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Mastering upselling to increase your profits

Selling is in our genes. Even those of us who think they are not cut out for commerce will prove to be the best sales people when we care deeply about something and need to convince others to get on board. Ultimately, selling has to do with persuasion and everyone has a natural tendency to try that in most conversations.

There is a lot of literature on how to get the best results, there are several books that claim to be actual “bibles” of selling techniques but business transactions have been essentially the same from the moment the first individual realized he owned something that would be of value to somebody else and thus can lead to a profitable exchange.

The gain or loss buying behavior

The key to successfully closing a deal is to convince the potential customer that they need your product or service. There are two main (and apparently contradicting) buying behaviors – one based on the prospect of gain, one based on the fear of loss. Marketers know this and advertise accordingly.

Take shampoo for example. All kinds of shampoo do the same thing – they clean your hair. However, some promise to make your hair fuller, silkier and thus make you more attractive while others are advertised as sure solutions to prevent dandruff, hair loss or other possible issues. By purchasing a certain hair product one either wins something (beauty, confidence) or prevents losing something (self-esteem, image).

Upselling can lead to increased customer satisfaction

Customer behavior is no different online than it is in physical stores. The need and desire to buy are there but it’s up to the seller to uncover and respond to them. People also want to have a sense of satisfaction after they have purchased something so it’s crucial to present products and services in a way that will ensure buyers fully appreciate and enjoy them.

It’s a common misconception that trying to persuade a potential customer to choose the more complex (and inherently more expensive) version is pushy and will drive them away. If done properly, upselling can lead both to improved customer satisfaction and increased seller revenue.

It’s an ideal win-win situation so here are a few helpful tips on how to upsell online.

Choosing the right product for upsell

The first thing you need to make sure of is that what you are upselling is really superior in quality and of relevance to customers. Not everything can be upsold so filter through and pick only:

  • the most relevant products – of course this may differ from one potential buyer to another but if you have an already constructed persona of your customer it should be relatively easy to figure out what ranks first ;
  • the most sold products – if some of your courses are already popular, it’s a sign that they are the best or most attractive so they will present increased interest on the part of customers;
  • the most reviewed products – needless to say they have to be positive opinions because nothing convinces better (especially in the online environment) than endorsements from peers.

Read more: 6 Awesome tips to get more customer reviews for your online course [INFOGRAPHIC]

Inserting upsell into your website

Retailers that have big sites with many products or services usually employ a professional web developer to make sure that upselling is done properly on their respective pages. It has to be integral to the site as a whole and present in the places where conversion rates are at their highest. Metrics need to be constantly looked at in order to see if it is working or needs adjusting.

For smaller entities using e-commerce sites it’s simpler than that. They all offer a variety of plugins and addons that can be installed and do all the work in the best manner.

Whether they are product recommendation engines, pop-up windows that get activated right at the check-out point or API applications that turn email receipts into marketing opportunities, all these extensions are skillfully designed to deliver positive upselling results.

4 Helpful tips for upselling

This is one of the oldest techniques in any sales theory. Even if you only make one extra dollar on each purchase, in the long run it will have quite an impact on your profit and your ability to invest in new products.

Here are some of the things marketers have learned about how to properly upsell:

  • Keep the number of choices to a minimum. This may seem counterproductive at first glance but having too many options does not increase the chance that customers will select something. If there is overwhelming variety, people get confused and demotivated. The jam experiment proved that less is more when it comes to number of products on offer.
  • The upsell has to be truly relevant to the customer. If they are there to buy a course about how to make easy summer cocktails, trying to sell them another course with more complicated recipes, higher-end and harder to find ingredients, plus some must have utensils might not work. The upsell product has to have the same features as the basic one.
  • It has to be very obvious why the more expensive course is superior to the other one. Selling is all about convincing the customer that spending money on a particular item will prove beneficial to them – whether it’s about them gaining something or about helping them not experience any loss. The attractive features that make it worth spending more have to be obvious.
  • Even though upsell is about making more money, it’s important to be aware of the fact that if the price difference is too big, you won’t gain anything at all.


The main concept that has to be kept in mind when it comes to upselling is value for money. People will be inclined to go for the pricier item as long as they are convinced it is also superior and will bring them more benefits.

INDIE White Paper: How to build a great site for selling online courses