How to Upsell in Sales (Without Being Pushy)

Sales techniques6 mins
Jan 24, 2019
customer upgrading their plan on computer

Upselling can often get a bad rap. It might trigger a memory where you’ve unnecessarily—or maybe unknowingly—purchased something you didn’t need at the hand of a pushy sales rep. Or maybe when you didn’t realise what you were buying into due to a convoluted and confusing contract.

There’s a clear way to avoid this kind of upselling—and it’s based on deeply understanding your client’s goals. You’ll need to go beyond what they’ve told you they need, and explore the wider goals they’re trying to reach, both as an employee and as a business.

By understanding their goals, your upsell won’t come across as an irrelevant or unwanted conversations. Instead, you’ll find the opposite. Your clients will be engaged and interested in how they can benefit from your continuing relationship.

While different clients demand different approaches, using a mix of proactive and passive strategies can help you improve the way you upsell so you’re never bucketed into the haunted memories of upselling’s past.

Know what your clients need

Before opening up the conversation with your client, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Start by identifying the main reason they came to you. What is the service or the product they’re looking for? And what do these items serve in the bigger picture for them?

It’s easy to get stuck in their functional needs (ie. “I want a website redesign”), but look beyond that and into their social needs (“I want to clearly explain what our brand represents”) and emotional needs (“I want more interest from potential clients”). Here at Qwilr we use this framework, coined Jobs-to-be-Done, to help understand the full picture of our customers’ needs. Its key premise is the idea that people don’t want to buy just services or products, they want to make progress in their lives.

As I found out from my 7-year old, improving at swimming is not her Job-to-be-Done. I know this because she told me so. Immediately after “I’m not actually into flippers,” her eyes sparkled and she smiled dreamily. She said, “I’m into…” (dramatic pause) “… being a mermaid.”

— Sara Conklin, Invision

By using this way of thinking, you’ll be better equipped to suggest more relevant services and products to your clients—and they won’t be off put by them.

Suggest extras in your proposal

When you send your client the proposal they requested, include the suggestions you’ve scouted from the above research as optional extras. Just like a restaurant menu where the side dishes are presented separately from the entrées, let your clients know which extras they could get with your main offering.

By showing extra options in your proposals—and making clear these are completely optional—you’re not pressuring them into the sale, but opening up the conversation if there’s interest. It’s also a great way to formalize what might’ve been discussed in any early chats you had together.

When using Qwilr, this can be as easy as adding optional line items in a separate section to show which add-ons are possible. The client can see what’s on the table, and simply add what they want before signing off.

And if you’re a small agency or a freelance, remember the golden rule: If you don’t show your goods, they might not know to ask for it. For example, a website designer who also does stock photography, or a writer who offers SEO services.

Offer tiered packages

Grouping your services using different tiered pricing packages is the most typical way of upselling. It’s how memberships are bundled up, and a common tactic used by software companies, just like we’ve done here at Qwilr on our pricing page.

But it’s not just membership that can be bought in packages—product-based businesses can explore the bundle options as well. For example, photographers will often offer deals that combine a single photo shoot with varying sets of prints or digital files. Wedding photographers, in particular, might even throw in a deluxe photo album as part of their most expensive option.

Once again, it’s easy for your clients to see all your packages straight from your Qwilr quote. Your packages can all be displayed straight into your Qwilr page. When a client is ready to commit, they simply select the one they like best, click “Accept” and you’re done! Your next project is booked, with an upsell on top.

Give a discount for “bulk” purchases

If you don’t have a lot of diversity in your service offerings, you can group your packages by quantity. Blog posts, hours of web development, stock photography, and more can be purchased in larger quantities for a better price.

When a client wants to buy more than a one-off service or product, offer a discount for buying a higher quantity. The higher the volume, the greater the discount should be. Even if a client only wants to use your services once, let them know about the reduced prices for bigger bundles. This way, they might be tempted to buy more, or they might come back for more if they’re happy with their first purchase.

Try using the conditional pricing option in Qwlir to show your various pricing options to your client. That way, your client gets to play around in the quote block to set the exact quantity they’d like to purchase. You get to set the rate of the discount and your client only has to decide the quantity they’ll purchase from you.

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Don’t forget your clients when it’s over

Once a final invoice is sent, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back and assume the job is over. But you can use it a another opportunity to retain your clients and gain repeat work. After all, once a client is happy with a first purchase, they’re more likely to buy from you again compared to a first-timer:

The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.

— Marketing Metrics

You can also jump on slower periods through the year or expected sale seasons to share a promotion with your clients. While this isn’t traditional upselling, it’s a way to stay top-of-mind and gently remind your clients of your services.

Upselling doesn’t need to be a dirty tactic

Successful upselling should leave both you and your client feeling satisfied. They’re agreeing to relevant actions to move their goals forward and your business is deepening a genuine client relationship. Take the time to get to know your clients and redefine your experience of upselling.