9 Non-Sleazy Strategies for Upselling Your Customers

Karla Hesterberg
Karla Hesterberg



Have you ever given your order at a fast food drive-through, only to be asked, "Would you like fries with that?"


This is a classic example of upselling -- a sales technique used to sell additional goods or services to existing customers.

Sleazy sales reps will try to upsell everyone and anyone -- regardless of whether or not the customer actually needs the additional service -- but when you focus primarily on your customer's experience and goals, upselling benefits both you and your customer tremendously.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

Check out these nine strategies for identifying upselling opportunities that are mutually beneficial below to help get you started -- before you pass a customer over to a sales rep.

9 Upselling Strategies to Employ

1. Take the time to understand what success means to them.

Before you can attempt to sell additional value to your customer, you need to have a firm grasp on what kind of success is important to them. Early in your relationship, you should set aside time to sit down and discuss what your customer wants to gain from using your product or service. Explore not only the immediate goals, but also the customer's larger, long-term plans.

Cultivating a deep understanding of your customer's priorities is important for building trust right from the start. If you know what your customer values and where she wants to go, then you can identify areas where additional products and services can help down the line.

2. Set and track measurable goals.

When you onboard a new customer, make sure you agree upon clear, measurable indicators of success for working together using your product or service. Leverage what you've already learned about your customer's priorities and goals, and develop an action plan with straightforward milestones to keep track of their progress.

To identify a need for additional services later in the customer's lifecycle, you need a way to recognize areas where the current game plan is falling short, or places where she could afford to beef up her resources for better results. This is where careful tracking becomes essential.

If you tell a customer that she needs to devote more to her social media ad spend, you'd better have the data to back it up. In terms of upselling, having data to point to will bulk up your argument, and help demonstrate to the customer that you have her best interest in mind.

3. Identify customers with a real need for additional services.

Not every customer is a good fit for an upsell, and you should never, ever try to push additional products or services on someone who doesn't truly need them. As a general rule, if you can't explain how the additional purchase will benefit the customer's overall goals, then it's not an upsell worth pursuing.

For example, if you're considering pitching your customer on an additional email marketing software upgrade, but email marketing doesn't fit directly into her long-term plan to expand her reach, you shouldn't force it. If you try to sell products that have a slim chance of delivering a positive outcome to the customer, you risk causing major damage to the relationship and potentially losing her business altogether.

Instead, focus your upselling efforts on customers with an evident gap in their current plan. If a customer wants to increase her reach, but you don't think she's going about it the right way, there's probably an opportunity to sell her on an upgrade.

4. Start providing value as soon as possible with quick wins.

Nobody is going to invest additional resources into buying from your business until you've proven that it can deliver tangible results for their business. To set yourself up for a long and mutually beneficial relationship with a customer, you should focus on providing quick wins as soon as possible.

A quick win is anything that delivers immediate value to a customer. Some examples could be an audit of a customer's existing social media strategy, an evaluation of a customer's website to identify new opportunities for optimization, or even creating a content offer and simple promotional plan.

A quick win doesn't require a ton of effort from you, it just has to demonstrate that you're fully committed to bringing real returns to your customer right from day one -- and that your products or services can help with that. The sooner you can show your customer measurable success, the sooner you can deepen the relationship and prove your expertise in additional areas.

5. Pitch ideas -- not just upgrades.

Your customers need to fully understand why you think an additional purchase is a good idea. If you approach her and say, "I think you need to spend more on social media," she might get the wrong idea and jump to the conclusion that you're just trying to line your own pockets.

Always pitch a new upgrade within the context of an idea. If you see an opportunity to help a customer increase her leads from email marketing, you should come up with a real plan to help her get there. Don't just tell her that she needs to spend more -- give her an easily understood plan to see where her money will be spent and how it will contribute to the overall success of her business by purchasing an upgrade.

6. Time upsells with milestones.

Finding the perfect time to approach a customer about additional services and products can be tricky, but it's really all about the timing. After the completion of a successful initiative with your product or a big milestone (e.g., reaching a new lead generation goal), take the chance to step back and ask your customer, "What's next?"

Conversations about the future offer a natural opportunity to bring up new ideas and projects you want to accomplish with your customer. Pitching an upsell is especially effective after helping execute a big win for your customer, since she has definitive proof of your expertise.

7. Provide a transparent pricing breakdown.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes for a moment: If someone said you needed to pay them more money for vaguely defined additional benefits, you probably wouldn't bite. In fact, you would probably feel like they were trying to take advantage of you.

When you're proposing an upsell, it's especially important to provide transparent pricing information. Give your customer a complete breakdown of what you're proposing and thoroughly explain the cost and timing involved. If a customer knows where her hard-earned resources are going, she'll feel more comfortable about investing more money in your products. (But if you're not comfortable bringing up price, this could be a good opportunity for your customer to chat with a sales rep on your team.)

8. Identify trends and apply to your sales process.

Once you've successfully upsold a few customers, you'll begin to develop a better idea of what types of customers benefit the most from additional products. Keep track of the timing and traits these customers have in common, and incorporate trends into your sales process to proactively identify upselling opportunities on an ongoing basis.

9. Use social proof to convince them.

Most people need evidence to convince them before making big, expensive purchase decisions. After all, that's the logic behind the value of customer reviews.

Before you hop on a call to try to convince your customer of an upsell, make sure you have the data and evidence to back you up from other customers or reviews who've found success using the add-on product.

For example, if you know the percentage of customers that use the add-on product in addition to the product the customer has already purchased, let them know that. If your company has received customer reviews from happy customers using the additional product, tell them that. 

Social proof is a powerful convincing factor -- so if you have those resources on hand that suggest the success of customers using both products to make your pitch more trustworthy.

To learn more, read about how to upsell your customers next.

sales plan

Related Articles

We're committed to your privacy. HubSpot uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent plan.