Upselling is a sales technique whereby a seller induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale. While it usually involves marketing more profitable services or products, it can be simply exposing the customer to other options that were perhaps not considered. (A different technique is cross-selling in which a seller tries to sell something else.) In practice, large businesses usually combine upselling and cross-selling to maximize profit. In doing so, an organization must ensure that its relationship with the client is not disrupted.
In restaurants and other similar settings, upselling is commonplace and an accepted form of business. In other businesses (e.g. car sales), the customer’s perception of the attempted upsell can be viewed negatively and impact the desired result.
Some examples of upselling include:
- suggesting a premium brand of alcohol when a brand is not specified by a customer
- selling an extended service contract for an appliance
- suggesting that a customer purchase a faster CPU, more RAM or a larger hard drive when servicing that customer's computer
- selling luxury finishing on a vehicle, such as leather upholstery
- suggesting a brand of watch that the customer hasn't previously heard of as an alternative to the one being considered
- suggesting that a customer purchase a more extensive car wash package
- asking the customer to supersize a meal at a fast-food restaurant, or adding extra toppings to a pizza
- using mobile check-in services to send upgrade seat or service offers to flyers
Many companies teach their employees to upsell products and services and offer incentives and bonuses to the most successful personnel. Care must be taken in this type of environment to thoroughly train employees. A poorly trained employee can let slip the incentive program and thus offend a regular and loyal customer. There is a level of trust between the customer and employee and once broken it may never be re-established.
A common technique for successful upsellers is becoming aware of a customer's background, budget and other budgets, allowing the upsellers to understand better what that particular purchaser values, or may come to value.
Another way of upselling is creating fear over the durability of the purchase, particularly effective on expensive items such as electronics, where an extended warranty can offer peace of mind.
Overlap with cross-selling
Upselling can be difficult to divorce from cross-selling when not entailing a more expensive substitute, it can instead simply refer to bolt-ons recommended by the manufacturer, trade federation, common practice, or regulators. A simple example is that of expensive leather shoes, where the seller may suggest to buy a waterproofing spray as well "to make the shoes last."
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