Suggestive Selling

There are those who believe that selling is basic and straight forward.  One person has something for sale that another person wants to purchase.  It would be great if that’s all there was to selling but there’s so much more to it than just that.  In fact, there are different kinds of selling and suggestive selling is just one of them.

What is suggestive selling then?

Just as it says, it’s a style of selling where the salesperson suggests something to the customer based on what they know or feel the customer might be open to considering as a purchase.   This isn’t the same as up-selling.  This style facilitates a customer’s purchase by providing them with additional information from which to make an informed decision.   For example, someone at a sporting goods store may be looking for a pair of sneakers but doesn’t know what brand or style to purchase.  With a few well-placed questions from the salesperson to help identify where the sneakers will be worn, suggestive selling could be as simple as asking the customer, “We have sneakers that are specifically designed for joggers regardless of where they are in their training.  Would you like to see them and try a pair on?”

Does it happen in restaurants?

It happens all the time in any number of restaurants every day.  Whenever a server welcomes you to the table and asks if you would like to hear the specials for the day, the server is practicing suggestive selling.  For those who are indecisive or in a hurry or who prefer to have their decision streamlined, this approach is welcome, and this is why suggestive selling can be a positive style to cultivate.

So suggestive selling is all about being pushy in a nice way?

Not at all.  Suggestive selling is based on the salesperson’s awareness of the customer’s needs.  If the customer needs help narrowing down choices, that’s one thing.  If the salesperson is trying to make a sale and disregards the customer’s needs, that’s being pushy.

What if suggestive selling doesn’t work?

Sometimes customers aren’t sure what they want, even with help from a knowledgeable salesperson. Sometimes customers are serial shoppers who are always looking but never really in the market to purchase anything in particular.

Suggestive selling is about making the offer to help a customer with their shopping experience, but in the end, if the customer doesn’t want or need your help, you have to let it go.

What if suggestive selling does work?

Then you have a satisfied customer who will tell his or her circle of influence about the great service he or she got from you.  Even if they don’t buy from you, this approach will help cultivate the kind of customers that appreciate the effort you put into helping them find what they want.

If you’ve ever watched “Miracle On 34th Street” the scene where When Kris Kringle sends Macy’s shoppers to Gimbels (Macy’s competition) to purchase what they’re looking for because Macy’s hasn’t got it.  The upswing from this act of suggestive selling earns Macy’s far more customers than it loses.  In fact, in the movie Mr. Macy says, “If we haven’t got what a customer wants, we’ll send him where he can get it. In this way, Macy’s will be known as the store with a heart.  The store that puts public service ahead of profits.”

Are you suggesting that we send customers away?

Not at all.  I’m suggesting that the best way to keep a customer is to be as helpful as possible.  In that way, the customer will have a positive experience that’s sure to bring him or her back in the future … and will undoubtedly lead to recommending your product, service or store to his or her friends.  That’s the power of ethical suggestive selling.


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