The Art of Upselling: How to Use Sales Funnels Without Being “Salesy”

March 21, 2018 Sharon Kinder

Congratulations, you’ve earned your first sale! You’ve worked so hard to convert your lead into an actual customer. Now that your sales funnel is bringing in sales, the profits should start rolling in. Right? 

Well, not quite. 

In order to keep your customers flowing through your marketing funnel, you need more than just the initial sale. Finding new prospects to generate new customers requires much more time and money than improving your upsells and sales funnels. Generally, it’s very hard to compete with competitors if you only offer a core product. The upsell is where all the profit is.

Thus, the art of upselling becomes a very important skill to master especially during the startup phase, when your resources are limited. After all, whoever can afford to pay the most wins the marketing game. Therefore, sales don’t matter as a metric as much as lifetime value of a customer.

What is Upselling?

Renowned marketer Neil Patel defines upselling as trying to convince your customers to buy upgrades or more expensive items in an attempt to make a more profitable sale. Like selling a razor with 5 blades instead of 1, the customer gets more for a little additional cost.

Your odds of making profit are higher when you upsell to people who have already shown interest in your product. Start upselling to your current customers, and stop letting profit slip down the drain.

But how?

Convincing one client to buy your core product is hard enough, let alone enticing them to buy an upgrade. So what’s an ethical salesperson to do in order to maximize profits without seeming too pushy or aggressive? Here are a few marketing strategies to strengthen your sales funnels in an approachable way.

Marketing Strategy #1: Build Relationships with Sales Funnels

The relationship should not have to end after the first sale. In fact, banking on your existing connection with your customers is so much easier and more cost-effective than finding new prospects elsewhere.

Repeat customers are great sources of revenue. You get to market to them for free, and at the same time, there’s a chance that they’ll tell their friends how awesome your products or services are.

However, winning your clients’ trust involves a slow and systematic approach. Don’t just bombard them with generic marketing emails. Rather, create a 5-step sales funnel that will carefully build a relationship with your customer that naturally leads into your upsell. Although I can’t cover the full process of building out your online sales funnel, here is an excellent article on how to build one. If there’s anything worse than not gaining new clients, it’s losing out on sales.

When building relationships, you need to take note of your customers’ needs and preferences.  

Which leads me to…

Marketing Strategy #2: Know Your Customers

Many entrepreneurs are hesitant to pursue clients after making one sale, in fear that they will appear pushy or salesy and drive customers away.
The truth is, people are more than willing to spend money on products that provide a solution to their problems. However, they don’t want to feel pressured into buying something that they aren’t sure about.

Upselling is about enhancing customer experience and improving on the results that they want to achieve. It takes knowing your customers and looking at their past purchases in order to make reasonable upsell suggestions. Customers will see when you’re simply trying to make a profit out of the sale.

Whenever you reach out to your customers, make it more personal. Address them by their name. Take the time to know how they feel about their purchase. Ask about how their recent purchase has helped them, and if there’s anything else you can do. Be friendly, and most importantly, be human.

Data Enrichment from Datanyze is a great way to do that. It gives you helpful and actionable insights on current and prospective customers and their companies, including revenue, current technology used, and so much more - giving you a competitive edge necessary to build better relationships with customers.  

This email from Amazon perfectly shows how to make relevant suggestions based on past purchases.


Marketing Strategy #3: Optimize Scarcity and Urgency

Ever heard of FOMO? Fear of missing out is particularly relevant in the business world, and it is psychologically proven to help businesses drive more sales.

Without trying to be aggressive, you can easily upsell by showing your customers on what they are missing out. For instance, if you’re selling an app, highlight the features that will be missed out on if your customers choose the free version instead.

Be sure to mention that your offer is available for a limited time or in limited quantities . Because your prospects are already interested, they may be more likely to buy now rather than lose the special offer.

AVG has done this very neatly, as it details everything that a user is missing out on if they pass up on the premium version.


Image Source: AVG Antivirus Plans & Pricing by AGV

Marketing Strategy #4: Build Trust through Your Sales Funnel

Here’s the thing. Customers will be naturally hesitant when they sense an upsell. In order to prove that the product or service you’re offering is worth the extra bucks, you need to continue to build their trust first. Another good way to do that is to add a money-back guarantee or a trial period where the customer can cancel anytime.

Simple tricks can also help layer on that feeling of security. Try adding a badge to your checkout page that shows your site is secure. You can also add quotes from customers who purchased the product and loved it! These can easily be brought over from your Facebook page, Google Business page, or  Amazon product listing.

Marketing Strategy #5: Limit Your Options

More options don’t necessarily mean more sales. Oftentimes, these options are likely to confuse your clients even more, prompting them to ignore your recommendations or look elsewhere.

It’s important to propose well-targeted suggestions to increase your chances of landing an upsell. Most marketers will use the rule of 3 when it comes to offering recommendations to your clients. Try setting up an economy product, a standard product, and a premium one. 

According to Varsity Tutors CEO Chuck Cohn in “A Beginner’s Guide to Upselling and Cross-Selling”, customers will be more likely to bite your upsell if you position one of the options as the most attractive. You can do this by adding special effects or highlighting your upsell to make sure that it sticks out. A few carefully placed graphics can quickly increase in customers who purchase your upsell by 5-10%. 

Let’s take a look at these packages from Bluehost. A simple “recommended” tag added onto its Prime package makes it difficult to miss. A dropped price and extra freebies make it even more irresistible. 

Image Source: Bluehost Plans & Pricing by Bluehost

Meanwhile, Asana has kept things relatively simple with only three choices, but made its premium offer pop out in order to get noticed.

Image Source: Asana Plans & Pricing by Asana

Marketing Strategy #6: Pay Attention to Customer Service

People want to feel special. More than looking for solutions to their problems, they want to feel that you are actually paying attention to their needs.

By regularly checking in and reaching out, you can make them feel special. As you slowly build your relationship with your customers, take the time to ask if there’s anything else that they’d like for you to improve.

People love social proof. It only takes a few milliseconds for them to find you on search engines, and a few more seconds to decide whether or not you’re a reliable provider. Monitoring your reputation online and reaching out to vocal customers is crucial to any business, because it is very difficult to remove customer feedback once it appears (especially from the minds of potential customers).
Business owners who care for their clients should go the extra mile to address the complaints that could possibly ruin the company’s reputation, even if it means they sell some of their products at a loss. 

Be sure to always follow up on your customers and settle any issues before  negative feedback appears online. Every complaint fixed is a chance to win loyalty and a good online review.

Marketing Strategy #7: Live by the Rule of 25

Customers are smart. They can smell an upsell from a mile away, and the last thing you want to do is to scare them off. According to, you can increase your odds of making successful sales by keeping the additional cost below 25% of the original order.

The purpose of upselling is for your customers to realize that they are getting an instant win. If they’re interested in buying a product priced at $100, don’t try to sell them something that costs more than $125.

By keeping the additional cost at around 25% of the original price, you can make them feel that they are getting far more value for just a fraction of the cost. More importantly, it makes them feel that you are considerate enough to think about what they can afford.

If you want to break that rule and still want to upsell for a higher price, be sure to at least break it down into a more affordable payment scheme to create the impression that they are buying for a much cheaper price.

Marketing Strategy #8: Believe in Your Product

Do you cringe at the thought of selling your customers more expensive products that they don’t need? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can sell without being salesy. You can sell without the dirty sales tactics. You can sell without scamming your customers.

Because when you genuinely believe in your product, and the value that it will add to your customer’s experience, upselling will come naturally. Build relationships first. Then, you’ll know when to offer the right product at the right time. Don’t just upsell for profit's sake.


Many of us have something good to offer the world, but are afraid to do so in fear of being a stereotypical sleazy salesperson. 

When done right, upselling is a very powerful skill that benefits both the seller and the buyer. If you can make the sale more fruitful and your customer happier, there is absolutely no reason to hold back.

Featured Image Source: Young business man working on the tablet of the future, select the virtual screen: sales by Photon Photo  License Shutterstock


About the Author

Sharon Kinder is an inspirational writer who seeks to empower entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed. She believes any vision can become reality with the right support, and as the Community Manager at <a href="">Underdog Marketing</a>, she aims to cultivate a culture of limitless possibility.

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