The Art of Up Selling

One of the most important jobs a salesperson has to do is to add value to a sale that the customer is already willing to make. There are many missed opportunities as salespeople commit key errors during the course of each encounter with a customer. Learning to up sell, or add to a sure sale, is a vital skill, and you can learn it!


  1. Talk with your customer. Sounds pretty basic, right? But so many salespeople simply nod and smile, or hover, rather than chatting the customer up. Talking to the customer will allow you to learn what things the customer is interested in. This will help you turn a little sale into a bigger one.
  2. Bone up on your product knowledge. The more you know about your products, the more you will know about how different products can add value to the product your customer is buying. Let the customer know how these things can make the product they want better.  
  3. Notice what the customer touches, picks up, talks about, and use it as a springboard to suggest other items. Being attentive means paying attention to what the customer seems interested in. Let’s say you’re in a vintage sore. Your customer is perusing the vintage t-shirts and keeps on touching or looking at (or talking about) the t-shirts styles. Ask if he or she likes vintage t-shirt designs, ask if s/he has heard of screen stars, or other vintage t-shirt labels. See the step above – knowing the merchandise is very helpful here. All of these are similar, but distinctly different styles, each with three or more styles contained in the series – great up selling here if you can interest your customer in one or more of them.
  4. Don’t decide whether a customer can afford stuff. Let the customer decide. Many salespersons hesitate to show one more item to a customer already carrying an armload of merchandise, fearing that the bill will freak the customer out. Guess what? Not your problem! The customer is an adult (hopefully, or at least has some adult supervision), and knows the state of his or her finances far better than you do. Don’t choose how much this customer is able to afford. If s/he can’t afford an item, he or she will let you know.
  5. Accessorize. This is the surest “upsell.” Never let a customer buy a pair of pants without suggesting a t-shirt or a jacket. If a customer is purchasing an outfit, try to recall if there are other items related to it, boots, sun glasses, handbag, whatever! If a customer is purchasing a t-shirt, suggest pants, a  jacket. Try to remember the things you would want if you were the customer making this purchase – if you bought a pair of boots, you would want to buy an pair of socks – stuff like this is very important. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think – if you were buying this, what would you buy with it? You’re a consumer, too, and your opinion is valid and worth as much as anyone else’s.
  6. Be specific. Customers won’t agree to buy some unknown thing. If a customer orders a hamburger, don’t say “Can I get you anything else with that?” Instead, choose the most likely item you think the customer might want and say “Can I get you an ice cold Coke with that?”
  7. Put the items into the customer’s hand. Don’t just point at stuff. Pick the items up and hand them to the customer. Once in his or her hand, it’s a lot harder psychologically for the customer to walk out without anything.
  8. Close the deal. Okay, you’ve got the customer in the palm of your hand. S/he’s picked up some jeans you found for them in addition to the t-shirt she came for. You’ve offered her sunglasses for her, and she agreed this was a good idea since it is a bright day. You’ve chosen some accessories, showed her some nice earrings (she declined, no problem), and offered her the chocolate truffles near the cash register. If she’s still looking lingeringly at the store, ask if she’d like you to steam her outfit some more. Hold her items up front for her, ready to go when she is. Accompany her to her other areas of interest, and when she’s finally ready, don’t hesitate – if you do, she may start to have early buyer’s remorse. Many people second guess themselves if given too much time to think, so close the deal now. Say, “Okay, do you think that’s enough damage for one day?” and smile, leading her to the cash register. Ring her up, and ask one last time if she sees anything else she can’t live without today.
  9. Assure your customer that s/he has made good choices. This is the single most important part of this selling method. It is very important that you reinforce your customer at the end of the sale. At the very least, you’ll avoid returned merchandise from someone who had second thoughts after buying. At best, you’ll form a bond with your customer and possibly win a patron. This step requires sincere interest in your customer and cannot be faked. You must feel genuine excitement and enthusiasm for what your customer has just bought from you. It’s okay to repeat or rephrase some of your conversation during the sale, but avoid parroting the same lines. The easiest way to generate this part of the sale is to think back on things that you yourself have bought. Which times were you happy to have something? Had you waited for it, or did you rush out to get it as soon as it was available? Was it an impulse buy, or part of a plan? Use questions like these to increase your awareness of what your customer has just done, and enriche the experience.


When you hand something to a customer, hand him or her two similar items, but show a distinct preference for one over the other. Try to intuit which one the customer prefers and then point out the most positive points about that one. Studies show that when a customer perceives one item as superior to another, s/he is happier with the purchase later.
A successful “upsell” is one the customer never regrets, because the clerk nailed it. The shopper then becomes a customer for life and asks for that clerk. The point is to “upsell” for the customer’s ultimate satisfaction, not just to make a minor bump in the daily take. Seek a long-term relationship, so that the customer has someone in the shop who can “filter” and make suggestions from the otherwise overwhelming amount of merchandise offered.