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 which might suit the client. Suggestive selling is used to increase the purchase amount of the client and revenues of the business. Often, the additional sale is much smaller than the original purchase and is a complementary product.

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 such as refrigerators and washing machines, as well as electronics.
  • The upsold items are usually of lesser value than the main pruchase, but are intended to increase customer retention.

Understanding Suggestive Selling

The idea behind the technique is that it takes marginal effort 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 his or her 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, a premium stereo system, heated seats, sunroof, etc.) can substantially boost the final purchase price.

How Suggestive Selling Works

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 a different model that includes such features and other 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, traveler's insurance, 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.