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8 “non-sleazy” upselling techniques to sell everything except your soul

· 16 min read · E-commerce · Apr 26, 2022
Izabella (HR Manager), Karina (People & Culture), Sthefani (People Experience), Milda (People Experience) and Ilma (COO).

Upselling is a delicate task. You want to encourage customers to get the most out of your products or services (and increase your revenue), but you don’t want to come off like a sleazy car salesman.

The simple act of selling doesn’t make a car salesman sleazy—after all, people only walk into car dealerships if they’re in need of a car—it’s the upselling techniques they use. A good car salesman will find out the needs of their customers and only upsell according to which car will provide the most value.

When done correctly, upselling can lead to increased profits and happier customers.

In this article, we’ll give you some upselling tips you can easily implement into your marketing strategy. We will also provide some examples so that you can decide which technique(s) works best for you.

Upselling is a sales technique in which a retailer or marketer encourages a customer to spend more money by promoting upgrades, add-ons or a more expensive version of an item in order to increase the average order value.

It’s kind of like cross-selling, except instead of promoting a related product after a customer makes a purchase; you convince shoppers to choose a more expensive item.

I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like sleazy car salesman territory when you put it like that. But it’s actually about creating a win-win situation where you and your customers both walk away happy.

Upselling is about offering something better: To replace the item or service they’ve already chosen with a more expensive item that provides a whole lot more value.

We’re going to show you upselling techniques that help you upsell based on what your customer needs.

There are a few different techniques you can use when upselling to both new and existing customers. Which technique(s) you add to your upsell strategy will ultimately depend on your product, your customer, and the situation.

The most important thing to remember when upselling is to make sure that you are actually offering a relevant product—something your customer needs or wants.

If you target your upsell offer to the right people, they will probably benefit from the message. And if they’re not interested, they won’t be surprised or taken off-guard by the upsell.

Let’s take another look at our good car salesman, for example: A young family walks into the dealership looking for a car. The salesman could push them to buy a fancy new car with a “sports package” and Italian leather seats to jack up his commission. But a good car salesman would focus on their needs and only upsell according to things like trunk size and safety features in anticipation of a growing family.

Tip to strengthen relevance: Use groups and segments in MailerLite to target subscribers based on their interests and/or behavior. You can then use features like dynamic content and promotion pop-ups to display certain upsell offers exclusively to specific subscribers.

A customer shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to upgrade their purchase. A successful upsell strategy makes it as easy as possible for people to say “yes”.

You can do so by keeping options limited—just one to three offers that are clearly superior to the original product. And make sure your offers are framed in a way that highlights the benefits and value to the customer.

The easier you make it for them to say yes, the more likely they are to take you up on your offer.

Apple uses a simple upsell strategy that makes it super-easy to say “yes”: When you search for an iPhone 13 Pro on their website, you can immediately compare it with the iPhone 13 Pro max and upgrade your purchase in one click.

Upsell example from Apple.
Image credit: Apple

You don’t want to come across as greedy when you upsell, which is why it’s important to have a maximum price margin. This will ensure that your customers feel like they are getting a good deal–and not being taken for a ride.

A general rule of thumb is to keep your upsells within 20% of the original purchase price. So, if someone buys a product for $100, you wouldn’t want to upsell them to something that costs more than $120.

Of course, there will always be exceptions to this rule. If you’re selling high-end products or services, your customers will probably be expecting to pay more for upgrades.

But even in Tesla’s case: When purchasing a Model X on the Tesla website, the price margin between a Model X and the upgraded “Model X Plaid” is 20.9%.

Upsell example from Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

If a 20% margin doesn’t work for your upsell offer, take a leaf out of IPSY’s book and outline exactly how amazing the added value is compared to the price increase.

Upsell example from IPSY
Image credit: IPSY

The power of three is a principle that suggests things that come in threes are inherently more persuasive than other numbers. When you’re upselling, present your customer with three different offers. This will give them a greater sense of choice while still keeping the decision-making process simple.

The power of three pairs well with another sales tactic based on psychology known as “the decoy effect”: When people are more likely to choose one option over another if there is a third, less desirable option.

The decoy effect requires three offers:

  • The original product

  • The goal product (what you want people to buy)

  • The decoy

The most popular example of the decoy effect is movie theater popcorn. There is a huge jump in price from a small to a medium popcorn, but a large is only slightly more expensive than a medium.

An example of the decoy effect using popcorn

In this case, the medium popcorn is the decoy. Because the price difference between a medium and a large is a mere 50 cents, it’s easy to justify the upgrade.

Another way to make an upsell more appealing is to bundle it with other products or services. Take a collection of related products, or products that work together, and offer it as a package before they reach the checkout page.

This is an excellent way to bump up your pricing margins by increasing the perceived value of your upsell. Think “buy 2 get 1 free”.

The perfect example of a bundled upsell is “The Disney Bundle”.

Image of a bundle of streaming services from Disney
Image credit: Disney+

Whenever new customers go to purchase one of the streaming services above, they’re immediately offered “The Disney Bundle”.

The bundle is $13.99 a month. 75%-100% more than a stand-alone streaming service.

But when you take into account the total value of the bundle (around $24 a month), you realize it’s actually a pretty good deal!

Good places to upsell a bundle include:

If you can create a sense of urgency around an upsell, you’ll be more likely to convert customers. This could be done by offering a discount for upgrading within a certain time frame or stressing the importance of the additional product.

A simple way to generate urgency is to include countdown timers in your promotional content or on your website.

Keep in mind, the urgency tactic should be used sparingly or your customers may start to feel like they’re being pressured into buying something they don’t want.

Learn more about using countdown timers in this article:

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people are more likely to do something if they see other people doing it. You can use this to your advantage when upselling by incorporating customer testimonials or reviews into your offer.

Amazon uses social proof all over their platform. Beyond reviews and testimonials, they litter each page with product recommendations and display user star-ratings.

Upsell example using social proof from Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

When new customers see that other people have had success with your upsells, they’ll be more likely to take the plunge themselves.

You don’t have to go overboard though. Grammarly takes a quieter approach to social proof by simply highlighting its most popular offer.

Upsell example using social proof from Grammarly
Image credit: Grammarly

When you’re upselling, be transparent about the pricing of your different offers. The goal is not to try and “trick” people into spending more money, but to be honest about the pricing breakdown and benefits of your offers and let customers make an informed decision about whether or not they want to take you up on it.

Take the MailerLite pricing page for example. In one glance you can easily review the different prices and compare the value of each plan.

Screenshot from the MailerLite pricing page

MailerLite offers a whole range of features that will help you take advantage of upsell opportunities including promotion pop-ups, email campaigns, automation, websites, landing pages and digital product blocks.

Promotion pop-ups

Strategically place promotion pop-ups on specific web pages (like category or product pages) to upsell based on what the visitor is looking at.

You control the design and set the behavior of the pop-up. So you can set when, where and for how long each promotion runs for.

For example: If a customer visits your online store looking for an e-book, you can create a promotion pop-up that appears when they’ve scrolled to the end of the product page, offering an exclusive bundle containing the e-book + an audiobook at a discounted price. You can even add urgency by making it a limited-time offer.

There are 12 promotion pop-up templates each designed to help you achieve a specific goal. All of these templates are customizable. These 3 are the best for upselling:

1. Mystery sale pop-up

If you have a special event or offer of the day, the “Mystery sale pop-up” is a great way to create intrigue, urgency and grab your visitor’s attention.

Mystery sale promotion pop-up upsell example
Designed in MailerLite

Use this pop-up to add an exclusive one-day discount on a premium product or subscription.

2. Limited-time pop-up

Use the “Limited-time pop-up” when you’re running special offers that have an expiration date. Adding the countdown timer is an excellent device to communicate urgency.

Limited-time pop-up example from MailerLite
Designed in MailerLite

3. Product pop-up

Let your landing page or website visitors know about a premium alternative, or promote a bundle when a customer is viewing a specific page with the “Product pop-up” template.

Product pop-up example from MailerLite
Designed in MailerLite


Email campaigns are the perfect way to personalize your upsell offers. Paired with interest groups and/or subscriber segmentation, you can send relevant, targeted offers to specific groups of customers.

Here’s a great example from MailerLite customer, The Beauty Hive.

Upsell email example from The Beauty Hive
Image credit: The Beauty Hive (designed in MailerLite)

In this campaign, The Beauty Hive presents two bundles, provides a transparent breakdown of pricing and highlights the increased value of the larger bundle.

Learn how to design captivating emails for your upselling campaigns in this helpful guide:


Email automation is excellent for upselling, cross-selling and delivering premium digital products. The beauty of automation is once you set it up, it does most of the hard work for you.

With email automation, you can send triggered emails based on an action performed by your subscribers. 

So if a subscriber joins a specific interest group, you can automatically promote relevant products using automation.

When paired with an e-commerce integration, using Shopify or WooCommerce, you can even send triggered emails when a subscriber purchases a specific product.


Learn how to build this upselling or cross-selling workflow with this automation example:

Websites and landing pages

MailerLite makes it super easy to sell digital products online using websites and landing pages, which can be a fulfilling way to earn a passive income online.

Use our drag & drop builders to create a website or landing page in minutes. Then add a one-time or recurring purchase digital product block to sell digital products, bundles and subscriptions or memberships.

Demostration of how to use purchase digital product block in MailerLite

Then, with the help of email automation, you can advertise, upsell and deliver digital products or subscriptions all in one place!

Learn more about selling digital products and subscriptions using MailerLite in this article:

Upselling can be used to increase revenue and provide more value to your customers—but you don’t want to go overboard with your strategy and come across as pushy.

You don’t have to apply every single technique we outlined to each upsell campaign you undertake. If you want to keep it simple, just remember these key points:

  • Keep your upsells relevant

  • Make it easy to say yes

  • Keep the price jump to a max 20% (whenever you can)

  • Use urgency sparingly

  • Be transparent (always)

If you follow these key principles, you can successfully upsell while giving off a vibe that says “service with a smile” and not “service with a sly grin”.

How do you feel about upselling? Love it, hate it? Did this article change your mind?

Erin Ford
Erin Ford
I’m Erin, I write content here at MailerLite. When I’m not typing away at my laptop, geeking out over email automation and targeting, you can find me at the nearest beach with my furry little rescue pooch, Alfie.