Sales is a 4-Letter Word

The word "sales' leave a bad taste on your tongue? Dislike pushing your products on to customers? This one's for you.
January 14, 2023 by
Sales is a 4-Letter Word
Laser Cut Quilts, Madi Hastings

The recap from our Houston Quilt Market 2022 presentation at schoolhouse redefines sales. Do you find yourself struggling to push product at the counter or training your staff to be a better salesperson? This presentation is for you. 

Learn about types of upselling, how to provide more value to your customers, and rules for ethical, mindful selling that will have your customers coming back for more time and time again.

You've all heard the saying: "A good salesman could sell ice to an ____________!"

Were you going to say "eskimo?" So the adage goes, but it couldn't be less true. 

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Odoo text and image block

The reality is that good sales is just this: meeting the need or want of your customer. That's it!

Sometimes, it's a matter of helping connect them to the products that would help them to finish a project they have underway. Sometimes, it's helping them discover something new to undertake. Sales is just a learning process, where you receive feedback from your customer and they begin to understand their wants and desires better with your guidance.

Do you know what Sue's next project is? Maybe she'll be putting a quilt on the longarm and you can ask if she has the right color of quilting thread for the project. When Sally visits your shop, does she always gravitate toward the Civil War reproductions? Recommend a kit that uses those prints.

Asking questions and getting to know your customer is 90% of good sales. When you understand their goals, habits, wants, and needs, you begin to understand what might help them to succeed and what products you can showcase to attract their attention. Be sure not to solidify assumptions until you've asked.

At this point, you might be thinking "I already do those things." But if you have any employees working the sales floor, it's paramount having them on board the sales train too! Just telling them how to sell once is NOT enough. Practice sales role play, and sell your staff on the importance of bringing home that add-on sale! If you pitch "sales" as the best customer service, they surely won't be hard-pressed to render it. 

Most people think just of increasing average order value, but think of upselling as increasing the lifetime value of your customer (which when we boil it down really equates to just great customer service!)

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Odoo text and image block
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1. Alternative Upsell: If you see a customer perusing a lower-value item, try asking some questions for reference. What are they making? Are they planning on purchasing scissors for applique? Steer them toward some higher-value microtips that'll save them time and headache. Are they looking for a pattern for a quilt for a new grandbaby? Point out a minky blanket kit that includes a free pattern.

Your sales don't need to be pushy, but just by being mindful and observant, your customers will start to notice that you've got their back!

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2. Accompanying Upsell: Explore new ways you can bundle products! Your shop may already bundle patterns with quilt kits or embellishments with wool.  Here's a couple of less common bundle ideas:

Backing Bundle Deal: a discount for purchasing the backing at the same time as the kit

Rotary Blade Refill Bundle: discount for purchasing a refill pack of blades if they buy an Olfa rotary blade

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3. Data Upsell: The lifetime value of your customer could be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to your shop. That cannot be accomplished without good data.

On your website, do you have a discount popup or free pattern if a customer shares their email? In the shop, are your sales staff trained to get customer data effectively by asking open-ended questions? While this may seem like a menial thing, it will contribute tremendously over time to your growing audience and interaction via email/text with your loyal customer base. 

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4. 3rd Party Upsell: Explore new ways you can partner with great companies like your own! Give referrals to a repair shop (if your store doesn't offer that service) or give gift cards at checkout to a longarm quilter with whom you partner. 

Find influencers on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook in the quilting world and pay for them to showcase your products OR offer their subscribers a special discount. Creators are constantly looking for content and you might be just what they're looking for!

Let's do some math: Just what happens when you increase the average value of every transaction in your shop?

Let's say your shop does an average $30,000 a month in sales, with a $50 average order value (That equates to 600 transactions each month), with yearly sales of $360,000.

What are your yearly net sales if your order value increases by just:

$0.50? Just upping your order value by 2 quarters brings your yearly sales up by 1%. Your yearly sales would be $363,600.

$1.00? Your yearly sales would be $367,200. That's a 2% increase in yearly sales. Might not seem like much, but an extra $7,200 in the bank is worth it!

$2.00? Adding less than the value of a fat quarter to each transaction, your yearly sales will be $374,400. Look how quickly this starts to add up.

$5.00? Adding less than the value of 1 small thread spool to each transaction, you'll increase your yearly sales to $396,000. That's an additional $36,000 in the bank.

$10.00? Your sales will equate to $432,000. That's a 17% increase in sales, and an extra $72,000 in the bank! 

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 Now that you're gung-ho to improve your upselling game, let's step back and look at a couple rules to help guide your team to success and prevent that "pushy" vibe.

1. The 25% Rule: Don't recommend an upsell to your customer that's more than 25% of their original order. For example, if a customer is buying a yard of fabric and comes to checkout, don't push a kit. Suggest something $3 or less. If a customer brings a kit to checkout, suggest a backing to accompany it.

These rules aren't always hard and fast, but especially if someone is making their way to checkout, it's best to be sensitive to the total purchase price they're holding in their hand.

2. Limit your recommendations. Ever been into a store where a sales associate is barraging you with recommendations (especially before they've asked you ANY questions)? That's bad sales. If you're not understanding your customer and their wants and needs before trying to make a few extra bucks, you're not setting yourself up for success or your customer for a good experience in your shop.

3. Keep it casual; no hard sells. It's easy once you've developed a habit of upselling to want to push more, but trusting your customer is part of the exchange. If they say they're not interested in a certain product, respect that. I will give a caveat, though, and point out that human perceptions are CONSTANTLY changing. How many of us hated a food as a child that we now consume with gusto (please say it's not just me--mushrooms and sushi make the list)? A customer may say they don't want a product (there are a lot of subliminal reasons that may go into that). That's not to say that down the road, they won't become a consumer of that product. Just exercise some patience and trust your customer :)

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Here's a few other tips for a successful upsell, but don't let this cause overwhelm. If you start feeling overwhelm creep in, remind yourself that successful sales is just about great service: listening, learning, and providing a great product.

1. Tailor it to the individual customer (we've talked about this).

2. Wait until after the purchase. This may seem contradictory, but there's research that shows that offering more options right before the purchase can actually decrease the order value and cause your customer to question their original purchase plan because it creates decision overwhelm. Maybe the best way to go about this is offering an immediate discount after purchase or suggesting an upcoming class. Whatever it is, you'll find a groove and what works best for your customers.

3. Consider down-selling to prospective customers. If a customer hasn't purchased from you before, they will likely be more hesitant. Build trust by finding them a better value for their buck. For example, if you have a certain brand of thread on sale but they have a different one in-hand, suggest the former and mention the sale. Or if you notice a new customer thumbing through a fat quarter bundle but vacillating on the purchase, lead them to the fat quarter shelf that has some of the same prints that they liked. While this isn't always the best method to employ, it can be helpful for new customers to build trust and interact with your staff.

4. Don't overthink it! Initially, if this is a newer concept to you, you'll psychoanalyze every customer that walks through your door. You'll be tempted to profile them or look up their order history, but if you dive in with a service-oriented mindset, you can't go wrong. Ask questions, listen, and care--that's it!

5. Create simple training videos and hold staff meetings. If you have 5 helpers on your sales floor that aren't used to add-on sales, it'll require some training. But you don't want to repeat yourself umpteen times by training each person individually. Create simple training videos with your phone and have them watch when the shop is slow. Then, hold staff meetings where you role play with one another. You'll definitely feel silly but everyone will share a laugh and will become more comfortable having sales conversations.

Wondering if it's worth taking staff time to role play, of all things!? Well, let's hail back to those numbers we crunched when calculating add-on sales' effect on yearly income...we'll let you decide.

That's a wrap! One thing we haven't covered here is how to apply service-oriented sales effectively with an online/digital shop. Would you like to see another blog post exploring that? If so, let us know in the comments or send an email to 

Thanks for reading, and let us know in the comments what other market-related topics you'd like to cover or what sales techniques have worked well for your shop. Happy quilting--may we have the best year yet!

With love and admiration for all of you,

-The Laser Cut Quilts Team-

Sales is a 4-Letter Word
Laser Cut Quilts, Madi Hastings January 14, 2023
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