inexplicable reasons, so adding $10 a month or an additional three percent to five percent sure makes a lot of sense. Protection plans are the answer; they should be cued up positively and with confidence by illustrating that it’s a small investment comparatively speaking.

Applying Upsell Techniques And Strategies
The best way to naturally bring these good questions into play is to create the right environment. Proactively stepping up your friendly approach may be the key. Getting out of you chair, greeting people as they come through the door, shaking hands with a friendly warm smile, and inviting them to share what brings them into your location is a great way to set the tone and create a comfortable environment.

Moreover, prominently displaying upsell items is a good idea for engaging the clients’ “senses”. Displaying upsell products and services should take precedence over all other collateral materials you may think necessary to display on the floor. It’s not enough to have boxes, tape, and locks out where they can be seen. Good facilities strategically place items throughout the office to engage clients and easily elicit conversation. Offering three types of locks on a counter-top display, from a low-end choice to a high-end choice, is a good example of how to create curiosity and an opportunity to upsell.

Teaching staff to upsell is really a matter of simply explaining what questions need to be asked in order to present customers with choices. Asking good, open-ended questions from the moment you meet the customer through the final closing question is not difficult. In fact, done under the pretense of providing better customer service will make sense and motivate quality conversation. Upselling is actually a fun part of the job when done with concern and care for the customer. Selecting key questions, role playing, and tracking upselling efforts are good ways to create a new culture within your company. Many resources are available through your state self-storage association, the Self Storage Association, and MiniCo Publishing.

Up, Up, Upsell and Away!

Besides the typical retail items that most self-storage facilities carry, such as boxes, locks, and bubble wrap, there are countless products and services that could be practical commodities for your customers. Conducting move-in and move-out surveys is a great way to offer what your customer base needs and wants the most. You could also consider allowing customers to place individual orders by having product catalogs available for their perusal. Nevertheless, here are some popular upsell products and services:

Packing/Moving Items
  • Dish kits
  • Glass kits
  • Corrugated dividers
  • Packing peanuts or other fill materials
  • Foam sheets or pouches
  • Newsprint/wrapping paper
  • Picture moving kits
  • Furniture/mattress covers
  • Utility bags
  • Dust covers
  • Box labels (fragile/rooms/etc.)
  • Shrink wrap
  • Box cutters and refill blades
  • Mirror boxes
  • Wardrobe boxes
  • Permanent markers
  • Various kinds of tape (packing, duct, scotch, masking, etc.)
  • Tape guns
  • Rope/twine/bungee cords
  • Moving gloves
  • Furniture pads/blankets/slides
  • Moving straps/harnesses
  • Damp Rid


  • Shredding service
  • Copying/printing
  • Use of conference room
  • Package acceptance
  • Shipping/delivery services
  • Mailboxes
  • Move-out cleaning
  • Automatic payments
  • Online customer portals
  • Referral programs
  • Charging stations for electronics


  • Custom detailing
  • Garage door opener
  • Parking service
  • Ice machine
  • Air machine
  • Wash bay
  • Dump station
  • Bait/tackle
  • Camping supplies
  • Propane tanks
  • Electricity in units

Facility Features

  • Shelf/rack rentals
  • Climate controls
  • 24-hour access
  • Moving trucks
  • Drive-up units
  • Forensic security features
  • Unit location


  • Batteries
  • Scissors
  • Bottled water/drinks
  • Vending machines/snacks
  • Moth balls
  • Drop cloths
  • Tarps
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Air fresheners/scented sachets/boxes of baking soda
  • Zip ties or cord keepers
  • Hangers
  • Stackable bins or file boxes
  • Ziploc bags or vacuum seal bags

Paul Schween is a sales professional, author, trainer, and speaker based in Gilbert, Arizona.