Upselling: A Piece of the Sales Puzzle

Learn how to convince your customer to make a larger purchase

Anyone who has ever sold anything, at some time or another, has heard, “You have to upsell if you’re going to make money!” This is good advice if you’re comfortable with selling, and not so great if you aren’t. Basic selling can be challenging for those who work in creative fields, and upselling may feel like trying to do advanced algebra when you’ve just mastered 2 + 2 = 4. Fortunately, upselling isn’t as difficult as it seems, and mastering the technique can bring huge benefits to your business. Here are some insights to help guide you along the way.

First, let’s define upselling. Upselling is essentially convincing your customer to make a more significant purchase than they originally planned to make when they reached out. For instance, if the customer intended to spend $50, you can use upselling techniques to get them to spend $75. The idea is to offer the customer such great options in such an honest and helpful way that they can’t resist your suggestions.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a quilt shop and primarily sell fabric. Customers come in and buy fabric and go home and make quilts, which is great, but if they’re only buying fabric from you, they’re spending money other places to get thread, needles, rotary cutters, and all the other supplies and equipment they might need. So, start small. Bring in some thread you really like and offer it to your customer when they get to the register. Talk about why you sell that type of thread. Pick out a color that works well with the fabric and hold them together. Talk about how a thread can add or detract from a quilt, and how poor quality thread can ruin a quilting experience. Don’t be pushy, just be helpful and be an evangelist for whatever you’re offering. Not every customer you upsell will leave with fabric and thread, but more will leave with both than if you just let the thread sit on a shelf.

One thing to remember when upselling is relevance. The thing you’re upselling needs to make sense with whatever the customer has already committed to buying. The goal is to enhance your customer’s intended purchase with a little something extra.

Understanding the customer’s goals is also essential. Ask why they’re making the purchase they’ve already decided to make, and what they hope it will accomplish. Try to pinpoint any unmet needs or goals they’re pursuing with which you can help. Upsell enough customers like this and the extra time pays for itself.

One thing to keep in mind when upselling is the focus: helping the customer. Pushy upselling will get the same reaction any pushy sales technique does, which is an unhappy customer who may not come back. Successful upselling comes from a place of service.


Kristine Shreve

Kristine is the founder and CEO of Kristine Shreve Consulting which offers writing, marketing and business development services. Kristine is also the creator and host of the Business + Women podcast, where the discussion centers around being a woman business owner. She blogs on her webiste, as well as and On Facebook, Kristine is the founder of the Women in Garment Decoration Facebook group. Kristine was the director of marketing for Ensign Emblem and EnMart from 2006 to April 2020.

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