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Upselling: How to Build Customer Loyalty and Keep It from Getting Weird

By Tim Deuitch

Upselling: How to Build Customer Loyalty and Keep It from Getting Weird

We’ve all felt discomfort when salespeople attempt to upsell us something we don’t value, and we’ve felt appreciation when they make the purchase better with the right suggestion. What are the keys to ensuring a moment of appreciation vs. weirdness?

Recently, one of our cars developed a small windshield crack that quickly spread into a problem. The replacement company sent a technician to our house, with texts and e-mails reminding us of the appointment and confirming the right windshield was ordered. In our driveway, the technician described his approach and then asked “Before I start, can you tell me if your wipers are working well?“ It was a ‘leading’ question, but it reminded me that the driver-side wiper was leaving a water trail in my eye-line when driving in the rain. I mentioned this and he said he could change the wipers if I wanted, adding “A brand new windshield won’t feel new if the wiper isn’t cleaning it well.” I agreed. This classic upsell made sense because the add-on had clear value to me.

Sales leaders crave a team that consistently upsells, but to front-line sales people it’s a challenge. The customer is often already buying, so the salesperson must make sure that new suggestions don’t spoil the moment for the customer and the seller. Easier said than done.

I discussed upselling with a successful Account Executive at a client in the technology industry. Her company provides solutions to customers upgrading technology to better engage customers, students, and fellow employees. They’ve been busy! She sees upsell offerings as a chance to protect the full experience desired by her customers. “I understand the value of the sale of the moment, but the quality of the relationship I have with a client is about the experience they have after the sale. For this reason, I intentionally split the conversation between the upfront purchase and my interest in the customer’s long-term peace-of-mind.” Her company offers service and warranty packages of varied length and cost. These high-margin offerings benefit the company’s bottom-line and also represent a competitive advantage as they take great pride in their service speed and problem solving. “I build clarity by confirming the experience they need over time, and I build trust by being honest about the reality of technology and the life of the products. They know my intent is to make sure they’re satisfied for the long-term." Still, some buyers view extended contracts as an annoying upsell, especially with sometimes significant upfront costs. In this situation her advice is “know when to let it go so that you meet your own and the customer’s interests”.

After he finished the job, I asked the windshield technician about his upsell approach. He said his ‘bosses want him to ask every time’, but customers don’t. He has learned that if the windshield is cracked on the driver’s side he can always ask the wiper question. “The question makes sense when a crack is on the driver’s side, because sometimes it contributes to a wiper issue. If the crack is on the passenger side the question can annoy them because they don’t experience a wiper issue in the same way. It’s not a problem to the driver, even though it might be to a passenger. If I press this point I feel them get annoyed, so I encourage them to immediately call me if the passenger is unsatisfied. This knowledge helps the technician add value without unduly leaving a bad taste in the customer’s mind.

Upselling is good for business - short and long-term.

Windshield technician:

  • Customer appreciation. Both my company and I get better customer experience ratings when they buy wipers instead of just the windshield. We track this closely. Customers believe I do a better job for them when their vision is improved. Plus, changing their wipers is like doing them a favor. They don’t need another thing to do.

Technology Account Executive:

  • Bottom-line success by putting it all on the table. I make a sale over 50% of the time when bringing in services at the beginning of the conversation (vs. the end). For example, when I am quoting Interactive Flat Panels and customers ask for hardware pricing I always include training and warranty options on that initial quote. Of these customers probably 75-80% keep those items on there. I have more success with putting everything on the table.
  • Customer Retention. The opportunity to have a repeat customer is much higher when they purchase a warranty, service, or training product from us.

How to keep upselling from making it weird? Listen to our Technician and Account Executive:

Before you recommend an upsell:

  • Be relationship-minded: Protect the buyer’s relationship with your company, and you.
  • Confirm your upsell intent. Are you serving the customer or your boss?
  • Confirm the experience and benefits the buyer hopes to achieve now and over time.
    • Experience: Easy, Consistent, Quality, Lasting
    • Benefits: Safety, Confidence, Peace-of-mind, Respect

When you recommend an upsell:

  • Position an upsell as part of your total recommended solution to the customer.
  • Voice your intent. Why are you suggesting it to the buyer?
  • Communicate how the upsell helps ensure the experience and benefits they want.
  • Retract your suggestion if they declare no interest, and finish the sale comfortably.

Upselling is good for business and when it is done well, can actually add value to the customer and keep the awkward, weird feeling out.

Published: April 29, 2021

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Tim Deuitch

Vice President - Client Success

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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