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The Main Event: The Upsell and the Reality Sell
Posted Nov 28, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Recently, our industry has come under attack from a writer named Rebecca Mead (see Book Review: One Perfect Day), whose perception is that wedding vendors—videographers included—are a bunch of dishonest "used car salesmen" who take advantage of brides and force them to purchase things they neither need nor want. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding at work here—not just of our industry, but also a too-simplistic take on the nature of sales. Contrary to this belief, not everyone who walks out of a meeting with a vendor having purchased something they didn’t intend to has been coerced or tricked.

There are two types of sales: a "reality sell" and an "upsell." A reality sell is necessary while an upsell is not. The difference between a reality sell and an upsell is huge. Let’s say a woman goes to a car dealership, walks up to the salesman, and says, "I would like to purchase this truck in your ad." The truck in question is a two-door, rear-wheel-drive pickup with a small engine. A poor salesman who does not care about the client would simply agree and sell the client what she is asking for.

A conscientious salesman would recognize that she has come to him to seek his help because of his talent, training, and experience, all of which make him a professional. As a professional, he needs to make sure that she leaves with the vehicle she needs, rather than simply the one she asked for, so he asks questions to ensure this will happen. In doing so, he finds out she has a 5,000-pound boat that she intends to tow through mountains with this truck. If she were to do so, she would damage the transmission and brakes and put herself, her passengers, and other motorists in danger. A good salesman would then suggest she purchase the tow package with a bigger motor, brakes, transmission cooler, and tow equipment so she could safely tow her boat. This is a reality sell.

There are other important issues here—does she live on a hill, does she frequently drive in snow, how big is her family, etc. By gathering this information and suggesting a purchase that would meet her needs, the salesman hasn’t tricked her into an upsell; he’s simply done his job. He’s demonstrated his integrity, honesty, and professionalism by using his knowledge to help his customer get the right vehicle, even though she came to him convinced she needed something else. Had he sold her what she asked for, he would have made a sale for that day but lost a customer for a lifetime. If her answers to his questions had been, "I will not be towing anything, I never drive on hills or snow, and I won’t be carrying passengers," then her initial choice would have been correct, and an honest salesman would simply close the deal. Either way, this is a reality sell, regardless of whether the customer leaves with the truck she came in to buy or a fuller-featured model. The dishonest salesman, by contrast, would push for the upsell, selling her additional items regardless of her needs.

We face similar situations with every bride we meet, except most brides know even less about wedding videography than the typical new-car shopper knows about vehicles. Using a car is an everyday experience; planning a wedding is not. When the average bride approaches a wedding videographer, she is usually aware of only 5 of 40-plus products our industry offers. Thus, we have a responsibility to provide her with the best information we have so she can make an informed decision for preserving the momentous day she is planning. This, in a nutshell, is the reality sell. To do otherwise would be dishonest.

Let me describe a reality-sell situation that happens to wedding videographers with great regularity. A bride asks us to film her ceremony with one camera, oblivious to her need for a second videographer. While doing our best to help her, we discover that her ceremony is long and complex with multiple speakers, presentations, performers, sacred events, and religious restrictions on camera operation. To us it is obvious she needs a second camera; thus, it is our responsibility to ask the correct questions and provide the information she needs to make an informed decision. It would be easier to sell the bride what she asked for, then hide behind our contract when she comes back complaining about everything that’s missing in her wedding video long after the event is over. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to share our experience, talent, and creativity with the bride so she can make an informed decision. After all, she came to a professional for help. And while this may lead to an increased cost for the bride, it’s only the cost of the full service she is hiring us to provide.

I love what I do, and I love this industry because it is so much more than a paycheck. I get to be a part of the most dreamed-of day in many people’s lives. I capture fairy tales in real life, so people can prove that such stories do exist by playing the video I helped create. I love directing such a movie, and making people laugh and cry with my creativity. I wish that I could do it for free, but as with all artists, the art will cease if it ceases to provide a decent living for the artist.

The work we create stirs people’s souls. It’s our job to create it—and to teach our clients what it entails—even if the creation and the teaching also open their pocketbooks a little wider.

Mike Nelson, owner of award-winning Salt Lake City-based Remember When Videos, is a WEVA MPV-certified videographer, author of multiple training DVDs including Bridal Elegance and 40 Creative Wedding Ideas, and founder and past president of the Utah Professional Videographers Association.

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