What is Upselling?

If you are trying to encourage a client to buy a more expensive item, get an upgrade, or purchase an additional item, you are Upselling. It is a sales technique where the seller tries to make a larger and more profitable sale.

Even though people use the term interchangeably with cross-selling, their meanings are not the same. On both occasions, the seller is trying to get the customer to buy an additional item. With upselling, it is a higher-end product or add-on, while with cross-selling it is another product of similar value.

Upselling, as a sales technique, is prevalent across several industries, from retail and hospitality to technology and services. Hospitality refers to the business of providing services such as accommodation, food, and entertainment to guests and visitors.

Shopify.com has the following definition of upselling:

“Upselling is a sales technique where a seller encourages a customer to purchase a more expensive item, upgrade a product, or add on extra features to make a more profitable sale. The goal is to increase the value of the sale, and consequently, increase the business’s revenue.”

The verb “to upsell” appeared in the English language in the 1970s. It most likely gained traction when companies formalized sales techniques.

The aim of upselling

The aim of upselling is to maximize the value of a sale. Sellers say it maximizes the value of the purchase both for the seller and the customer.

  • Benefit for the seller

The benefit for the seller is obvious – more revenue. The seller can do this without significantly raising customer acquisition costs. It is more cost-effective to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one.

  • Benefit for the customer

For the customer, it offers an opportunity to get a superior version of what they had initially considered, enhancing their satisfaction.

Example of upselling
Image created by Market Business News.

Successful upselling strategies

Successful upselling occurs when the more valuable purchase results in greater customer satisfaction. For this to happen, you need to understand the customer’s needs and preferences.

Only offer upgrades or better products that genuinely complement the initial purchase. The customer must see the added value.

  • Three examples

A laptop buyer, for example, may be offered a software upgrade or extended warranty as an upsell.

If a customer is considering buying a base model car, the salesperson might propose a premium model with enhanced features.

If somebody orders a steak at a restaurant, the waiter may suggest pairing it with a premium wine that complements the dish, enhancing the dining experience.

  • McDonald’s Corporation

McDonald’s, a global fast food restaurant chain, has been employing upselling techniques for many years. A common phrase their servers use is “Would you like fries with that.”

Their other famous phrase, “Would you like to supersize your meal?” was discontinued in 2004 in response to health concerns and negative publicity.

Timing and presentation

Successful upselling is partly due to timing and presentation. You must know exactly when to introduce the upsell, that is, the superior product or upgrade. It must be done in a way that feels natural and relevant to the customer’s buying journey.

Poorly timed or overly aggressive upselling will most likely put off the customer. You will lose their trust, the sale, and possibly future sales with that person.

Your approach needs to be subtle, during which you highlight the benefits and added value of the upsell.

It is important that the customer feels that you have their best interests at heart.

Upselling and transparency

In upselling, transparency is crucial. Your customer should feel informed and empowered, but never manipulated.

To get them to feel that you are offering a service rather than engaging in a sales ploy, you should clearly explain what the benefits of the higher-priced options are, along with an explanation of why it might better meet their needs.

Upselling online

In today’s digital age, upselling has also moved online. E-commerce platforms leverage data analytics to offer personalized upselling opportunities.

By analyzing consumer behavior, purchase history, and preferences, online sellers can tailor their upselling strategies to individual needs. Companies that know how to gather and analyze customer data tend to have much greater upselling success than their counterparts that don’t.

Selling strategies

Apart from upselling, there are many other selling strategies. Let’s have a look at some of them, their meanings, and how they can be used in a sentence:

  • Cross-selling

Suggesting related or complementary items to a customer’s primary purchase.
Example: “A classic cross-selling move is when electronics retailers also recommend buying batteries.”

  • Downselling

Offering a lower-priced alternative when a customer hesitates on a pricier option.
Example: “Downselling can be seen when car salespeople offer a model with fewer features after a customer balks at the price of a fully-loaded vehicle.”

  • Bundling

Selling multiple products or services together at a package price.
Example: “Cable companies often use bundling, combining internet, phone, and TV services for one price.”

  • Add-on selling

Recommending additional products at the point of sale.
Example: “Fast-food restaurants practicing add-on selling often ask if you’d like fries with your burger.”

  • Value-selling

Highlighting a product’s benefits over its features or price.
Example: “Our premium appliances come with a longer warranty, making value-selling a part of our pitch.”

  • Solution selling

Recommending products that solve a customer’s specific problem.
Example: “Tech stores engage in solution selling by recommending antivirus software with new computers.”

  • Consultative selling

Providing advice and guidance, rather than pushing a sale.
Example: “Financial advisors use consultative selling to tailor retirement plans for individuals.”

  • Social selling

Using social media to connect with and sell to customers.
Example: “Fashion brands often employ social selling by showcasing products on Instagram for direct purchase.”

  • Hard selling

A direct, forceful approach to persuade a customer to buy immediately.
Example: “Infomercials are known for hard selling, often urging viewers to ‘Act now before it’s too late!'”

  • Soft selling

Building relationships and gently introducing products without pressure.
Example: “Content marketing is a form of soft selling, providing valuable information while subtly promoting a product.”


Upselling is a strategic approach to enhance business revenue and boost customer satisfaction. The seller offers a higher-value alternative or add-on to an initial purchase.

When done properly, upselling can be a win-win situation for both the business and the customer. It is more than simply offering a product – it is about enhancing the customer’s experience and satisfaction.