Upselling Can Help Anglers and Your Fishing Store

Upsell based on your experience, knowledge and desire to help your customers.

Upselling Can Help Anglers and Your Fishing Store

The scene plays out at retail counters across America on a near daily basis: A customer comes up and plops a grade B — at best — reel on the counter and then states he’s going fishing at a premier lodge on a lifetime destination lake you and your staff know well. That customer speaks of vacation time, money, hiring a guide and other aspects of fishing those dream waters. Now, however, you must take action.

Because you know the conditions on the water he speaks of and how guides operate there, plus the fishing conditions and the related costs — you should speak up and let the customer know he will find more success if he spends $50 more and buys a grade A reel for his trip. Don’t just quote dollars. Explain the many benefits of stepping up.

In this case you can explain casting farther, reeling faster and managing for fewer bird nests and other reel fiascoes. Then there is the added benefit of spending more time fishing and less time cursing about the fish missed or problems with gear. Yes, you stock and sell that grade B reel, but it is best used for other applications—and other destinations. Remember that America is built on the bigger, better, stronger concepts, so upselling is easy if brought into the conversation at the right time, and if it provides benefits or solves a customer’s problems.

In the long run, moving customers up will make them happier, may lead them to enjoy their fishing interests better and may make them go on the water more — and shop more often — because their level of enjoyment far outweighs the nagging frustration when gear fails. There are many reasons to move a customer up in a sell when possible.

Getting items out of the boxes and packaging can help you show customers the many options that fit their needs and guide them in the upsell experience.
Getting items out of the boxes and packaging can help you show customers the many options that fit their needs and guide them in the upsell experience.

The Fine Line

Take note, there’s a fine line between upselling and aggressively pushing products on customers. The key is to listen intently to what the customer reveals, whether they speak in the aisle while shopping or at the check-out counter at purchase time. Next, don’t push. Coach and help them see there is a better reel, rod or other fishing accessories for their intended use, and you’d like to show them other options. The best way to coach shoppers is to talk about what you heard them say, and offer some possible better solutions to their purchase. Then, get that upgraded  product into their hand immediately. Don’t just point to an aisle and tell them to find it there. Take the steps to help them see the better differences in product A compared to the lesser quality or performance of product B they were about to purchase. You and your sales staff must be able to discuss benefits and why those extra dollars will be worth it. Remember to also know the many product details, because you can bet your customer may have already done online research before coming into your shop. This is especially true with products costing more than a couple hundred dollars. They could be on the fence regarding a purchase, so your guidance and insight could help them make an educated decision and buy a higher price point item.


Customers Are Accustomed

Upselling customers happens on a near daily basis—and many customers appreciate the shopping guidance. Nearly everyone can remember buying a car, truck, cellphone or even a mattress to sleep on and having a store rep explain for a few more dollars you can have this model that not only has more bells and whistles, but will better meet your needs. In many cases the dollars spent now will be less than if the customer has a change of plans and needs to upgrade by adding accessories. Better to be prepared and ready than to be lacking.

Want to know how upselling works best? Go to a fast food restaurant and order a hamburger and soft drinks, and 100 percent of the time you will be asked if you want fries with that order. Or if you have ordered a meal combo, the next upgrade is “Would you like to upsize your order?” It never hurts to ask.

Another part in upselling that customers appreciate is shared knowledge. If you and your staff have used certain rods and reels, and can attest to why they are better and what you get for the extra dollars dropped at the cash register, bring that into the conversation. Remember also the differences that sales reps visiting your store explained between reel models, rod lengths, carrying cases or whatever the product category. Recall and call those differences to the attention of the customer standing before you.

Another tool in your make-that-upsell with customers can be displays and information provided by the manufacturer.  Many reel and rod manufacturers provide brochures, eye-catching wall charts, hands-on counter-top product tests and other displays that help customers make better choices — and to see the difference between products. If you have these in your store, you can often let the customer upgrade her or himself by calling attention to the shopping information and displays. In many cases, if the display is interactive and customers can see and feel differences between products, they will understand and upsell themselves. Another way to help customers move up is to offer combo packages and take trade-ins. As we all know, there is a market for rods and reels that are slightly used, and the better quality ones can bring profits to your pockets if you know what is being traded. Much of the used car industry works like this and the fishing tackle industry can also. If you don’t want to deal with trade-ins every day, consider holding an event in the off season and promoting trade-in days. Same goes for combos: Put a reel on a rod and add line, or add some lures and a soft tacklebox to the product mix and you offer a winning combination nearly no customer can resist. Mega retailers in your industry do this combo sell all the time. Show the price separately on the items and then the savings by purchasing the combo and you now have the customer’s attention — and their credit card.

Putting several products into customers’ hands can help with the upsell conversation. Be able to discuss features and benefits.
Putting several products into customers’ hands can help with the upsell conversation. Be able to discuss features and benefits.

Train Staff to 'Talk the Talk'

Another challenge in doing upsells is training your staff to look for those key opportunities. They should listen for clues from customers about dream trips, destinations, a previous reel broke, a fish got away, or a wide range of failures and plans that mean this customer is serious — and needs some serious gear. If they ask, “What’s the difference?” you know they are thinking about a better solution to their problem or plans.

Not only should staff be trained to listen for upsell opportunities, but also know how to approach the subject, such as “Could I make a suggestion?” or “Want to see a better solution to your problem?” Upsells need to offer benefits to the customer, be presented in a welcoming format they understand, and bring value to their hands.

Another thing is how to convey the reason this reel or rod costs more, and what the customer gets for more money spent. In some case it’s an investment if the rod has a 25-year or lifetime warranty, or if the reel has an unconditional warranty. Metal gears and spools and a more durable metal housing beats plastic every time. Those can be brought into the conversation and catch the ears of serious anglers.

Next, staff should be able to point out why the other rod costs more. It’s often easy to see the difference in the premium guides on a rod — point them out. It can help to prepare comparison sheets for products, just like CliffsNotes or product sales sheets, so staff can read, learn and be able to lead customers in a conversation about better options, or more product for the dollars being spent.

Customers who are serious about catching fish will want to know about the reel’s retrieve setup (left or right hand), gear ratios, ball bearings, line capacity and the recovery-per-turn numbers. Knowing this information can help busy customers cut to the chase and help you be more professional in selling, and upselling, fishing tackle. On fish finders and chartplotters, it is easy to discuss screen sizes, buttons and features, and what that instrument reveals from the water. Here you will need to rely on manufacturer’s handouts and videos possibly to show the many options. And with prices ranging from several hundreds to thousands of dollars, you will need to know the many details and be able to show and explain to customers.

A word of caution, and that’s to remind staff to walk and lead customers, not push and drag them into buying a more expensive accessory or fishing tackle item. Some staff become so hooked on selling upgrades, especially when paid bonuses or when there’s a sales staff contest underway in the backroom, that they try to move the needle up with everyone. Too much of this can begin to turn customers off — and cause them to shop elsewhere.

Placing items side by side so anglers can see and feel the differences can lead to them upselling themselves.
Placing items side by side so anglers can see and feel the differences can lead to them upselling themselves.

Demos That Catch Dollars

During the spring months, when serious anglers are passing through the door of your business in large numbers — the days of bass or crappie fishing are on the horizon in your region. You simply don’t have time to meet everyone and answer all the questions. So how can you indirectly upsell to those shoppers?


Create product test areas and have opened products, or test rods or rod-and-reel combos, that the customer can possibly take outside and experience by casting into water or across the grass. Talk is cheap, but performance pulls dollars into the cash register. Before letting that $250 reel go out the front door, grab a credit card or driver’s license from the tester so you have a clue about where the product went — then encourage them to cast away. At peak periods, such as sunny Saturday afternoons, consider putting staff and test gear outside so customers can stop and try before they enter the store.

Interactive displays that engage customers, showcase products, and group items that work well together can be powerful sales centers. These displays are obviously seasonal, so get them out early and be certain they attract and engage customers, and convey product benefits. It’s the same principle as car sales: Once they get you into the driver’s seat behind the wheel, more than 80 percent of the sale is made. If you have space and water at your location, a boat in the water loaded with top accessories, rods, reels and electronics will give customers the experience that sells products.  Just have them step off the dock and onto the boat.

The second best upsell option is to have the boat on a trailer (secured) in the parking lot and a ramp or easy-to-use ladder to help customers in and out. Again, show the gear and let customers determine why they should invest $100 more into a top reel for their season ahead. In the boat or display is also the place to showcase those $500 rod and reel combos. Since space can be limited, skip the lesser-priced or more common products and let customers see and experience the best of what they can own and use on the water. Remember, upsells often mean more dollars at day’s end. If you know the customer from her or his past purchases, make the upsell today relevant to the customer, make the conversation personal, and make the customer gain a benefit or solution to a problem.

Your action today can also move the customer from a casual shopper to a repeat customer who stops in nearly every time they go to the lake or river — or have plans to go the next weekend. They win, you win.


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