3 Upselling Tips for Retailers

Bob Phibbs
By |

Upselling is about challenging customer preconceptions and getting them to see the value behind every product you sell.

Most customers aren’t cheap, they’ve simply adopted a mindset that most products are of comparable quality. A shirt is a shirt. A pair of jeans is a pair of jeans. An umbrella is an umbrella.

That is until those shirt buttons break when being fastened, or the jeans shrink after one wash, or the umbrella falls apart in a heavy downpour.

After customers have had these types of experiences, they turn to more expensive brand name items, not because of the name, but because of the underlying value of the product.

The trouble is many younger salespeople have not had those experiences and feel upselling is just a way to force a customer to buy something more expensive than what they need.

To be up-selling effectively, your salespeople need to be able to challenge their own notions in order to help customers understand that some products are truly superior to others and the distinction between good enough, better, and best really does exist. It’s up to your salespeople to guide customers to the best products by showing that they really are of a higher quality which makes them more convenient, personal, sleek - you name the benefits.

More than a Brand Name

Customers naturally gravitate toward less expensive items because they view most products as disposable.

Why pay for a Rolex when you can buy a Fossil? They’ll both eventually need to be replaced, so all you’re paying for is the name, right?


These people hang onto this misconception because they’ve never bought the best, so they don’t understand what the best products offer.

Rolex didn’t become synonymous with high-end luxury timepieces by accident. They did it by providing watches that are of a superior quality to almost all other watches on the market. The quality of the product is what created the name recognition, not the other way around.

In other words, people only pay for the Rolex name now because of the quality of the Rolex product then.

Overcoming Your Salespeople’s Misconceptions

So, the challenge is getting customers to equate brand-name items with quality instead of with cost. While this isn’t always easy, there are tried-and-true methods for overcoming this challenge.

Here are three selling tips for your salespeople to follow when upselling to a luxury- or premium-brand customer:

  1. Understand Preconceptions. If a customer comes in looking for the cheapest item, simply ask them why. Get them talking about their experience with similar items, and try to get to the root of their low-end buying habits. You may find out that they’ve had bad experiences or that they’re using the items incorrectly. You may find out that they’ve simply never considered a higher-end item and don’t understand the benefits. Whatever you learn, it will help you guide the customer to a higher value purchase.

  2. Establish Hierarchy. Once you understand why a customer may have always purchased lower-end merchandise, you can start helping them see the value of your high-end products. For example, for a shirt or even a watch, you might say, “While the items you previously used all had a rough finish that scratched your skin, this has absolutely no sharp edges, so you’ll be more comfortable.” It’s up to you to explain that there really are differences between good, better, and best in terms of comfort, performance, and longevity. Show them that luxury brand names earned their reputations by providing superior products and that the long-term value often exceeds the difference in cost.

  3. Take the Lead. If you simply ask the customer to look at a premium item, the easiest answer for them to give is How much? quickly followed by No. Both of you lose when you do this without preparing the customer. While they may save some money, they lose out on the value they didn’t recognize, and you miss a chance to upsell. Take the initiative and add some enthusiasm to get them interested in the high-end items. Let them follow your lead, and use your excitement to feed their excitement.

Always Stand on Value

A luxury brand that has terrible quality won’t remain a luxury brand for long...and it probably won’t be in your store at all.

Premium brands command a premium because they look better, work better, and last longer than their less-expensive counterparts. That’s the value behind the brand name.

It’s up to your salespeople to make sure that customers understand that you really do get what you pay for. 

Subscribe to our newsletter