15 Upselling Techniques to Increase Sales Without Being Pushy

15 Upselling Techniques to Increase Sales Without Being Pushy cover

Upselling techniques are often imagined as pushy and intrusive strategies to increase sales, but that’s simply not the case.

In fact, the best upselling techniques are often subtle, directly addressing a customer’s problem by offering an extra/higher product or service.

When done correctly, upselling helps strengthen your relationships with customers by giving them more value.

In this article, we explore 15 insight-driven upselling strategies to help you master the art of effective upselling. We’ll divide these into upselling strategies for:

  • SaaS
  • E-commerce
  • Mobile applications


  • Upselling is a sales technique used to get customers to upgrade to more profitable services or products. The goal is to get more money from customers while offering them more value.
  • It differs from cross-selling, which involves getting the customer to add extra products or services to their overall purchase.

The Best Upselling Techniques for SaaS:

  • Give free users a limited taste of your product’s features, then periodically remind them of the benefits of upgrading to premium.
  • Use contextual tooltips to send upgrade messages that fit what the customer needs.
  • Identify your power users and offer them a limited-time trial of all premium features.
  • Trigger contextual upgrade prompts whenever users reach their existing account (free or paid) limits.
  • Finally, you can also segment free trial users and remind them to upgrade before their trial ends.

Other Upsell Techniques for Mobile Apps and E-commerce Businesses:

  • Remove any friction in the upgrade process by making it easy for customers to opt for higher-priced add-ons.
  • Bundle related products together and offer customers a deal that encourages them to pay more than they originally intended.
  • Use limited-time discounts to encourage customers or users to make urgent purchase decisions.
  • Want to reach users with targeted in-app messaging at the right time? Book a Userpilot demo today and see how segmentation and user analytics can help you reach users just when they need it.

What is upselling?

Upselling is a sales technique used to convince customers to spend more than they originally intended.

It involves offering the customer more value if they purchase an upgraded or higher-end product at a higher price.

Upselling vs. Cross-selling

Both upselling and cross-selling are account expansion strategies designed to optimize the overall customer lifetime value. But they’re also very different.

Upselling involves convincing customers to buy an upgraded or enhanced product/service. The idea is simple: you want the customer to pay you more to receive more value. This may be as simple as persuading the customer to upgrade their account or purchase some add-ons.

Cross-selling, on the other hand, involves selling related or complementary products to customers. Unlike upselling techniques that aim to raise profit margins, cross-selling aims to increase the average order value.

Upselling vs. Cross-selling
Upselling vs. Cross-selling.

Upselling techniques to use in SaaS

The most effective upselling techniques for SaaS products are curated to help users achieve set goals. This typically involves identifying the right upsell opportunities to promote upgrades without appearing salesy.

Use FOMO to drive users from freemium to the premium version

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is an age-long marketing tactic that always works, provided the target customer is interested in what you’re selling. The premise is simple – customers only agree to an upsell if they see how it benefits them and don’t want to miss out.

You can use this to your advantage by giving users a glimpse of what they miss out on if they fail to upgrade. This is especially useful when looking to convert users from freemium to premium.

The productivity app Miro, for example, allows its freemium users to create three boards. It then periodically sends reminders that the boards are public to all team members, whereas premium users can create private boards.

Miro upgrade reminder
Miro drives FOMO using periodic reminders.

Implement tooltips to contextually prompt upgrades

Rather than wait for new customers to exhaust their current plan’s resources before upselling them, you can use contextual prompts to drive home the need for an upgrade.

Contextual tooltips carry upgrade messages that relate to the limitations around the product feature the user is interacting with. They are, thus, great for highlighting the importance of an upgrade.

Intercom upgrade tooltip
Intercom uses contextual tooltips to upsell its users.

Offer your power users to try the premium version of your product for a limited time

One great way to get users to convert from freemium to premium is by offering a limited-time trial. Customers are generally more likely to upgrade after experiencing the value of premium features first-hand.

However, rather than making this offer to every customer, you can segment your users to identify power users. Because power users are heavily invested in your product, they’re more likely to benefit from premium features.

Asana is known for applying this strategy of showcasing its premium features to heavy users with an in-app modal.

Asana trial modal
Asana offers limited trials to power users.

Trigger upgrade prompts when existing customers reach the account limits

There’s no better time to encourage an upsell than when a user faces the limitation of their current plan. And the video communication and sharing platform, Loom, has mastered the craft.

Loom allows new customers to record videos on the free plan but limits each video to a maximum of 5 minutes. Whenever a user reaches the 5-minute limit, they trigger an upsell prompt that tells them to get more time by upgrading to premium.

Because these upsell modal appears at just the right time, customers are more likely to act on its message.

Upselling techniques - Loom limit upgrade
Loom upsells users with limited account features.

Segment free trial users and prompt them to upgrade before the trial ends

Limited-time free trials allow users to experience the value of your product without paying for the premium version. But you don’t want to lose sight of your goal – getting the user to upgrade.

So, before the free trial runs out, initiate a reminder that prompts them to upgrade. This is what Figma does with its blended upgrade messages.

Figma uses a countdown timer positioned at the top of its UI to remind trial users that time is running out on their free trial. It combines this long message with a shorter one (by the side) to ensure it isn’t missed.

Upsell techniques - Figma static banner
Figma drives urgency with a countdown timer.

Upselling techniques to use in e-commerce

If you run an e-commerce website, you’re probably thinking that the techniques above aren’t for you. You’re right! Let’s now consider the most effective upselling techniques for e-commerce platforms.

Make it easy for customers to add upsold products to their cart

Regardless of your chosen sales technique, simple always trumps complex. Eliminate unnecessary friction and make it easy for customers to add upsold products to their cart.

For example, Apple enables customers on its MacBook product pages to switch to higher device configurations. Higher-end configurations appear on the same page, which they can select before heading to the checkout page.

Apple upselling techniques
Apple makes it easy for customers to purchase upgrades on the spot.

By making everything available for selection on the product page, Apple makes it easy for the customer to reach a decision and act on it.

Offer customers bundled products to increase the average order value

Bundling is almost a cross between cross-selling and upselling techniques, but it works perfectly in e-commerce. It involves putting multiple products in a single package so the customer purchases them together.

To be truly effective, your bundle must combine two or more very related (even essential) products. It also helps if you offer a discount, along with the bundle, to increase its perceived value.

Amazon is a leader in successfully bundling products. In this image, for example, it bundles a steamer with protective gloves in one package. The customer gets a deal, Amazon makes a bigger sale.

Bundled products
Use bundling to improve a product’s perceived value.

Identify customer needs to recommend relevant products

One of the easiest ways to upsell in e-commerce is by utilizing customer data to offer recommendations. Adding a simple product recommendation widget at the end of a page is a great way to get shoppers to purchase more products.

Of course, good recommendations must match the customer’s needs. It may draw on their search history or related products to the one on the page and show them what other customers with similar needs have bought.

Once again, Amazon is a master of product recommendation, showing you what others bought when they had similar needs. The recommendations are non-intrusive, appearing more like a compelling suggestion than a pushy sales technique.

Amazon upselling techniques
Amazon product recommendations.

Present reasonable alternatives

Similar to the technique above, this sales technique focuses on providing the customer with more expensive but reasonable alternatives to the product they’re considering.

As with every good recommendation, the alternatives must be related to the customer’s original choice, making it easy for them to add something else to their carts before checking out.

Product alternatives
Use product alternatives to increase product value.

Offer limited deals and discounts when upselling to motivate users

A forever successful upselling technique involves creating a sense of urgency by offering a limited-time discount. However, you must avoid the trap of constantly offering limited-time discounts that never go out of season.

To be effective, your discount must truly be time-bound. It should disappear at the right time, maybe even disappearing immediately after the customer exits the page. And it shouldn’t come back.

When your upselling offers come with a fixed time limit, it creates a sense of urgency that nudges the customer to make a purchasing decision immediately.

Limited-time discount
Use time-bound discounts to encourage purchases.

Upsell techniques to use in mobile apps

To get the most revenue out of your mobile app, you need more than build an excellent product. While the upselling techniques for mobile follow the same principles as above, the approach differs. Consider a few:

Leverage social proof to convince users

The typical human is greatly influenced by the majority. From scanning user reviews to skimming case studies, we all feel the need to determine what the crowd does before making a decision.

Thus, social proof is a no-brainer when encouraging an upsell. Tinder offers an example of how you can use social proof to your advantage when encouraging a specific purchase.

By simply using the “Most Popular” tag on one pricing tier, they tell you that “many” others have opted to make that exact purchase in the past, making it easier for you to make the same choice.

Tinder - upselling technique
Tinder uses social proof to boost sales.

Offer a one-time discount

Who doesn’t love a great deal? Whether you’re a bargain hunter or not, finding a good bargain is always a great morale booster. Because you consider the price cheaper than normal, you’re more likely to make the purchase.

Discounts are especially great when encouraging the customer to make that all-important initial purchase or offering an add-on. However, always keep in mind that a good discount offer shouldn’t hurt your bottom line.

app launch upselling technique
Use discounts to encourage that all-important first purchase.

Constantly remind users of the benefits premium offers

Keep customers constantly reminded of the benefits they stand to gain by upgrading to a premium plan. There are many ways to go about this, depending on your app/service.

For apps like Spotify, the reminder for the benefit of a premium plan is built into your app experience through ads. Don’t want ads interrupting your music? Purchase a premium plan and listen to your music uninterrupted.

Deliver upsells the moment they promise real value for users

Speaking of built-in benefit reminders, Spotify only allows free users to skip up to 6 songs per hour. To get unlimited “skips,” you’ll need to pay for a premium account.

Rather than wait for the customer to figure that out, though, Spotify uses the opportunity to upsell. Any user trying to skip too many times at a go will see this screen telling them they can enjoy this feature by upgrading to premium.

Spotify upsell banner
Spotify brings the offer to the customer.

By making it easy for all users to discover premium features within the product experience, you tempt them to upgrade so they can escape the frustration of the freemium.

Remove upgrade friction and make it easy for users to upgrade

A good way to encourage users to purchase a higher-priced option is to make it extremely easy for them to do just that. This is important as any friction can cause them to rethink their action and back out of the purchase altogether.

You’ll find good examples of easy upgrades in travel/hotel booking apps. Even after booking your desired suite or travel package, these websites make it easy for customers to upgrade to a better room, get a better view, etc.

By removing all friction, the upsell becomes infinitely easier.

How to identify upselling and cross-selling opportunities

To effectively utilize the upselling techniques above you must be able to identify the right moment to trigger them.

Let’s now consider how you can identify ideal upselling and cross-selling strategies for your SaaS product.

Track how users interact with premium features

How users interact with premium features is often a good tell of whether they’re likely to upgrade or not. Tracking how users interact with them, therefore, is a no-brainer.

Tools like Userpilot enable you to tag and track a premium feature. Understanding how users interact with these features can tell you how easy the feature is to find, how helpful it is for users, and what situations lead them to seek out the feature.

All of this data can help you better position yourself to drive customer retention through targeted upselling.

Feature tagging
Tag premium features and track engagement with Userpilot.

Segment users based on customer data and offer relevant upsells to increase the customer lifetime value

To reach your customer with relevant products at the right time, you need to understand them and their needs. This is where user segmentation based on customer data comes in!

Collect data on what jobs a new user wants to use your product for. This will help you identify their JTBD and how you can help them. You can also segment users according to their position in the user journey.

User segmentation
Segment users on various criteria in Userpilot.

After creating segments of users (by journey or JTBD), you’ll be better placed to offer customers an upsell that’s relevant to their needs at the right time.

Track product engagement and identify customers who’ve reached their feature usage limits

Instead of completely blocking out premium features, your SaaS product may choose to allow limited access to all features for free or low-paying customers.

If you’ve opted for this model, tracking how much users engage with these features is essential. With Userpilot, you’ll be able to set limits and automatically trigger flows that prompt users to upgrade when they reach/near their limits.

Userpilot advanced segmentation
Advanced user segmentation in Userpilot.

On the other hand, you can segment free trial users and offer them an upgrade before their trial period runs out.

Identify power users that are more likely to upgrade

Your power users are users who are very active and enjoy a net-positive customer experience. These customers have quickly found value in your product and become loyal to your brand.

Because they love your product, these users are more likely to pay for additional features that bring them even more value.

Thankfully, identifying these customers is not difficult. One easy way to do that is to conduct an NPS survey and segment users who score you an 8 or above. You can also track other usage metrics to identify your product’s biggest users.

Userpilot analytics
Userpilot’s advanced analytics help you easily identify power users.

Final thoughts on upselling techniques

Ultimately, your choice of upselling techniques depends on your product/service type. However, the principles remain the same – you need to offer customers more value so they can give you more money.

Userpilot enables you better understand your users so you can deploy the right upsell techniques at the right time. Book a demo today to learn the many ways Userpilot can help you expand your revenue.

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