Suggestive Selling Debate: Where Do You Stand?

Suggestive selling is one of those touchy terms that tends to evoke an immediate reaction, and, depending on where you stand, that reaction is positive or negative…not often in-between. Suggestive selling is essentially the more softly spoken side of its sisters, upselling and cross selling, but the connotation is often different.


Let’s start with those organizations that encourage suggestive selling. Since suggestive selling most often happens at the point of sale, the train of thought, essentially, is why not? You’ve already got the main sale locked down so why not increase revenue further by suggesting something else – perhaps an add-on of some sort.

Then there are those organizations that view suggestive selling in a negative light. The train of thought here is why risk turning off a customer at this point? You’ve made the sale; you’re happy, they’re happy – don’t mess that up by bombarding them with another suggestion of something they may not want or need.

And that last point is where we would disagree, therefore falling somewhere in the middle of the debate.

Enter Need-Based Selling

Like many discussions we have, this one leads right back to Need-Based Selling. When the practice of suggestive selling is based on, or validated by, a legitimate customer need it can not only be effective but also enhance the customer’s experience.

We’ve all been on a call with our bank or credit card company where once our initial problem has been solved or question answered, the salesperson persists and offers another arbitrary service or two before they’ll end the call. This is annoying and off-putting to many people.

But think about the times where they have asked questions to discover your actual needs or pain points, and then made suggestions congruent with that knowledge. How much more likely are you to accept their offer or at the very least continue listening?

The Art of Identifying the Need

Suggestive selling requires a certain degree of tact and skill on the part of the sales professional. Part of the reason the practice has a bad rap is due to those who do it incorrectly. The practice is much simpler than most organizations think. It comes down to the following: customer observation, asking questions to create dialogue, and listening.

If a suggestion is not made in a tactful manner, it can turn a customer off in an instant. But if a suggestion comes after careful observation and is based on a need revealed through thoughtful questions and active listening, it can be a welcomed gesture for the customer and slam dunk for the sales professional.