Upsell or Bait-and-Switch?

As someone’s customer, which of the two following scenarios would you rather encounter?

You visit a merchant and spot a $10 item that you want and it seems like a pretty good value at that price. As you attempt to buy it, the salesperson (who may be the owner) directs your attention to a $30 item that is only vaguely like the one you picked out… and strongly suggests you buy it… or even better, buy both since there is very little overlap in their functionality.


You visit a merchant and spot a $10 item that you want and it seems like a pretty good value at that price. As you attempt to buy it, the salesperson (who may be the owner) begins to ring it up and asks if you have the accessory that doubles its usefulness… but only costs $5. You admit that you don’t have the accessory and that does seem like a good deal, but you aren’t sure you will use it enough to get your money’s worth. The salesperson has simply stood by quietly while you consider.

If you are like most people, you will be unhappy, maybe even outraged in the first scenario, and appreciative in the second.

There is a name for each of these scenarios. The name for the first scenario is ‘bait and switch’. The name for the second is ‘upsell’. You want to avoid ‘bait and switch’ in your business, but offer ‘upsell’ whenever you can.

Bait and switch tries to get you to purchase a higher-priced item instead of what you came in for. It is based on maximizing profit and convenience for the vendor at the expense of the customer.

Upsell tries to be helpful to the customer (and respectful of him/her) in a mutually profitable way. In spite of the word ‘sell’ in the name, it is really a suggestion, not a sales pitch. Think “do you want fries with that?” (It also incrementally enhances the revenue of the business.)

If the additional item costs more than the price of the original item, then it is NOT an upsell. If it doesn’t “go with”, augment, or enhance the original item, then it is NOT an upsell, either.

In my classes, I like to use the example of the suit salesman who AFTER an appropriate suit is selected THEN asks if you need a shirt, a tie, or cufflinks along with the suit. Another example is the shoe salesman who checks to see if you need socks AFTER you have selected a pair of shoes. (Sometimes they suggest shoe trees rather than socks.)

It doesn’t matter whether you offer a product or a service; whether you sell to consumers or to another business; it doesn’t matter whether your average sales item is $10 or $10,000 — nearly every business can offer an upsell to their customers/clients. If you don’t have something you can offer, you just exposed a gap in your line.

Whatever YOUR business is, there are opportunities for you to incrementally increase your sales by offering an upsell. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and turn it into a bait and switch.

Don’t have an upsell… or need help crafting your offers? Contact me and let’s see if I can help you. I promise, no bait and switch. 😉

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Upsell or Bait-and-Switch? — 2 Comments

  1. Madeline Moses on said:

    I work for Blue World Pools and I was just with a customer that accused me of bait and switch. I need to know if that is true or do we upsale like I was told. I live in NC just encase that is important in this decision.

  2. I’m afraid that I really don’t have enough information from you to be able to tell. Be aware that some sales trainers use the term upsell but teach bait and switch tactics. If the focus is on what the customer wants and is good for them rather than on the sale, then it probably not bait and switch.

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