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Home  Business Advice   Proven Suggestive Selling Techniques for Retailers

Proven Suggestive Selling Techniques for Retailers

For any retailer, increasing sales while elevating their customer experience is the top priority. But how can your sales associates balance pushing the sale without turning customers off? The answer may be by practicing suggestive selling techniques.

When businesses want to increase their overall profit margins, they often forget that it’s not just about getting customers through the door and simply purchasing (though that’s clearly an extremely important part of the equation); they also should be focusing on increasing their average purchase value, too.

Suggestive selling is a powerful and incredibly effective way to do exactly that, gently nudging customers towards higher-value purchases (or more items purchased per transaction) that benefit both them and your business.

Suggestive selling is only effective when leveraged correctly. In this post, we’re going to take a look at five proven suggestive selling techniques for retailers and how your staff can use them.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • What suggestive selling is
  • The benefits of suggestive selling
  • 7 suggestive selling techniques and examples
  • Tips for successful suggestive selling

Let’s get started!

What is suggestive selling?

If you’re thinking “all of selling is basically just offering suggestions and being persuasive,” you’re not wrong. Suggestive selling, however, is the intentional practice of upselling or cross-selling.

The psychological concept behind suggestive selling is that, if someone buys a product, they’re likely to be okay with purchasing additional, less expensive complimentary products at the same time.

For example, if someone is buying a new tour bike, they’re likely to take a sales associate up their suggestion to buy a more comfortable seat to improve their ride.

Suggestive selling isn’t meant to be pushy or obnoxious (think salespeople chasing you around trying to squirt you with perfume bottles), but instead just a gentle ask about what else your customers may need and offer suggestions for products that meet those needs.

Key takeaways:

  • Suggestive selling (also referred to as upselling) is when a sales associate suggests additional products and/or services to complement a customer’s initial purchase.
  • Items that a sales associate suggests to a customer are typically less expensive than their initial purchase. This increases the likelihood that the customer will add the product or service to their transaction.


The benefits of suggestive selling

The benefits of suggestive selling are clear: By asking open-ended, probing questions, sales associates can get to know about a client’s interests, preferences and needs. With that intel, they can suggest relevant products and services which fulfill those needs.

By practicing this, you can gain a customer’s trust and position your store as a reliable provider of both information and products. When done consistently and tastefully (don’t be pushy), this can increase your items per transaction, your average transaction value and grow your overall retail sales.

And the more you’re making per sale, the better. This may mean that you’re moving more product quickly, or that you’re moving higher-value products faster. This is great already, but it can also keep shipping and packaging costs down for companies with an online store.

For suggestive selling to be an effective retail sales technique, though, your sales associates need to be tactful. The goal is always to benefit the customer and have them leave the store happy, not to push a sale at all costs. While the former will increase the likelihood that the customer takes you up on your suggestions and becomes a repeat customer, the latter will probably result in losing the customer for good.

Let’s move on to proven suggestive selling techniques and examples so that your sales associates know exactly what to say and what questions to ask to be successful sellers.

7 suggestive selling techniques and examples

There are a number of different suggestive selling techniques that you can use to increase sales for your retail business, both online and in-store. Let’s take a look at five of the most effective selling techniques you should implement immediately both in person and on your site.

  • Showcase complementary products together
  • Welcome your customers
  • Mention special sales and offers while upselling
  • Create bundles and buy-more-save-more opportunities
  • Launch a customer rewards program
  • Use personalized suggestions to your advantage
  • Don’t overwhelm customers with too many option


1. Showcase complementary products together

Framing different products as “perfect pairs” is an excellent way to increase add-on purchases that boost your purchase value. In fact, grouping items that are commonly bought together or naturally complement one another (think how Apple places a pair of headphones next to their phones and tablets in-store) it’s one of the top visual merchandising tips.

If someone is purchasing a dog collar for their new puppy, you could suggest a matching leash that would go perfectly with it. Ideally, your staff would ask about the size, age and training of the puppy to make a personalized suggestion based on the length, thickness and durability of the leash. New puppies who are prone to chewing, for instance, likely shouldn’t start off with an expensive leather leash.

Complementary products can and should include those that help care for the item the customer is considering. When I bought my stainless steel pans, the sales associate recommended a specific cleaning agent to keep the pans clean and in great condition. Their suggestion was helpful and one that I took them up on. After all, I was spending all this money on quality pans and wanted them to last as long as possible; that sales associate’s recommendation helped me achieve that.


2. Welcome your customers

Research shows that simply welcoming customers by saying “hi! is this your first time shopping here?” can increase sales by 16%. That close-ended question helps you throughout the rest of the interaction.

If the customer is a first-timer, sales associates can ask additional probing questions to find out what they’re looking for. If it’s not their first time, sales associates can check their customer’s purchase history using the retail point of sale system and use that intel to suggest more relevant products and services.


3. Mention special sales and offers while upselling

Upselling can be tricky; you don’t want the customer to think that you care more about closing a high sale than you do about finding the product that’s right for them, so tact is important here.

When you’re able to make upselling seem less like a sale and more like an opportunity, however, it’s a little easier.

Let’s say that you sell kitchenware and you have a customer looking to purchase a new set of knives. They’re worried about pricing, so they’re looking at a $300 set. If you mention that a far superior set is on sale for $450 but is normally $700, however, you’ll likely capture their attention.

People love to save, and if you can stress the value of what they’re getting and why the products are a much better bang for their buck, you can frame it as an incredible opportunity customers won’t want to pass up.


4. Create bundles and buy-more-save-more opportunities

Customers love to save money and feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck. Buy-more-save-more sales are a great way for retailers to use behavioural economics to their advantage and make a product’s cost seem less painful.

Retailers can also create product bundles and sell them for a lower price. Phone companies are notorious for using bundles to encourage customers to purchase a phone case, screen protector and car charger simultaneously.


5. Launch a customer rewards program

Loyalty programs are a great way to nudge users to purchase more. If they’re getting some sort of incentive for doing so, it makes spending more a lot more appealing.

In many cases, loyalty programs offer points for every dollar spent, and after customers accumulate a large number of points, they can use it for a gift card or a free product.

Sephora, for example, has a VIB program that lets members spend their points on rewards like large product samples and in-store beauty consultations.

Static Nails, on the other hand, has a loyalty program that allows users to accumulate points that can eventually be used to purchase some of their products.


6. Use personalized suggestions to your advantage

Personalized suggestions are the most effective way to cross-sell and up-sell products and services.

If you were to own a plant nursery, for example, you’d likely have plenty of customers walking in and quickly becoming overwhelmed with all of the choices. Asking probing questions such as what look they’re going for, how much time and maintenance they’re willing to put in and what plants they already own is an important part of suggesting products and are actually a good fit.

Include your own knowledge in each sales pitch. If the customer decides they want roses but doesn’t want to deal with the maintenance or the thorns, you can upsell them to a more expensive plant that’s just as beautiful and easier to care for. You can also recommend a fertilizer that will help the flowers bloom throughout the year, driving add-ons, too.


7. Don’t overwhelm customers with too many options

Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm a customer with too many suggestions; it could cause “choice overload”.

By presenting more options, you’re also creating more barriers to purchase. For one, you’re making it harder for the customer to pinpoint which option they like best. Additionally, you create a “negative halo,” which is when a consumer is hyper-aware that choosing any option means they can’t benefit from some of the features of other options.

Suggestive selling tips for retailers

When you’re training your sales associates to leverage suggestive selling, here are a few best-practices you need to keep in mind:

  • Respect the customer’s budget: While you can stretch a tiny bit beyond, someone with a £2,000 budget for their wedding dress likely won’t be open or able to splurge on a £6,000 dress. Be mindful or a customer’s budget, always.
  • Don’t be aggressive: Keep the suggestive selling casual, offering the items as alternatives or enhancements without pressuring the clients. You can mention the features and benefits, but leave it at that.
  • Make suggestive selling a habit: You want your sales staff to get into the habit of asking if customers need anything else or suggesting products to help care for the item they’re currently purchasing. Even asking “are you shopping for anyone else today?” can be incredibly effective.
  • Invest in product training for your staff: Each of your sales associates should know your products like the back of their hands from their technical features to the benefits of those features and the pros and cons of each product when compared to one another. The better they know the products, the more effective they’ll be at selling more during peak hours.


How a retail POS system can help with suggestive selling

While you may not intuitively think that your retail point of sale system can help with suggestive selling, it can equip store merchandisers, buyers and sales associates with the information they need to bundle and sell products to the right customers.


Suggestive selling: Recommendations that convert

Suggestive selling is a surefire way to increase your store’s sales without needing to break the bank on fancy tools or marketing campaigns.

It all starts with how you merchandise your store; group related products together increase product awareness. The rest comes down to your sales associates being friendly, inquisitive and hyper-informed on the products they sell.

Quality conversations lead to more conversions!

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