How to Upsell Without Being Obnoxious


Upselling is a great way to increase your profits as a freelancer–if it’s done right. Upselling means selling additional products and services to your existing clients or convincing them to upgrade their current purchase to a more expensive purchase.

If a fast food clerk has ever asked you if you “want fries with that,” then you’ve experienced an upsell. Upselling is common for both service-based and retail businesses and it can help freelancers too.

Smart freelancers use upselling to increase their income without annoying their clients. In fact, if it’s done right, upselling can actually strengthen your relationship with your client.

In this post, we’ll list eight bad upselling practices to avoid and then we’ll explain how to do it right.

8 Obnoxious Upselling Practices to Avoid

Nothing is more annoying to a client than a badly done upsell. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of badly done upsells yourself, so you know how annoying it can be.

Here are some bad upsell practices to avoid:

  1. Using a canned script. Reciting a canned script is the lazy way to sell and it rarely works. Instead, talk directly to the client in way that is relevant to him or her. Understand your upsell products and services well enough so that you can answer questions, but don’t give a memorized spiel.
  2. Not understanding the client’s needs. You wouldn’t try to push a web redesign on a client who just redid their website, would you? Clients hate it when you try to push products they don’t want or need.
  3. Being too pushy. Instead of trying to push the client into buying, use the informative approach. Explain how the product or service will benefit the client and then let them make the decision.
  4. Not showing respect for the client. Too many freelancers treat their clients like an ATM machine, but your client is not just a way for you to earn some cash–they are also a person. Treat them as such.
  5. Offering the same exact upsell to every client. Your client is unique. They have unique needs and wants. Yet, many freelancers try to upsell using the “one size fits all” philosophy.
  6. Upselling to dissatisfied client. This seems obvious, but it needs to be said. If your client is unhappy, this is not the time to attempt an upsell. Instead, work on improving their client satisfaction.
  7. Offering something with little value. Your main service may be a great value–but if you follow it up by pushing junk on the client, then the junk is what they’ll remember. Make sure that your upsell adds real value for the client.
  8. Using high-pressure sales techniques. Don’t make tight time-sensitive offers like “you must purchase today to get this discount price.” Instead, allow your client enough time to consider and really buy into the idea of the additional purchase.

You don’t have to be obnoxious to be successful at sales. Upselling should increase your client’s satisfaction and build loyalty, not tear it down.

So how can you upsell without annoying your clients?

Upselling Can Strengthen Your Relationships

If your upselling is done with sensitivity and with the client’s best interests in mind, upselling can actually strengthen the freelancer client/relationship. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Meet a real need. Examine the client’s business needs carefully and take note of any gaps. If you can offer a product or service that fits that gap, there’s your opportunity. But remember, you still need to explain how the product or service can help your client.
  2. Show respect. Be sensitive to your client’s feelings. Your client may not have realized the problem that you’re pointing out, or they may already know about it and be unable address it at this time. Either way, listen to their position and be courteous.
  3. Be honest. Don’t try to fill a gap with a product or service that won’t really help your client just because that product or service is easy for you to add.
  4. Put the client relationship first. The client relationship is the key to your getting continuing business. If the client isn’t ready for another product or service, be patient and understanding.

My Unpleasant Experience with Upselling

I wanted to scream “no” when the caller started out with “you’ve been using our service for three years now, how about adding one of our additional services?”

After all, this was the fourth call this week from this particular company and each time I’d explained to the caller that we didn’t want the additional services. Yet, sales reps from the company still keep calling.

At this point, we are so annoyed with the company that we will probably cancel the orginal service. Their pushy upselling may mean they lose a client.

My own experience is a prime example of how not to upsell. The callers refuse to respect our wishes and persist in pressuring us to buy even when we’ve told them we’re not interested.

Your Turn

Is upselling part of your freelancing business? What types of upsells do you offer?

Image by
Brett Jordan