Increase Sales and Customer Retention With Up-Selling Techniques

How can you quickly boost your profits with little to no effort or costs? Well, consider McDonald’s success with their “supersize” options. By simply adding six words to each order (Would you like to supersize that?), McDonald’s convinced millions of customers to spend an extra $0.60 for an extra large drink and French fry. Adding this question to each order did not take any extra amount of time or money and in turn, increased the fast food restaurant’s profit. Competitors quickly followed, creating their own “supersize” options.

So, how can you “supersize” your customer’s orders? Well, up-selling is a quick & easy way to increase profit, while still offering your customers an additional product or service that they will find beneficial. While cross-selling is simply offering your customers a related product, up-selling is actually selling the customer more than they originally intended to purchase.

Up-Selling Examples

Some common examples of up-selling include:

  • introduction to a more expensive product or service
  • introduction to a more expensive brand that the customer wasn’t even aware of
  • offering extended warranties
  • suggesting a premium brand when the customer is not specific
  • selling luxury options on a new vehicle purchase
  • supersizing a meal at a fast food restaurant
  • offering a dessert or alcoholic drink at a restaurant

Nearly every cashier or employee in a retail business is instructed to up-sell products. However, how can they do so without coming across as pushy or simply money greedy?

Know All of Your Products & Services

Well, the first step to up-selling is to know all of your products or services. If you have just a basic knowledge of every product or service, you will be aware of how they work and how they can be combined. A more thorough knowledge will be appreciated by customers who value your expertise. Customers need to know why they should purchase the product you are suggesting. If you do not understand it yourself, how can you sell it?

Take the Time to Listen to & Observe Customers

Next, take the time to listen and pay attention to your customers. If a customer has picked up the same product three times and keeps putting it back, take a few minutes to explain the product’s benefits. Also, listen to the customer’s needs. Don’t just stand there and nod. If you have a suggestion, take the time to show it.

If a customer shows an interest in one particular item, consider things that are similar. For example, if the customer likes heavy metal music and is purchasing one CD, consider letting them listen to a sample of a new heavy metal CD that is being released.

Recommend Accessories

Accessorize the products that the customer is purchasing. If they are purchasing a new computer, suggest additional RAM space or an external hard drive. They may even need an extended warranty.

When up-selling, be as specific as possible. Rather than asking the customer if they would like a glass of soda with their sandwich, ask if they would like an ice cold glass of old fashioned root beer. Chances are they hadn’t considered that and it suddenly sounds appealing.

Offer Incentives

Incentives are often a crucial aspect of up-selling. If you are able to offer free shipping or a BOGO price, sweeten the up-selling deal by specifically offering that to the customer. Give them a great reason to purchase more.

Remember that the customer has already made the decision to purchase one item. The hard part is over. In many cases, they can be easily persuaded to purchase additional items. Although it may not seem significant, if you can get 100,000 customers to purchase an additional $5 item, you will increase sales by $500,000 with no additional effort.

Provide Reassurance

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of closing a sale, whether you up-sold or not is to reassure the customer. You can simply assure them that they have made a good choice and will not be disappointed. This can help avoid returned merchandise from customers with buyer’s guilt. It can also help you form a bond with a customer and increase customer loyalty.

Up-selling is a great method of increasing sales without having to put in any additional effort or money. However, make sure that you always have the customer’s best interests in mind. If you come across as too pushy, the customer will lose their trust and go elsewhere. Most customers will appreciate up-selling as long as it is relevant to their needs and purchases.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+


  1. Ahmad chebbo says:

    good essay but you are not specific in the restaurant field and that what i need it for my project

  2. Andrew Jensen says:

    Quite true, Ahmad. There are a number of consultants who focus specifically on the restaurant industry. I would be more than happy to refer you to some of them if you are interested.

    • HI ANDREW,



  3. Hello Andrew,
    I am a new supervisor and I find this information very helpful. Your article, “5 Ways to Properly Greet a Customer,” mentioned the same things as my company’s customer service training DVD. I look forward to reading more of your articles.
    I would love some tips on how to increase credit card sales. Our store is located in a retirement community and credit card sales are low. We offer double reward points, special VIP offers, and discount days, but we only get a few takers. We are strongly urged to meet the monthly goals corporate has set for us. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.
    Live long and prosper,

    • Andrew Jensen says:

      Thank you for the comment, Miko. What kind of store is it? I’m assuming the credit cards you are referring to are store issued credit cards?

      • Hi Andrew,
        I work for a retail outlet. Yes, the credit cards are store-issued cards, or Private Label Credit Cards (PLCC) as they call them.

        • Andrew Jensen says:

          Sorry for the long delay in getting back to you, Miko. I can’t say that credit card promotion really falls into an area in which I regularly advise. Typically, I’ve found that the only way customers will sign up for store issued credit cards are with an appealing sign up offer (e.g. save x dollars off your first purchase with the card or save x percent off your next card purchase), and to keep card holders using their cards, stores need to offer ongoing incentives (e.g. save x percent off every purchase or provide a monthly coupon that gives a percent or dollar figure off to a card holder).

          Personally speaking, I strongly dislike store issued credit cards because they become yet another hassle to remember to take care of each month; and usually store issued credit cards don’t come with as convenient an online paying process as a card such as American Express. However, even to someone like myself, being able to save a couple percent off every purchase (such as with the Target card) can be an attractive offer.

          • Thanks very much, Andrew. We do offer incentives (10% off purchase, $5 – $10 reward coupons) and customers are able to pay their bills online. I’ll just keep asking each customer and informing them about the incentives. I did get a couple of takers last week.
            Those who turn down the credit card give various reasons: they have enough credit cards already and don’t need another one; APR is too high (it’s 24.9%); they are purchasing a new home and don’t want their credit score lowered. These are all legitimate reasons and it shows they are informed consumers.
            Thanks again, Andrew. I really appreciate your help.

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