Mastering the Art of the Upsell

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A defining characteristic of a great salesperson is their ability to upsell. Upselling is the art of meeting the needs of the customer so well that they are willing to exceed their intended spend. In short, upselling means more money for a business at the point of purchase. The question is, how does one perform the task successfully?

No matter where you find yourself in the cannabis landscape, sales are going to be the driving force. Each sales position offers its own unique challenges, and every salesperson has their own style when it comes to doing their job. That said, the path to successful upselling is one with a clear roadmap.


It may seem obvious, but it’s important to point out that before there can be an upselling, there must be a sale. In many ways, upselling is nothing more than an opportunity that presents itself after a sale has occurred. So, before we talk about upselling, it’s important we take a closer look at the steps leading up to a successful sale.

Do Your Homework

The sale begins before the customer enters the shop. A salesperson should always do their best to be the expert in the room. This means spending time educating themselves about the product they are selling and being ready to answer any and all questions. Having knowledge about the products is a good place to start, but they also should be cognizant of how the product lives in the world. What’s its reputation? How does it compare to similar products? Do your homework!

For those looking to make the leap into the industry, this is the step that takes the most energy. You may have a lot of sales experience, but if you don’t know anything about the products you are selling, matching the level of success you had in a previous role will be impossible. Take time to learn. There are no shortcuts.

Listen to Your Customers

Sales is all about meeting customers’ needs, and no one can meet needs if they don’t know what those needs are. Listen before starting a sales pitch, because the most effective sales pitches are based on satisfying the customer’s wants. Not taking the time to listen can make a salesperson seem disingenuous, which can make getting a sale—let alone an upsell—an almost impossible task.

Having to endure a human interaction to purchase anything is becoming less of a necessity in our world, so put in the extra effort to make the experience worthwhile for the customer. If you aren’t going to take the time to listen to them, they might as well be buying from a vending machine. Be better than a vending machine! Practice active listening and make sure the customer feels both heard and understood.

This type of active listening assures the customer you are invested, but it also gives you valuable information about the customer. How much do they know? What don’t they know? What have they heard? How much are they looking to spend? This information will give you an idea of how to approach the conversation and how you can best direct it to help them understand their options.

Be a Knowledgeable Guide

Now that you have taken the time to listen and understand your customer, you can start employing all this expert knowledge to curate a selection of products that will meet their needs. This step involves answering all the customer’s questions and explaining how various products will fit their needs. If they need education, give them education. If they have misconceptions about the product, take the time to explain the truth. Just make sure what you are saying is on point and relevant to the customer.

As a guide, it is also important to be aware of the language you use. It doesn’t matter how much you know about your product. If the customer can’t follow along, that information is useless. Avoid using slang and acronyms when speaking about your products. At the end of the conversation, the customer should be in a place where they feel comfortable navigating the products and confident in their decision-making.

After you’ve laid out all of the information and gone through all the products, the only thing left to do is ask for the sale. Surprisingly, this is a step many salespeople tend to forget!

Remember, you started this interaction with a very specific goal in mind, and part of being a good salesperson is making sure you reach the intended destination. Some people feel uncomfortable asking for the sale, but try your best not to! The customer knows you are there to sell them something. It’s not a secret!

The Upsell

In many ways, upselling is an addendum to a sale. If all has gone well, the customer will not only make a purchase but also view you as an expert who has done a phenomenal job at helping them. The upselling begins when you move further into that expert role and begin to offer suggestions.

Sometimes upselling involves a customer spending a little more on a single product because it is of a higher quality, and sometimes upselling involves a customer adding more items to their cart because you said something to the effect of, “If you like this, you should really check out these other products.” The upsell can play out in a number of ways, but remember it is your reputation on the line. So be honest!

It’s easy to sell a customer a product once, but if you want that customer to come back again, you better make sure the product lives up to expectations. It’s not really an upsell if the customer never comes back—that’s just lost business. Don’t sacrifice future sales for one easy sale!

Now that we’ve gone through what it takes to upsell, let’s take a closer look at how it looks within the context of a sales position that, in many ways, defines the cannabis industry: budtending.

The Importance of the Budtender

Even though delivery services and ordering online for pickup are becoming more popular, most people still buy their cannabis from a person. Budtenders are those people.

Budtenders are the face of the cannabis industry. With all the laws restricting advertising and sales, budtenders are some of the few people who can actually engage with the public about their purchases. In other words, budtenders have an impact not only on the sales of their shop but on the success of cannabis producers in general.

If a budtender likes a product, it flies off the shelves. If they don’t like a product, you’ll most likely find it at a significant discount as the store looks to clear it from their inventory. That’s a lot of power for an entry-level position, and exceptional budtenders can harness that power to help people.

These are the budtenders that understand the fundamentals of the plant and the complexities of its interaction with the human body. They’ll be able to wax poetic about the plant’s chemistry, go into great detail about the different consumption methods, and speak to the objective characteristics that define quality in cannabis products. In other words, if a customer has a question about cannabis, budtenders are the ones who are supposed to have the answer.

An exceptional budtender will also understand their inventory and, based on the needs of the customers, offer products that will meet their needs. A budtender cannot be a good guide if they don’t know how to navigate the products in the store. People need a proper introduction to cannabis, and it’s the budtender’s job to introduce them.

It sounds simple enough, but there is still a lot people don’t know about cannabis—not to mention all the misinformation out there. Even experienced users will struggle when it comes to identifying quality in cannabis products, and the market is still so young that brand recognition doesn’t have the same power as in other industries. So, who do people look to as an authority on cannabis? For many people, it’s their budtender.

The Final Act

Most people are expecting to make a purchase when they walk into a dispensary, so getting a sale is easy. Upselling takes the sales experience to the next level by convincing a customer to happily spend more than they anticipated. Convincing may sound like a strong word, but it’s not a conviction that came out of the blue. No sneaky sales tricks were involved! The customer got to this point because the budtender established their expertise and earned the customer’s trust during the sales process.

My favorite manifestation of an upsell is watching a customer walk back to the ATM because they found something they really love and want to purchase it—bank fees be damned! That short walk says a lot about the interaction that happened at the register, and the whole thing typically ends with a customer leaving the store with a big grin on their face. That’s when you know you’ve successfully upsold a customer. That’s better than a vending machine!