Sell more to your existing customers. You know they like what you do, so it’s natural for you to try to encourage them to buy more from you. But how do you do it?

One technique used by a lot of retailers is known as “up-selling”. For example, your local supermarket offers you a carton of soup costing £1.50, but you can buy two cartons for £2.50. You think you’re getting a good deal, because you’re saving money, while the supermarket has just persuaded you to part with an extra pound. Everyone’s a winner.

But because it’s so lucrative, the practice has become rife. The classic example is the infamous extended warranty that you’re invariably offered when you buy an electronic device. But everyone is trying to do it: if you get a toy, the assistant will suggest you purchase cheap batteries; when paying in a record shop you’ll be pointed towards a cut-price DVD or CD on the checkout.

It can feel annoying as they can feel like a transparent grab for more of your cash. So you walk a fine line when you attempt to upsell between giving your customers more satisfaction and putting their backs up. Here are a few tips to ensure you add, rather than subtract, value when running your small business:

Know your products inside out

If you’re going to recommend your customers a particular product or service then you’d better understand all about it. We’ve all been in a shop where the assistant is trying to sell you something, when it quickly becomes apparent that he has little more knowledge of the product than you do. It’s clear they’ve just been told to punt it out as part of a sales drive. The upshot is that most of us will make a mental note to give the place a wide berth in future, because we feel they’re trying to fleece us.

Know your customers

Many clients will do their own research before choosing what to buy – often because they’re cynical about sales pitches. But that doesn’t always mean they’ll always make the best choice. If you take the time to understand your client’s needs before offering your suggestions they’re likely to be much more appreciative. If they’re leaning towards Product A, but you realise –having listened to them – that Product B would be more suitable for them or do the job better, then if you explain the reasons why B is in fact better than A they’ll appreciate the advice, value your expertise and will be more likely to follow your recommendation, even if it is a little bit more expensive.

Don’t be pushy

Pushy salespeople can be annoying. The customer needs to feel you have their best interests in mind when making recommendations – if a customer doesn’t trust you they’ll simply walk away. You need to ensure that the other products or services you recommend are clearly relevant to their needs and would benefit them. If they want to buy a winter coat they’re unlikely to be interested in a cheap pair of shorts.

Upselling may be seen as part of the salesman’s dark arts. But that’s because all too often it has either been done clumsily or because the customer can plainly see the benefits of buying something are stacked in favour of the seller. But really it’s a natural part of providing great service to your customers and, if it’s done honestly and genuinely, it can create a lot of benefit for clients and help cement the relationship between you.