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Definition, Goals, and Instances of Suggestive Selling (Upselling)

What Is Suggestive Selling (Upselling)?

Suggestive selling (also known as add-on selling or upselling) is a sales technique where an employee asks a customer if they would like to include an additional purchase or recommends a product that might suit the client. Suggestive selling is used to increase the purchase amount of the client and the revenues of the business.

Key Takeaways

  • Suggestive selling, or upselling, is when additional items or services are offered to a buyer of a main product or service.
  • Examples of suggestive selling include extended warranties offered by sellers of household appliances or electronics.
  • The upsold items are usually of lesser value than the main purchase but are intended to increase customer retention.

Understanding Suggestive Selling (Upselling)

The idea behind the technique is that it takes marginal effort when compared with the potential additional revenue. This is because getting the buyer to purchase (often seen as the most difficult part) has already been done. After the buyer is committed, an additional sale that is a fraction of the original purchase is much more likely.

Typical examples of add-on sales are the extended warranties offered by sellers of household appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, as well as electronics. A salesperson at an automobile dealership also generates significant add-on sales by suggesting or convincing a buyer sitting at their desk that the buyer would be much happier with the car with a few or several add-on options.

Once a car buyer has committed to buying the base model, adding on options (leather trim interior, premium stereo system, heated seats, sunroof, etc.) can substantially boost the final purchase price.

Examples of Suggestive Selling (Upselling)

Suggestive selling can take on many forms depending on the business category. At a retail store, an employee could suggest accessories to accompany a piece of apparel, such as a scarf and gloves to go with a new coat. In the restaurant setting, the waitstaff could point out side dishes to complement the main course a patron ordered.

Similarly, at bars where food is served, bartenders might recommend appetizers to accompany drinks that were ordered, or vice versa. Bartenders may also suggest higher-end, pricier brands of beverages that are comparable to the type the patron has ordered.

This sales technique can be readily found in the automobile sales industry. A salesperson, after securing a customer’s commitment to purchase a vehicle, might offer to add supplements such as an extended warranty and roadside service.

Depending on the make and model, they might also suggest including more features beyond the base model of the car. This could include buying a vehicle with more advanced audio equipment, a communications package that connects the driver’s phone to the vehicle’s dashboard, a rearview camera, a more powerful engine, or seat warmers. They might also try to convince them to upgrade to a different model that includes such features and others at a higher price compared with the original model they considered.

Travel planning, whether done through an agency or online platform, can feature suggestive selling. Typically, the travel booker will be offered recommendations on package deals for lodging and airfare, travel insurance, and ground transportation at the destination, as well as suggestions on tours to book and other sites to visit while on their journey. For recurring events, the traveler may be offered special rates to book in advance the same trip for the following year.

What Are Suggestive Selling Techniques?

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Suggestive selling techniques include recommending complimentary items, offering a product bundle, purchasing warranties or insurance, informing of new product arrivals at the point of sale, and offering membership to a loyalty program.

What Is a Good Example of Suggestive Selling?

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A good example of suggestive selling is attempting to sell a warranty. For example, if a customer purchases a new washing machine, you can offer a warranty of three years for an additional $50.

What Must Be Avoided When Suggestive Selling?

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When suggestive selling, it is best to avoid pressuring customers. Customers don't like to feel pressured. If you quickly jump into a sales pitch and start selling, you could turn a customer away. It is best to spend time and speak with a customer, see what their needs are, and then sell based on that information.

The Bottom Line

Suggestive selling has the goal of further increasing a business's revenue from a sale. It aims to get the customer to spend even more, and while can be seen as scrupulous, may sometimes help the customer, such as buying a warranty on a product. Suggestive selling seeks to take advantage of the fact that a customer has already made the decision to buy a good or service and, therefore, may be willing to spend a little more.


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