Times have changed since McDonald’s chairman Ray Kroc introduced upselling to the masses by directing his employees to ask customers if they wanted fries with their sandwiches. Even 60 years ago, Kroc knew that consumers spend more when they’re already in buying mode, and his directive nearly doubled the company’s sales of french fries.
Home builders long profited from the same approach, selling bare-bones houses standard while pushing a variety of higher-end products as upgrades or options. But 21st-century home buyers are turned off by hard line tactics, say industry experts. In fact, among home buyers and builders, upselling is now practically a dirty word.
“We don’t upsell. The term itself is inappropriate,” says Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer for national home builder Toll Brothers. “The implication is that that’s against customers’ best interests, and this is not what we are doing.”
Instead, associates at Toll Brothers’ 25 design centers throughout the country take a custom approach for every client, Sterling says, getting to know each buyer’s lifestyle and how they intend to live in their homes so presentations and offerings can be tailored to their needs.
In markets across the country, home builders of all sizes are upping their design studio game. Earlier this year, Louisville, Ky.–based Cook Brothers Homes opened what it claims is the most comprehensive design studio in greater Knoxville. In Charlottesville, Va., buyers can preview and select fixtures, appliances, cabinets, and countertops at Southern Development Homes’ new design center. In Southern California, The New Home Co. converts model home garages into customized on-site design centers and highlights all available upgrades, from lighting to landscaping, in its models. In February, McLean, Va.–based Miller & Smith opened a “sales experience center” at its new community One Loudoun in Ashburn, Va., a 1,300-square-foot retail space that allows home buyers to feel and see products.