4 Steps to Make Suggestive Selling Perfect and Painless

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You’ve probably bought something at a retail store and been asked at the cash register if you would like to buy one of the tchotchkes conveniently located right in your face. Or (worse), you’ve been the sales associate suggesting that the person buying Taylor Swift’s latest album might want to take home the overstocked Metallica CD your manager ordered you to suggest.  

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Regardless of where you’ve been in the transaction, suggestive selling is usually a painful process in which the sales associate weakly offers a product they’ve been directed to push by someone who was never involved in the sale. At best, the customer sighs and says, “No thanks.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Suggestive selling can be a powerful tool used to increase both sales and (the big surprise) customer satisfaction!

So how do you do that? Keep reading, and I’ll fill you in on the techniques you need to know to achieve the perfect suggestive sell.

1. Build a relationship with your customer.

The very first step to any good sale is building a relationship with your customer. Even with a quick sale, you have time to establish some type of rapport with a customer, where you prove you have the customer’s best interests at heart and learn what they came in for. As you build a relationship, use active listening techniques to learn why your customer has come into the store – what it is they need or desire. Once you’ve learned what it is your customer wants you can…

2. Treat them like a friend and add value to their life.

The easiest way to suggestive sell is to treat your customer the same way you would a friend – that means only suggesting items if you think the person would actually like them. When you suggest items for a customer to purchase, you want to tailor your suggestions to items that will add value to their lives right now.

The point of a suggestive sale is not just to up the dollar amount of your transaction – it’s to find your customer products that will help them out. At the end of the day, a good suggestive sale proves to your customer that you have their best interests at heart and can be trusted to help them make good decisions.

So instead of offering the Metallica CD to the Swiftie, you offer them an Ed Sheeran CD, because every Swiftie loves a good Ed Sheeran song. Or maybe you’re selling a winter coat at a sporting goods store to a customer headed to Alaska. This is a great chance to suggest a better pair of gloves for their trip.

3. Keep their budget in mind.

When choosing items to suggest, make sure you pick items within your customer’s budget. This not only increase their likelihood of buying it, but also, once again, their trust that you will help them make good decisions.

However, if you have the perfect item, but its out of their budget, consider suggesting it anyway. In this case, make it clear up front you know it’s out of their price range. In the case of the outdoors store sales person, they could say something like:

“I just want to let you know, these gloves here are essentially a necessity when traveling to the frozen north. They will keep your hands warm up through -60 degrees. They come with special heat warming chemicals so that your hands never get cold. No other gloves that I know of are able to do this.

They are $500, so I know that’s a bit out of your price range, but you should definitely consider purchasing them before heading off to Alaska. And no matter what, you should try them out here in the store. If you wanna put them on, you can put them in our freezer and test out how effective they are!”

That sort of statement lets them know why you think it’s useful to them, that you are aware it’s out of their price range, so you don’t expect a sale, and that you’re open to them trying it out even if they have no intention of purchasing them.

4. Never force a suggestive sale.

Suggestive selling should flow naturally from a good sale. You find out what the customer needs and only suggest items that enhance the original item’s usefulness or fulfill the customer’s other needs. That’s it.

If you’re working with a customer who has made it clear they are only interested in the exact item they came in for, DON’T suggest anything to them, or at most, suggest an item that they should look at “next time they come in.” It is far more important to prove to the customer that you have their best interests at heart than it is to make a sale in the moment. A customer who trusts you becomes a lifelong customer, spending far more over the years than they might in a single instance. Trust me.

I had a customer once who came in looking for a single sweater at our store, and wanted nothing else. She didn’t want to be sold. I efficiently helped her locate and purchase that exact sweater. She was so thrilled at how easy I made her trip that she turned into a repeat customer for me, spending literally thousands on later trips. I only brought in $40 the first go round, but ultimately I brought in far more than that by listening to her.


Suggestive selling should never be painful or awkward. It never works if it’s forced. Instead, use my tried and true steps to an easy suggestive sell. And if you can’t remember all of the above information, just remember: treat all your customers the way you would treat a good friend, and you’ll be the best suggestive seller in your store in no time.

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About the Author


Cara Wood

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Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.


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