6 Tips to Teach Suggestive Selling to Your Retail Team

Actionable Advice on Boosting Retail Sales Performance.

Published on 6 December, 2017 | Last modified on 27 October, 2022

Actionable Advice on Boosting Retail Sales Performance.

6 Tips in Teaching Suggestive Selling to Your Retail Team

Suggestive selling – also known as add-on selling or upselling – is a retail sales technique where an employee merely prompts the customer if they’d like to include an additional purchase or recommends a product upgrade for a fraction more of the original price. The goal of suggestive selling is to slightly increase the total purchase amount for a sweep of customers. This requires marginal effort but has the potential to dramatically increase profits. A classic example of suggestive selling is the, “Would you like fries with that?” prompt at quick service restaurants. And while it may seem like that extra 20p you spend is next to nothing, multiply this by a few million people, and profits soar.

That’s the power of suggestive selling. Customers feel like they’re getting a steal, but across the entire customer pool, the numbers quickly add up. If you’re still sceptical, try out this suggestive selling calculator to see the potential increase for your annual retail sales.

However, suggestive selling techniques aren’t solely limited to quick-service retail. It also doesn’t mean you have to badger your retail team to continually ask the same question to all of your customers. After all – no two customers are alike, and neither are any two retailers. Here are some guidelines to teach suggestive selling to your retail team:

1.  Train Staff to Make Judgement Calls

Retail sales associates should know your product line inside and out. Product knowledge encompasses price points, inventory availability, and value propositions. Your sales staff should be able to quickly spin up product suggestions for particular customers based on these three knowledge parameters. Recommendations should only be made in good judgement based on what’s available in the store with price sensitivity in mind. If a member of your staff offers something that isn’t available, customers could feel cheated. Likewise, if your staff suggests an add on item that’s exorbitantly higher when compared to their original price, then your customers may feel like you’re ripping them off. But here’s the catch 22; is it rude to offer one customer an add-on item but not another?

There are a few solutions to this. Mock up a few phrases that your retail staff can use that don’t blatantly state the price. For example, let’s look at how we can alter a suggestive selling phrase that highlights the savings, rather than the costs:

Phrase A: We have jeans that you can purchase for an additional £40.

Phrase B: Since you’re purchasing that sweater, we’re running a special where you can buy a pair of jeans for half of its original price. Is this something that you’d be interested in?

Who would you be more willing to buy from? Yes, the first phrase gets straight to the point, but it doesn’t sound like much of a deal in the grand scheme of things, especially if your budget is limited. While in either case the customer could be spending £40 for the jeans, a half-price add-on sale is a lot more tempting when you’ve already got your credit card out. Plus, people are more inclined to excuse impulse purchases when the deal they’re getting is significantly lower than the original price point.

2.  Make Personal Recommendations

Your retail staff should not be shy when it comes to making conversations with customers. Sales associates should display interest in their customers and get to know them during the shopping process. Simple things like calling them by their name can make a customer feel more comfortable. Train your staff to move beyond just pointing customers in the direction of the product they’re looking for.

Be sure that your sales floor staff communicate clearly with customers and provide them the opportunity to give feedback. The more your staff gets to know your customers, the more open they’ll be to your suggestions. You can make recommendations tailored to the customer based on what you discover from the items they handle or touch. Personal recommendations makes the suggestive sale feel special and that much harder for a customer to walk away from.

3.  Select the Appropriate Add On

We’ve established that suggestive selling should be always be relevant to the customer. But your retail sales staff should always suggest the appropriate addon. For example, if a customer walked into your store to buy a winter coat, would tacking on flip-flops make sense for that purchase? Even if you’ve discussed their love of the beach, hopefully every member of your staff would realise that the answer to that questions should be a swift “no”.

When suggesting addons, it’s about what the additional item brings to the original item. Train your staff to suggest items to create a package that tells a story, rather than two disparate items. The same goes for food and hospitality. For instance, front of house staff can suggest a wine that pairs well with a customer’s food order.

4.  Create a Consistent Loyalty Programme

At any time in any retail store, any customer should be able to walk in and receive a consistent experience.  One of the easiest ways to achieve this is through loyalty or rewards programmes. ICC Decision Services uses Starbucks as an example of the success of customer rewards programmes. The My Starbucks Rewards programme creates an incentive for customers to spend more in their transaction amounts to earn discounts or free items.

Offering a consistent rewards programme establishes the potential for customers to earn discounted or free items when they spend more, irrespective of the branch they visit. Your retail sales staff can push them to increase their spending by suggesting store items that are on sale for double the rewards points, or by suggesting they spend a little more to redeem an additional item worth more than what they’re spending. Creating the consistency of “the more I spend, the more I earn” causes retail customers to become more inclined to return to your store.

5.  Know When to Make Suggestions

Your staff should never make suggestions at the point a customer walks into your store. It’s the equivalent of being a human popup ad. Bombarding customers with a suggestive sale as they walk through the doorway is not only overwhelming, but irrelevant to the customer. Instead, make a suggestion after you’ve engaged with the customer or after they’ve displayed interest in a certain item.

Suggestions could be made before or during the point of sale. Staff can be trained on cues that indicate customer interest in an item, such as picking it up, asking questions, or glancing at a sales rack. When your customer is showing keen interest, it’s the right time to make a relevant suggestion. If you are only operating the sales register and it is your initial interaction with the customer, you could make a suggestion based on what they’re buying. Although it contradicts engaging to make personal recommendations, if your customer is missing out on a BOGOF sale that applies to their purchase, it never hurts to point out what your store is currently offering.

Know When to Make Suggestions

6.  Adapt Strategy

Suggestive selling provides the perfect opportunity to increase revenue while satisfying the customer. Try out different techniques and see how they affect customer satisfaction and your profitability. When you start to see success in one methodology over another, form a suggestive selling strategy playbook and distribute it among your retail sales staff members. When you’ve solidified a successful strategy, your staff will be ready to deliver the consistent experience your customers are looking for.

Mimeo Marketing Team

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