Article | 12 min read

Suggestive selling definition and techniques (2022 sales guide)

Suggestive selling is a sales tactic where reps recommend additional products or services that will be helpful to prospects. Here’s how to do it successfully.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published May 25, 2022
Last updated May 25, 2022

In the world of sales, there’s nothing as exciting as getting new customers through the door (virtual or otherwise). Though building your base is vital, your reps should also be on the hunt for ways to increase the value of each sale.

It’s a balancing act to promote your products or services while also creating a customer experience that isn’t uncomfortable or overwhelming. This is where suggestive selling techniques shine.

Below, we’ll unpack what suggestive selling is and why it’s important. Then, we’ll reveal the best techniques for implementing suggestive selling in your sales strategies.

What is suggestive selling?

Suggestive selling is the intentional practice of cross-selling or upselling. If someone decides to buy your product, they’re likely to be interested in purchasing complementary items at the same time. Suggestive selling is gently pushing these additional products at the right moment of the initial sale.

For instance, if someone is buying expensive machinery to help them automate their business, they’ll probably want to get a warranty for their new equipment. Insuring a big purchase is a logical thing for a sales rep to bring up. The right upsell or cross-sell will feel intuitive and exciting for a customer who’s already on board with your company and your primary product.

When done well, suggestive selling isn’t obnoxious or aggressive. Instead, it provides benefits to both parties. You gain a bit of extra revenue, and your customer goes home better equipped to enjoy their purchase. It can be a win-win business tactic.

The right upsell or cross-sell will feel intuitive and exciting for a customer.

It’s worth noting that with suggestive selling, the additional products or services that sales reps recommend are usually less expensive than the main purchase. Consumers are unlikely to be persuaded to buy a new refrigerator along with a new oven, but they could be persuaded to buy a bottle of oven cleaner, for example. Picking the appropriate items for suggestive selling is often as important as the sale itself.

Why is suggestive selling important?

Suggestive selling is beneficial for your business and your customers. It’s also a critical tactic when coaching your team on how to be successful in sales.

Understanding suggestive selling helps reps improve across the board. Great suggestive sellers know how to ask insightful questions, learn about their prospects, build trust, and encourage positive reviews or referrals. These are all crucial sales skills—even when no upsell or cross-sell is involved.

What are the primary benefits of suggestive selling?

Let’s take a look at a few other benefits of this sales technique.

  • Higher average purchase value: Add-ons add up! As you increase the number of items per transaction, you increase the total value of each sale. That means more revenue in your company’s proverbial pocket.
  • Better inventory management: More products end up in consumers’ hands, not on the back shelves. Though your customers may not initially come to you for your less lucrative offerings, that doesn’t mean they don’t need or want them. Someone interested in an expensive bike probably didn’t set out to buy a new helmet as well, but they may decide to grab one when prompted.
  • Savings on shipping and handling: Anything bought together can be shipped together. If your business mails physical products, fewer separate packages mean you save on costs. Your customers will receive less waste, too. It’s more environmentally friendly and cost-effective when consumers buy multiple items at the same time.
  • More repeat customers: Buyers who benefit from your expertise will likely come back. Finding new businesses to buy from is stressful for clients, so if they can trust you, they’ll return. And the more your suggestions prove correct, the more you will foster customer loyalty. Loyal customers not only make additional purchases over time—they also recommend your products or services to their friends and colleagues.

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The 7 best suggestive selling techniques

When it comes to suggestive selling, each customer interaction should be tailored to the individual. That said, there are tried-and-true sales techniques your reps can use as a solid foundation for how to sell with the suggestive selling methodology.

Most importantly, it’s essential to approach suggestive selling from a place of care—not a place of greed. SPIN selling and consultative selling are two tactics that can guide your sales reps toward asking questions that will make customers feel heard instead of bombarded.

Using these selling styles also prepares your team to better handle sales objections. The more they know about their clients, the better they’ll be able to help fulfill their needs, solve their problems, and navigate any hesitations or concerns.

Now that we have a starting base, let’s explore the best techniques for successful suggestive selling.

  1. Get to know your customers

    You can’t help your customers without knowing who they are and what problems they’re looking to solve. Asking the right sales questions will encourage your prospects to open up about their needs and pain points. Once you’ve identified their challenges, you can assure them that you and your product are there to solve those issues.

    You don’t need to manipulate customers into doing what you want. It’s far more effective (and enjoyable) to engage in personal selling and connect with prospects. Hopefully, you truly believe in your product or service—sharing that enthusiasm will naturally draw in customers and earn their trust. Good sales ethics and thoughtful recommendations will always deepen customer trust and loyalty.

  2. Ensure the products go hand-in-hand

    Suggestive selling

    Upselling and cross-selling are only useful if they make sense.

    For example, perhaps your company sells software to other companies. Businesses looking to digitize often need help installing or understanding their new tech. In this case, your sales reps could recommend the additional purchase of a setup service. This way, customers will be able to use the software effectively soon after they buy it.

    As you learn which products pair well, you can even move to group them and display them together on your website. Customers will be able to make natural connections between the merchandise you offer and be inspired to add items to their purchases without you saying a word.

  3. Offer sales, bundles, and bulk discounts

    Offering deals on collections of complementary products can entice a consumer to buy in bulk. If someone is already interested in a few of your offerings, a bundle discount is a great way to manage your inventory while also increasing their total cost.

    Bundle sales create loyal customers, too. If buyers grow accustomed to using several of your products, they’re less likely to switch brands when the time comes to buy again.

    These types of discounts are powerful ways to incorporate sales psychology into your suggestive selling practices. Everyone loves to feel like they’re getting a special deal. Say a customer is interested in a $50 coffee maker. However, a $75 coffee maker that comes with artisanal coffee beans might be the more psychologically appealing purchase. The customer receives a “free” product, and you end up making more profit.

  4. Use customer reviews and comments to your advantage

    Suggestive selling

    When considering purchasing a product, shoppers will typically search online to find reviews written by other customers, who feel like reliable and unbiased parties. So, featuring good reviews can be very helpful in building trust and ultimately making sales.

    Of course, reviews are inherently risky. As much as positive reviews can bolster your business, bad reviews can hurt sales. It’s important to consistently offer quality products/services and excellent customer service so you can ensure any negative reviews are outliers.

    Sites like Yelp can help you keep an eye on your business reviews and ratings. Social media channels are extremely influential, too. Positive comments on Facebook posts can reach just as many eyes as a full review. Customers are also more likely to read short comments as they scroll, so social media reviews can occasionally reach a wider audience.

    Actively manage any reviews you receive. Pin positive Instagram comments to the top of your page and thoughtfully address the negative comments you receive. A caring reply can make your company look good, even when it’s in response to a bad review. No company is perfect—it’s the ones that own their mistakes that stand out from the crowd.

  5. Demonstrate expert product knowledge

    Having excellent sales skills is great, but they can only be fully utilized with extensive knowledge of your offerings. At the end of the day, a sales rep can discover a potential customer’s interests and desires, but it won’t matter if they can’t figure out which products fit those needs.

    The more confidently your team can speak about the features and benefits of your products, the more prospects will feel confident about them. Remember: you want to make real connections with customers to inspire trust. A great sales pitch or sales presentation will convince buyers that it’s in their best interest to invest in your product.

    Additionally, solid product training increases productivity down the line. When your reps don’t have to research products on the fly, they can move sales along gracefully and bring in more revenue.

  6. Be personal and specific

    Suggestive selling

    If you can find the intersection of customer knowledge and product knowledge, you’re in a prime position to make a sale. Understanding your potential client’s problems and then being able to offer your merchandise as a solution is what closing sales is all about.

    The importance of building trust with your clients cannot be overstated. Increasingly, buyers value businesses they can trust over businesses that simply offer them products. Today’s consumers need more than just a great product—they need a person on the other end of the line. Improving your relationship selling skills is the way to bring prospects to the table.

    The more you get to know each customer, the more you’ll be able to deduce which tactics they’ll respond to. For instance, Challenger Sales techniques will resonate with some people but might be too harsh for others who need more of a soft sell. Stay flexible in your interactions and always keep your ears open.

  7. Create a customer rewards program

    A rewards program is a wonderful way to (quite literally) reward customers for their loyalty to your company. When your buyers know they’re accruing discounts or freebies, they’re more likely to stay with your brand.

    Starbucks revamped its loyalty program after it discovered customers would respond better to spending-based rewards rather than frequency-based ones. As a result, the coffee mega-brand experienced an 18-percent increase in revenue. If consumers already like a company’s products, a little incentive will keep them coming back for more.

    Offering rewards for customers who refer their friends is also an effective way to grow your audience. Consumers trust personal recommendations and will be more likely to at least try your product if they’re encouraged to do so by a friend. Referrals also keep things simple for your marketing team. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if you have outside sources bringing in new prospects.

Suggestive selling examples

Suggestive selling manifests differently in B2B selling versus B2C selling. Let’s look at some examples and distinctions between these two sorts of interactions.

B2C selling example

B2C (business-to-consumer) sales refers to companies that sell their products directly to individual consumers. These are the types of sales that most people think of when they imagine suggestive selling. For instance, a customer interested in buying a new sauté pan might be easily persuaded to purchase a cookbook to go with it.

B2C sales usually mean lower stakes, quicker interactions, and a higher number of buyers. B2C customer feelings are also more volatile and can change on a dime. Because of these factors, it’s important to ensure your sales reps are listening to each customer and adjusting their strategy as needed. Flexibility is key as you figure out what tactics work best on individual prospects.

Suggestive selling in B2C transactions should be personal and humanized. Customers often respond well to storytelling; it helps to make them feel emotionally or personally connected to the product. This is not the case with B2B sales.

B2B selling example

B2B (business-to-business) sales refers to companies that sell products and services to other companies, rather than directly to customers. These transactions usually have longer sales cycles and higher order values. They also pose unique challenges when you try to implement suggestive selling.

B2B sales is far outside the realm of the “Would you like fries with that?” impulse buy. B2B suggestive selling manifests itself less in spontaneous purchases and more in thoughtfully extended warranties or ongoing consultations. Not only are the types of sales different, but modern B2B buyers are also more skeptical about the marketing they encounter when looking to make a purchase.

Additionally, the B2B sales cycle is longer than the B2C sales cycle because there are more people involved in the buying decision. And there’s a greater likelihood that business leaders with purchasing power will do extensive online research on their own, diminishing any single company’s ability to influence their choice.

This presents a challenge but also an opportunity. By creating a robust online presence, you can increase the odds that businesses will encounter your company and your offerings. This is where the power of reviews comes in. Recent studies show that many buyers will not purchase anything without reading positive reviews about the product first.

It may seem that B2B sales are becoming more daunting in our increasingly digital society, but there’s still a great deal you can do to engage other companies in suggestive selling. It’s merely a matter of understanding businesses instead of people. Peer-approved reviews and consistent marketing are the best places to start suggestive selling in a B2B environment.

Zendesk Sell

Staying organized and tracking customer insights is critical when developing the best suggestive selling strategies for your business. Zendesk Sell is a simple-to-use, comprehensive sales CRM. With an intuitive and customizable interface, Zendesk Sell makes it easy to monitor your sales data and meet your goals.

Contact Zendesk today to learn more about how CRM technology can revolutionize your suggestive selling strategies and increase your company’s revenue.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Read now