Business accelerators: Upselling techniques that work

June 5, 2018

Upselling is a sales technique where customers are encouraged to upgrade their purchase or buy additional items. As a growth strategy it can be a very powerful way to increase sales, yet upselling has to be done carefully so the salesperson doesn’t turn off a customer. Research indicates that only about 15% of customers are receptive to hearing additional offers when they are making a purchase. Yet consumers are often interested in hearing exceptional promotions and appreciate a consultative selling approach where the salesperson helps them solve a problem.

Here are few upselling techniques to integrate into your customer experience:

Complete the purchase.

One easy way to integrate upselling into your sales checkout process is to look for obvious add-ons that complete a purchase. The key to making this work is to make sure the offer is relevant to what they need. For example, if they ask for a gift receipt, it makes sense to ask if they are interested in getting a greeting card or gift bag. If they are buying a toy as a gift, batteries are a relevant add-on. Similarly, if the purchase is very unique, offer any relevant specialized equipment—an exotic fish that requires special food or a particular type of tank, or a new device that has a special charger sold separately.

Be casual, not canned.

Many customers are sensitive to upselling techniques and shut down when you try to introduce new products. To sell more without annoying customers, you have to use a counterintuitive approach…be less “salesy”. Read the body language to make sure customers are receptive and try a less pushy, aggressive approach. For example, instead of asking, “Do you need a belt with this?” consider mentioning, casually, “I saw a customer pair this dress with one of our new belts. It looked awesome.” If the customer responds positively, point out where in the store they can find it, but don’t follow them over there unless they indicate they need or want help. Give them a chance to explore the merchandise without feeling chased by a salesperson. The trick here is to suggest ideas, but to have an authentic conversation, not a canned script.

Here are some other casual upselling examples:

  • A lot of people are buying this together with…
  • This color is all the new rage. This and the new top style over there…everyone seems to want one.
  • I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but we now do estate planning in addition to taxes.
  • I just got my nails done by our new manicurist….isn’t this cute?
  • Oh, I had that dish with the Merlot earlier—they were perfect together.

Solve a problem.

Often during the selling process customers will reveal details that are important in both closing the sale and selling more to this customer. For example, if the customer reveals they have a food allergy, it wouldn’t make sense to try to sell that customer items they are allergic to. If the customer mentions they are trying to find just the right outfit for a date after work it’s both relevant and appropriate to mention styles that work for both. Crucial to this type of sale is letting the customer know that you are not blindly putting products in front of them, but rather trying to answer questions they raised. With this technique it helps to ask questions and relate back to them what you heard. For example, “So you need something for work that also looks good on a date…what kind of work environment are you in? Are you allowed to wear sleeveless tops, maybe under a jacket?” Details let the customer know you are listening and they become more receptive to your suggestions.

  • Are you interested in desert? I noticed you ordered gluten-free, we have a flourless chocolate cake that’s divine.

A variation of problem-solving is to have customers self-sell into an upgrade. This approach is more informational with no pushy or aggressive language. So, for example, if someone chooses a service plan that is basic, and you offer 4 more expensive plans, the upsell would be to pull up a chart of all the plans outlining what’s included. You would say something non-salesy like, “So to verify, you’d like plan X that includes these features, right? You’re not interested in these features?” and place the chart in front of them. Because you’re simply verifying their purchase it doesn’t feel pushy, and yet the customer is made aware of all the plans. If your pricing plan offers significant value for the additional price, the customer is likely to choose an upgrade all on their own. Asking questions is a good way to kick off this type of selling. Here are some examples:

  • Would you like the regular polish or do you want the gel? The Gel Manicure is for people who need the manicure to last up to 14 days.
  • Do you want the hair color to be permanent, or do you just need it to last for a few washes?
  • What will you be using the tent for? Because this model is very sturdy and can be used during colder weather, whereas this tent was designed just for summer use. If you think you’re going to use it more than once, or possibly later in the season, the sturdier option is a better choice.
  • Are you looking for a basic chocolate cake, or do you want it to look like it was made especially for the person you’re celebrating?

Offer more value.

If you offer what’s perceived as exceptional value for just a little more money, people will be far more likely to buy. Coffee shops, for example, will often bundle a Danish or other breakfast treat with coffee at a reduced price. This additional value for buying more is a great way to upsell customers. Start with your best-selling products and consider what might pair well with it. Then come up with a promotional “bundle” price. Then you can simply advertise the promotion and ask at the register, “Do you want to get a donut for just $0.50 more?”

Success when trying to upsell customers comes down to this: What’s in it for them? If it’s a really attractive offer or is, genuinely, the better choice to solve their problems, they will love you for suggesting it. If it feels like an impersonal upsell into something that is not relevant to them, they will be turned off.

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