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Upselling and cross-selling exists in many forms but the principle remains the same: offer customers the opportunity to purchase additional items to benefit, enhance, supplement or otherwise improve upon their current purchase or experience. Strategic business people understand that customers are far more likely to increase their purchase while already in “buying mode.” These incremental gains can be key to increasing profits.

The simple phrase heard at every McDonald’s, “Would you like fries with that?” is an example of an upsell that has sold millions more fries each year. 

“Upselling & cross-selling are most successful when they communicate added value.”

Other examples of upselling that you will see out in the world are:

  • An incentive to purchase more product at a greater value (look at the minor price difference between the medium and large popcorn next time you go to the cinema, or the free coffee refills you get when you buy a special cup at a coffee shop.)
  • Peace of mind to protect the customer’s investment (these include glass screen protector for smartphone)
  • Convenience products strategically placed for impulse purchases (the batteries at the electronics store, socks at the shoe shop, or chewing gum at the petrol station, etc.)

For the other ways of upselling, however, sales skills become more important. Effective upselling involves careful timing, keen observation and a great deal of restraint and resilience. 

Here are some tips to take into account next time you are upselling a customer.

Be patient

Wait until your customer has decided to purchase, then offer additional products. If you try to upsell an item before you close on the original item, you may scare off your customer.

Gather information

If a customer is unsure of what they are looking for, take the opportunity to investigate the menu item they’re after. Once you discover what they desire, be sure to offer them additional items they might not have thought of on their own, but that directly meet the needs. It might slow down your queue but if you take the time to help the customer they could become a customer for life.

Be reasonable

Consider your customer’s budget when making an upsell. As a general rule, upsold products should not increase the purchase total by more than 25%. Beyond that, the additional product may start to seem like a second purchase instead of a supplement to the first. You don’t want your customer walking out feeling like they have been robbed. If the customer has ordered fish and chips then a side is a nice upsell. 

Always add value

Perhaps most importantly, don’t just upsell for the sake of profit or getting rid of unwanted stock. Customers will see right through this tactic. For each upsell, have your selling points prepared. Get to know which products go well together and make a point to match well-suited items when upselling. If you can identify the perceived value in the upsell, your customers will be more likely to see it too. Consider having a couple of minutes with your shift team to explain to them what the upsell target is. 

Upselling is defined as selling a more expensive product instead of the product that the customer was originally purchasing.”


Cross-selling is defined as selling an additional product when the customer is purchasing the original product.

We have some examples of cross selling and upselling in the real fish and chip environment in this article

Upselling is a great practice for any business. By developing complementary products and designing your sales process with the upsell in mind, you can create an environment where additional profits can be made. When in doubt, pop into McDonald’s and have a look at their model. From Super-Size to apple pies, there is potential for an upsell with every product.

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