Business Tips··12 min read

What is Suggestive Selling? 6 Tips How to Make Suggestive Selling Work

What is Suggestive Selling? 6 Tips How to Make Suggestive Selling Work

More than 14.5 million Americans currently work in some kind of sales job.

If you’re part of this group (or if you manage people who are), remember that it’s not enough just to be good at selling. They also have to be good at suggestive selling, also known as upselling or add-on selling.

Never heard of this term before? Not sure why it’s important or how you can master it?

Read on to learn more about what suggestive selling is and why it’s an essential tool for all salespeople to master. You’ll also learn some helpful techniques that you can teach your team to make suggestive selling work for them.

What is Suggestive Selling?

Let’s start with a clear suggestive selling definition.

In simplest terms, suggestive selling is a sales technique. It involves you, the salesperson, asking customers if they want to include an additional item or service along with their primary purchase.

Most of the time, when you’re practicing suggestive selling, you’re adding on a smaller, less expensive item or service that complements what the customer is already buying. In theory, this takes minimal effort on your part since you’ve already sold the customer on something larger and convinced them to trust your recommendations.

Suggestive Selling Examples

There are lots of ways that salespeople can practice suggestive selling.

For example, a retail employee could suggest an accessory to complement a larger item. They might sell a customer a pair of gloves or a scarf that goes with the new coat they’re planning on buying.

A restaurant employee could practice upselling as well by encouraging a customer to order a side dish or glass of wine that complements the main meal they just ordered.

Upselling examples are also relevant for service-based sales. For example, if a customer at a mechanic’s shop is planning on paying for an oil change, a salesperson could also convince them to purchase an additional service, such as a filter change, at a discounted price.

Suggestive selling doesn’t always involve adding on another purchase, though. It could also mean suggesting that a customer purchase an item in a larger size. For example, you might recommend that a customer size up to a large drink instead of a medium since it only costs an addition 25 cents.

Why Does Suggestive Selling Matter?

At first, the idea of upselling might feel uncomfortable to some salespeople. It provides a lot of benefits to them and their employer, though. The following are some of the greatest benefits that suggestive selling, when done correctly, has to offer:

Boost Sales

One of the greatest benefits of upselling is, of course, the fact that it can help your salespeople to sell more products or services. When you sell more, that’s more money coming in for your business, as well as to your salespeople in the form of commissions.

Increasing sales helps your business to become more profitable, which allows you to continue offering great products and services while also expanding your offerings to reach a wider customer base.

Reduce Theft

Many people are surprised to know that suggestive selling can actually help to reduce theft. Every year, retailers lose approximately $45 billion to theft. Anything you can do to reduce the number of goods stolen from your business is worth implementing, right?

Suggestive selling helps to reduce theft by encouraging salespeople to keep a closer eye on the customers who are entering their store. When salespeople are actively practicing add-on selling, they’re engaging with the customers and paying attention to what they’re buying, as well as what they’re looking at and considering buying.

When you’re more engaged and focused on the customer, there’s less of an opportunity for theft to take place.

Improve Customer Experience

Suggestive selling doesn’t only improve your business by increasing your sales. It also improves your business by improving the overall customer experience.

If customers feel that they’re being given white-glove treatment and are noticed and acknowledged while they’re shopping, they’re going to be more inclined to recommend your business to their friends and family. This is especially true if you have a salesperson who helps them choose the best items or lets them know about the benefits of a service that they might not have known about otherwise.

More positive customer experiences means more positive press for your business, and we all know how important good press is when it comes to growing a brand and raising your bottom line.

Save Money by Retaining Customers

In addition to helping you attract new customers, suggestive selling can also help you retain your existing customers.

If your customers receive great treatment and leave with complementary products or services that add to what they’ve already purchased, they’re going to be more inclined to come back again in the future.

As every business owner knows, it’s cheaper (between five and 25 times cheaper, in fact) to retain an existing customer than it is to bring in a new one. While you, of course, want new people coming to your business, you also want to foster good relationships with your current customers so they keep coming back.

Essential Suggestive Selling Techniques

Clearly, it’s important for the members of your sales staff to practice suggestive selling if you want them to thrive as a group of salespeople (and help your company to thrive as well). With the right technique, it’ll be easier for them to start upselling and enjoying all the benefits outlined above.

The following six suggestive selling tips can help your team to become master add-on sellers in no time:

1. Develop In-Depth Knowledge

It’s going to be much easier for your salespeople to upsell customers in a genuine way if they have an in-depth knowledge of the products or services they’re selling. The more they know, the easier it will be for them to make recommendations that make sense to the customer.

This also helps the customer to develop a sense of trust in your sales staff. Remember, 82 percent of consumers are more likely to listen to the recommendations of an expert.

When you’re training your employees, ensure that their training includes thorough explanations of your company’s products or services. This will help them to be able to assist customers with more ease.

If your company has a lot of new inventory coming in on a regular basis, including an upselling point (or USP for short) when informing salespeople about the new items. Make sure that point is easy for them to keep in mind and work into a conversation with customers.

2. Build Rapport

Talk to your salespeople about the importance of building rapport with customers, too.

If they develop a relationship with a customer and are on good terms with them, it’ll be much easier to convince them that they should purchase an add-on item or invest in a larger or more expensive version of what they’re already buying.

Building rapport with a customer isn’t always easy, especially when you’re working with more taciturn customers. Encourage your salespeople not to make things more complicated than they need to be, though.

Simple questions like “how’s your day going?” or “what are you shopping for today?” can go a long way when it comes to opening up a dialogue and enhancing a customer’s experience.

3. Get Personal

Another way to build rapport with a customer is to get personal.

If your salesperson talks about their personal experience with a particular product or service, that’s going to have a significant impact on the customer. If they know someone else who has used something or tried something and liked it, they’ll be more inclined to invest in that good or service themselves.

Remember, personal recommendations help the customer to feel special. It creates the sense that they’re receiving information that another customer might not be getting. This helps to establish a bond between the customer and the salesperson, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that the customer will actually go through with an upsell.

4. Time it Right

Talk to your salespeople about the importance of proper timing when it comes to upselling.

The right time to upsell a customer is not the second they walk in the door. No, they need time to get acclimated to the store and learn about what you’re selling. They also need time to get to know the salesperson and feel as though they have a connection with them.

Without giving the customer time for these things, they’re likely going to end up feeling rushed and pressured into buying something they’re not quite ready for. This is not the type of feeling you want to create if you’re hoping to turn someone into a long-term, loyal customer.

5. Create a Loyalty Program

A loyalty program can be a very useful part of an upselling strategy. When customers are part of a loyalty program, they spend much more than they would otherwise. For example, Starbucks revamped its loyalty program and saw an 18 percent increase in revenues.

Knowing that they’re working toward some kind of reward, whether it’s a discount or a free item, makes customers much more open to the idea of being upsold.

Encourage your salespeople to talk up your business’s loyalty program and get customers to join it if you have on in place. If you don’t, work on creating one that works well for your customers and will encourage them to frequent your business on a more regular basis.

6. Remember the Customer’s Budget

Make sure your sales team knows to keep the customer’s budget in mind, too. This will save them from making recommendations that are way outside of what the customer can afford.

Remembering the customer’s budget also helps them to trust the salesperson who’s assisting them. They’ll feel confident that the salesperson isn’t trying to squeeze every last dollar out of them, and they’ll be more inclined to listen to their suggestions.

Keep in mind that your salespeople can recommend items that are more expensive than what the customer has in mind. However, there is a way to do it that won’t cause the customer to feel as though they’re being taken advantage of.

When suggesting a higher priced item, it’s important to acknowledge that it costs more than what the customer wanted to spend. Then, the salesperson should let the customer know why they’re recommending it.

Acknowledging the price helps the customer avoid feeling pressured, but your salesperson still has a chance to get them interested in a bigger-ticket item.

Never Force an Add-On Sale

As you can see, there are lots of ways for the members of your sales team to start practicing upselling with their customers. While it’s important to teach them these techniques, it’s also important to teach them this bonus technique: Never force an add-on sale.

Your salespeople may be eager to sell more and help out the company. While it’s great that they’re enthusiastic, they also need to know when an upsell isn’t going to happen. Sometimes, customers don’t want to buy anything more than what they came to purchase.

It may be tempting to continue encouraging them to add something on to their original purchase. Keep in mind, though, that this can backfire if you’re not careful. Forcing an add-on sale could turn off your customers to a purchase altogether or discourage them from coming back in the future.

Remember, if they leave on a positive note, they’ll be much more inclined to shop with you again. And, the next time, they might be willing to be upsold because they had such a good experience during their previous shopping trip.

Try These Tips Today

Now that you know more about what suggestive selling is and the benefits it provides to your sales staff, your customers, and your company as a whole, it’s time to get to work.

The sooner you can teach proper upselling techniques, the sooner your business will begin reaping the benefits that they have to offer.

Start implementing these suggestive selling strategies today and you’ll be able to help your salespeople become masters of upselling before you know it.


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