Expand Your Profits by Upselling Hardscape Projects

By Jessica Chase

Why is it that whenever you buy a burger, the salesperson always asks you to “go large” or “do you want fries with that?” Why does every grocery store have racks in the checkout jammed with things that you would never have purchased, but, as you wait in line, you suddenly realize you can’t live without? It’s called upselling. Upselling can be a very lucrative business when you offer larger, more expensive, or more comprehensive products or services. In the hardscape industry, these come in the form of enhancements and accessories. Eight upselling opportunities for interlocking concrete pavement projects are as follows:

1. Patterns

Simple patterns such as stack bond and running bond can be very cost-effective because they require that all paving units be the same size. However, more complex patterns — including varying the size of the pavers — can be more visually appealing and might better suit the surrounding environment and residential architecture. Many manufacturers now package pavers arranged with various sized pavers, which decreases labor and scrap materials. A key upselling opportunity is to note that testing has shown patterns with discontinuous, shorter bond lines — such as herringbone patterns — distribute loads more effectively and perform better.

2. Colors

Most manufacturers or distributors give out free paver samples. When meeting with any prospective client, always have samples of colors, styles, and pictures of specific patterns. Be prepared and present your ideas and materials in a professional manner. A key selling feature is that pavers with light colors tend to absorb less heat, and make walking on them cooler. These pavers are manufactured with white Portland cement, which is more costly than the traditional grey Portland cement. White cement also makes color more intense. This makes these light pavers more costly, ultimately increasing the cost of a project. The client may see the value in this additional cost and may choose this option — but only if the option is presented to them.

3. Finishes

Just like patterns, numerous finishes provide a range of visual opportunities to complement the site and home. Finishes include face mix, special aggregates, tumbled, shot blasted, hammered, or polished. The use of multiple finishes in a project can be used to accent borders or areas. Review the options available, and measure the client’s interest in each.

4. Multiple levels

Including multiple levels in a raised patio design is a simple way to add more interest and life to a design. This type of upsell requires minimal additional work, but the inclusion of multiple levels may be what sets one proposal apart from the others, and is ultimately selected for installation. Creating multiple levels gives more depth to a project, and allows for the creation of different areas with well defined purposes (such as a hot tub area, a sitting area or a kitchen area). Consideration should be given to the effect of smoke from fireplaces or grills when designing a multi-level patio with a sitting area.

5. Kitchens, fireplaces and grills

Adding outdoor elements such as a kitchen, fireplace or grill can extend the livable area of a home and add property value. When suggesting these types of additions to a project, consider the style of the client and the neighborhood. An outdoor grill may be more fitting than an elaborate kitchen in some cases. Also consider how the space will be used. Will there be all-season gatherings with family and friends, or a convenient area for occasional barbecues?

6. Seat walls

When entertaining, there never seems to be enough seating in a patio area. Sitting walls are a great way to define and enhance the look of an area, while adding extra seating when entertaining larger crowds. The addition of seat walls to raised patios is relatively straightforward. Remember to always adhere segmental retaining wall cap units when used in free-standing applications such as seat walls.

7. Lighting

There are many types of lighting fixtures with prices to match budgets. Select fixtures compatible with the architectural style and landscape. In phased construction, install cables or conduit for future lighting if the budget allows. Safety/security is the number one upselling benefit of adding lighting to a project.

8. Pool decks

A pool deck provides a number of opportunities to upsell a project. The use of light-colored pavers helps keep the surface cooler. It is also important to consider the texture of the paver surface. Select a paver that has a smooth surface to bare feet, but is not so smooth that it is slippery when wet. It is also advantageous to limit the amount of water that enters the joints and joint sand that enters the pool by using a liquid sealer.

Many clients have plans for projects that are larger than their budget. You can still upsell using a phased construction approach. The concept of a phased approach to construction following a master plan is becoming more commonplace. This allows a contractor to upsell a project. The installer can suggest elements that may not be in the budget for this year, but could easily be added a year or two later. Quite often, repeat business can be the most profitable work, and that can be enhanced with maintenance contracts.

In most cases, the contractor who completes the first phase of a project is asked to come back and continue with phase two, unless there was a dispute between the contractor and the client. In any case, it is a good practice to charge for any design done in-house. This way, as a contractor, you are protected from doing the design work if someone else were to get the job.


Upselling is a quick and easy way to increase profit, while still offering your clients an additional product or service that they will find beneficial. However, make sure that you always have the client’s best interests in mind. If you come across as too pushy, the client could lose trust and go elsewhere. Most clients will appreciate upselling as long as it is relevant to their needs, budget and lifestyle.

Jessica Chase, CAE, is director of marketing and membership at the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI). ICPI represents producers, suppliers, contractors, design professionals and consultants and supports its members in assuring segmental concrete pavement systems are the preferred choice for sustainable and environmentally friendly pavements in North America. ICPI aims to increase awareness, use and acceptance of segmental concrete pavement systems in North America through the development of marketing and technical resources for design professionals, contractors and homeowners. To learn more about ICPI, visit www.icpi.org

Learn more about hardscape products and services opportunities for upselling at Hardscape North America (HNA). HNA, to be held October 23-25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center, features more than 110 hardscape industry exhibitors, outdoor demonstrations, and seminars to boost your knowledge and bottom line. For more information, visit www.HardscapeNA.com

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