What Is Suggestive Selling? (Definition and Techniques)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 30, 2022 | Published January 29, 2021

Updated August 30, 2022

Published January 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A retail worker scans a customer’s card using a tablet POS system

Suggestive selling is a sales technique where the seller makes suggestions on additional items to include in a sale. This is one of many techniques salespeople might use to increase the value of their transactions. Understanding what suggestive selling is and how it works may help both sellers and buyers more successfully navigate a sale. 

In this article, we explain what suggestive selling is, describe its benefits, discuss when to use it and list six techniques you can use to improve your suggestive sales skills.

What is suggestive selling?

Suggestive selling, also often referred to as upselling, is the technique of recommending additional products or services to a customer during a sale. This technique increases the value of the sale, often leading to a higher commission for the salesperson and increased revenue for the company. The additional sales are made based on the recommendations of the salesperson.

A few examples of suggestive selling might include:

  • Encouraging the purchase of a product warranty.

  • Suggesting the purchase of an extended warranty on an item that already has a limited warranty.

  • Encouraging the purchase of accessories with a clothing purchase.

  • Encouraging the addition of leather seats or other upgrades when buying a vehicle.

  • Suggesting that a customer buy a pair of shoes to complement a new sweater.

Related: What is Upselling? Tips and Examples

Benefits of suggestive selling

Suggestive selling is a useful sales technique because it offers the following benefits:

  • Increased revenue: By selling two or more items instead of the one the customer originally intended to buy, a seller can maximize the profit from a sale, thus increasing revenue for the store. 

  • Customer satisfaction: If a salesperson suggests a particularly useful additional item, the customer may feel more satisfied with their purchase. This can be particularly true if they receive the secondary items at a discount or benefit from a bundle deal

  • Improved customer loyalty: The more products a customer buys from a company, the more likely they may be to continue shopping with that company, particularly if they have a good experience with the product. 

  • Minimal effort: The salesperson has already developed trust with the customer with the initial sale, and adding additional products for a minimal fee is usually acceptable. It also takes minimal effort to close an additional sale because the customer has already agreed to buy something.

Related: How To Write a Sales Plan That Works (With Template)

When to use suggestive selling

The best time to use suggestive selling is after the customer has already agreed to a purchase. The seller can then make additional recommendations for products or features that will complement that purchase. By demonstrating the additional value to the customer, they are more likely to agree to buy.

Suggestive selling can be used in most sales industries, including:

  • Automotive: Suggestive selling in a car dealership may include the upsell of warranties, roadside assistance or premium vehicle packages.

  • Jewelry: Suggestive selling may be used in the jewelry industry in the form of adding on extended warranties or insurance plans.

  • Clothing: Retail salespeople might use suggestive selling to recommend additional accessories or footwear that will complement the items bought.

  • Travel: Travel agents may suggest travel upgrades or experiential packages in addition to travel fees. Hotel websites may also offer discounts on flights or vehicle rentals, things the buyers are likely to purchase anyway.

  • Furniture: Furniture salespeople might use suggestive selling to offer cleaning products or protection plans on the purchase of home furniture.

  • Restaurants: Waitstaff or bartenders may make recommendations on higher-valued menu items or appetizers in addition to the items already ordered.

Related: Top 15 Sales Skills for Sales Associates

6 suggestive selling techniques

Here are six suggestive selling techniques you might consider:

1. Develop a personable relationship

Developing a personable relationship helps to personalize a product or service. Customers are more likely to trust a product after hearing how it has helped others. Here are some tips to help you develop this type of relationship while discussing a product:

  • Use specific knowledge or personal experience with the product to provide valuable advice. 

  • Be honest and inform the customer how the product can help. 

  • Let the customer know what you liked and disliked about the product.

Related: 18 Strategic Ways To Improve Your Sales Skills

2. Connect the product to the customer

By connecting a product to the customer's interests or needs, you can demonstrate how the product will benefit them personally. This could include things like suggesting cushioned shoe insoles to improve the comfort of a pair of shoes they are buying for work. It could also be suggesting vehicle upgrades that meet their current needs, like suggesting a hands-free system if they need to make phone calls while driving.

This technique requires that the salesperson gets to know the customer, finding out their interests and problems, before then suggesting things to solve those problems. It also means keeping the customer's budget in mind. Suggesting products or services that are outside of the customer's budget can lead to them declining the upsell.

Related: 12 Examples of Up-Selling (With Definition and Tips)

3. Sell complementary items

Selling items that complement the original purchase or that improve the customer experience with that product is ideal. For example, a customer would be more open to the idea of buying a pair of winter boots in combination with the purchase of a winter coat.

They are, however, unlikely to buy a pair of sandals or shorts, even if they are on sale. When suggestive selling, it is important that the recommendation of the additional product complements the first.

Related: 11 Ideas for Product Promotion

4. Focus on the value

Demonstrating value is important when trying to make suggestive sales. This means describing exactly how it will benefit the customer. Examples of this include:

  • Providing detailed explanations of the total value of added warranties when a customer buys a new car

  • Explaining a discounted price if the customer adds on a protection warrantee package with their purchase

This technique requires an in-depth knowledge of the product and any existing sales or discounts that are available. Also, by positioning yourself as an expert on the products or services sold, the customer will come to trust your recommendations.

Related: How To Define Your Product's Value (With Tips)

5. Provide good customer service

Good customer service from the start is important to not only close the initial sale but to incorporate any suggested additions. Customers are more likely to buy additional items from salespeople who provide them with good service. Techniques like the following may help:

  • Using the customer's first name

  • Remembering key details about them

  • Encouraging them to come back and visit when they need additional products

  • Using active listening to understand their concerns 

  • Finding unique ways to thank them for their purchase

Related: 11 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

6. Focus on the timing

Timing is also important for suggestive selling to work. Suggestive selling should only come after the customer has agreed to purchase the initial service or product. Suggesting an upsell too early can overwhelm the customer and lead to them declining both purchases. It is important to first develop trust and close the initial sale before making any suggestions for other purchases.

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