The Turkish Barber Incident.

How to do upselling Mylk Copy Melbourne

A cautionary tale in upselling from a barber who spoke very little English.

I made it.

Twenty one-hours and fifty minutes later I landed in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after leaving Melbourne the day before … or was it the day before that?

Twenty-one hours of flying leave you bleary-eyed, somewhat delirious, thirsty-hungry and in urgent need of finding a bathroom upon stepping foot on unfamiliar ground.

While the plane ride was bumpy, nothing could prepare me for the taxi ride to the hostel.

I was holdin’ on for dear life in the back of a yellow TAKsi cab. The driver dodged cars, scooters, trucks and buses while taking corners like he was trying to set a lap record at the Monaco Formula 1. My heart rate was pushing 160. 

Still, I give the man props. He knew how to get a customer from A to B in lightning speed. But this wasn’t going to be my only life-endangering experience in this ancient megacity. 

After a week of exploring underground cities, getting wired on Turkish coffee and taxing my lungs with enough shisha smoke to pollute Melbourne’s CBD, I looked beat. A visit to the barber was in order. This is when things got interesting.

The barber didn’t speak much English. I don’t speak a word of Turkish. He pointed to some photos on the wall and beckoned me to select.

Oddly, all the pictures on his wall were of celebrities: Brad Pitt (circa Fight Club era), Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Tom Hardy to name a few. 

I inspected the styles on offer, tapped on the cut I liked (I chose the Tom Hardy buzz cut, by the way) and the barber got to work. Forty minutes later he was done, the cut was clean, I looked sharp. Before I could whip some Liras out to pay, he said, “Sit. Not finished.”

He inspected my face like a mechanic looking for a leak in an engine bay, then said, “Shave?” I thought, sure, why not and nodded my head. Nothing like a cut-throat shave to go with my Tom Hardy haircut. 

Fifteen minutes later, my face was as smooth as peach skin. Now I looked the part. I was digging for my wallet when the barber says, “No, No. Stay.” 

This part I wasn’t ready for. He pushed a bowl of pea-sized black beads under my nose. “This is wax to clean skin good. Okay, I do that for you.” He followed up his two-second sales pitch with a chef’s kiss, and treatment three was underway.

By this stage, I was groomed for the rest of my six-week trip. And this is when the lightbulb went off. The barber had me on a hamster wheel of upsells. I had to get off before the rest of my Turkish Liras were siphoned out of my pocket.

I stashed a bunch of Liras in his hand and got the hell outta there before he could pitch his next grooming service.

This got me thinking. I wonder how many more services he could’ve upsold.

Two … three … five? Who knows. 

This lesson the barber gave me in upselling is what I teach my small biz clients to follow, less the pushiness, of course.

When a customer has just bought your product or paid for your service, the best time to sell to them is right then and there if you can. The customer is in a buying mood and it’s far easier to convert them with upsells and cross-sells to maximise the sale … alas the classic line, “Would you like fries with that?”

But a word of caution

Upsells have to be relevant to the initial purchase. If that barber offered me a back massage after the haircut, I would’ve refused — a back massage isn’t relevant to a haircut. A cut-throat shave is.

So if you’re deploying upsells in your sales funnel, do like the Turkish barber: make them relevant to each other but let clients and customers opt-out if they need.

Sell well.


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