Upselling provides profit, guest satisfaction
Upselling provides profit, guest satisfaction
19 SEPTEMBER 2012 7:40 AM

Upselling is not just about upgrading to more expensive items. It also exposes customers to options they might have never considered.

Upselling is something we are all exposed to from time to time. And whether you sell meals, bedrooms or widgets, it's a technique that can help your bottom line. When done well, upselling can give your customers a better experience.

Wikipedia describes upselling as “a sales technique whereby a salesperson induces the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale.” I’m not sure I like this description. It implies that upselling is one-sided in favor of the business, with little benefit to the customer at all.

Although upselling usually involves marketing more profitable services or products, it also can simply expose customers to other options they might not have considered. Upselling implies selling something that is more profitable or otherwise preferable for the seller instead of the original sale. But is it just about increasing the customer spend, or is it also about giving the customer a better experience overall—offering them something they forgot to order or never even thought of?

What to promote
To upsell effectively, the first thing is to determine what are the products or services you wish to promote. It makes sense to promote high-profit items, but there can be a danger in using this as your only criteria.

Unless what you are promoting has perceived value to the customer, it's unlikely the sale will be achieved and will do little to build your customer’s loyalty or trust. It's also important to distinguish between high-selling price and profitability, and appropriateness to meet a customer’s needs—for example, upselling to a more expensive bottle of wine when it does not appeal to the customers tastes.

Product knowledge
Staff needs to fully understand each of the products and services available:

  • What are the high-profit items?
  • What are the component parts of any packages?
  • What isn’t included but is relevant to offer to the customer?
  • If it involved food, what are the ingredients of the dish(es)?
  • What does it taste or feel like (for example, a spa package)?
  • What are the best accompaniments or combinations?

Allow staff to experience all the products and services first hand. This not only will make the products more memorable, but also there will be more willingness to promote it if staff feels confident enough to talk about the product. It will certainly be easier to evoke emotional appeal through vivid descriptions of taste, smell and feel, if they've experienced them themselves.

Spot the opportunities
Let staff identify the situations that lend themselves to upselling, not just in their own department, but across all areas, including:

  • options on accommodation: room upgrades, special packages, Champagne in rooms;
  • in the restaurant: bottled water, suggestions for starters, accompaniments, side orders, desserts, dessert wine, special coffees, after-dinner drinks;
  • at the bar: craft beers, snack items, pasties with coffee; and
  • leisure facilities: when are quiet times in the gym or on the golf course?

I'm sure you'll have many more specifics for your own operation.

It's also about timing. For example, when selling desserts, if you offer them too soon, then people are too full and will only order coffee. If you ask too late, then the customers aren’t interested anymore and want to go home. For spa treatments, offer them when guests arrive or even at the time of booking, so they can plan around treatments.

Teach staff the mechanics of upselling, such as:

  • the need for open questions to identify what the customer wants;
  • how to listen actively to a customer’s requests or preferences;
  • how to respond, make suggestions or offer alternatives that best meet the customer’s needs; and
  • how would staff describe each of your products and services? Rather than a script, allow them to develop their own dialogue, one that comes naturally to them.

Knowing what to say is important, but it’s more important to practice what to say, so let your team practice in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Plan for objections
Whether an objection is perceived or real, the staff needs to know how to deal with it. One awkward question can shatter confidence, so train your staff to handle different situations:

  • Distinguish between a definitive “no,” and a simple request for more information before buying.
  • When it's just a matter of timing: Guests are too full now, but ask them again in 10 minutes.
  • They want something more, but you've offered the wrong thing.
  • Explain the need to identify the nature of the objection by asking open questions.
  • Have staff demonstrate empathy and understanding of the customer's perspective.
  • Gain the trust of customers by matching their responses or offering to meet their needs.

Give incentives
Link your upselling activity to some goals. This might be a target to sell a specific number of a certain product or service, or it could be linked to specific financial profit targets. Whatever goals you set, ensure these are clearly measurable and achievable and that any incentive is equitable so everyone is motivated to contribute. Also, give regular updates on progress.

Guide and support
Don’t assume because you've told your staff how to do something that they will be able to deliver it consistently. Observe how your staff handles the upselling conversation and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, giving them the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

Caroline Cooper works with hospitality and leisure businesses, helping them get more of the customers they love, and keep them. She has over 26 year’ experience in hospitality and is author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook' For more information and articles from Zeal Coaching see

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  • Anonymous February 4, 2013 8:58 PM

    Great learned some things in upselling techniques thanks Caroline Cooper

  • Milagros Recio Miresa Consulting Hosteleria en Positivo May 15, 2018 5:09 AM

    Thank you Caroline Cooper . Very useful the tips about "Behaviors". Keep great content coming!

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