9 Selling Techniques in Retail to Increase Your Revenues and Profits

Sales. Every retailer wants ‘em and many businesses go to great lengths to get more sales. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re looking for new ideas on how to increase sales in your business. 

Maybe your promotions aren’t working as well as before, or perhaps you just want to brush up on retail selling techniques. Whatever it is, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll run through 7 selling techniques that can unlock more opportunities and revenues in your business.

Check them out below and see which ideas you can implement in your stores.

9 retail selling techniques to implement in your store

1. Tell a story

It’s been scientifically proven that our brains respond well to stories, so it’s a good idea to incorporate narratives into your sales practices. There are a couple of ways to do this:

Tell your brand’s story

If you have a compelling origin story, make sure your customers know about it. Why did you decide to start your business? What challenges did you overcome? How are you helping make the world a better place? 

You should put your story on paper and make sure you and your associates know how to deliver it perfectly. Practice telling the story and find ways to naturally work it into the conversation. For instance, if a new customer walks in asking general questions about the business, you can grab the opportunity to introduce them to your brand through a powerful story. 

So, rather than giving generic answers like “We sell maternity clothes” you can dive into the company’s origin story by saying something like “Our founder, Michelle, had trouble finding stylish, comfy clothes when she was pregnant, so she designed this wonderful dress that women couldn’t get enough of!”

And if possible, try to work your brand’s story into your store’s design. The Ministry of Supply store in Los Angeles, for example, has the company’s story written on its wall. 

Tell stories about your products

Got any interesting products in stock? Tell your customers about them. Give them an inside look into the items they’re interested in, so they can have more info on the products they’re buying. 

Aside from helping shoppers make a more informed decision, telling a story behind each item makes them memorable and sets your products apart. So, don’t be afraid to share those tales when shoppers ask about an item. If you know the designer of a purse, for instance, why not tell the customer more about them? 

In some cases, you can use your displays and signage to do this.

At Venissimo Cheese, for example, each display tag on their cheese products contains the name of the cheese, the pronunciation, country of origin, milk type, and pairing suggestions. Those elements give shoppers more background about Venissimo’s cheeses, which helps people decide which product to buy.

Try to do the same thing in your store. Have little product details and tidbits on display, then when shoppers ask for more info, you can launch into storytelling mode. 

Tell customer stories

People will be much more inclined to buy a product if they know that it’s worked for someone else. That’s why you should never shy away from sharing stories from other customers. 

Did your product help someone lose weight? Have you sold items that greatly improved another person’s quality of life? Collect success stories from your customers and be ready to tell them when the opportunity comes up. 

You can do this in person when discussing a product with a shopper. You could say something along the lines of… “I had a customer last month who purchased Brand X and she loved it so much she bought three more yesterday!”

And don’t forget to showcase your customer stories online. The skincare brand Drunk Elephant does an amazing job here. The company regularly features real customer stories on Instagram, to provide social proof that its products work.

View this post on Instagram

“What you see here is my face with ONLY eyeliner, mascara and filled in eyebrows. I am 33 years old and this is the first time in over a decade that I left the house to head to work without a stitch of full coverage makeup. I felt I had a LOT to hide like my uneven skin tone, dry patches all over my face, acne and chicken pox scars, and especially the Nevus of Ota (hyperpigmentation) on my entire right side of my face. Yes, of course the art of makeup is something I enjoy doing but the root of my continual and devoted makeup regime was to cover what I was embarrassed to have. WELL THAT HAS NOW CHANGED. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I started using the #DrunkElephant #Protini and #BesteNo9 samples gifted from Sephora and I have never been more proud and comfortable in my own skin. My entire complexion has transformed to feel and look hydrated, clear and even my super dark hyperpigmentation on my right cheek seems to be less noticeable. I have COMPLETELY converted to #drunkelephantskincare and am expecting my first round of full sized products tomorrow and I’m so excited I could cry. Today I decided to STOP wearing foundation in total (minus mascara, eyeliner and of COURSE eyebrow defining tools) and embrace my natural skin. I am thrilled with the thought of what my face will look like once I’m able to start making ‘smoothies’ to keep my face feeling deliciously happy. The price tags are steep but honestly worth every single penny to be able to see my face in the mirror and NOT be disgusted by what I see. I’m so happy!” – @femmerae #drunkinlove🐘⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Want to be our next #barewithus🐘 beauty? Tag us in your selfie video with your full DE routine! As always, use the hashtag #barewithus🐘 in your bare-faced DE selfies—we’ll be gifting our favorites DE goodies every month!

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2. Engage in cross-selling

Cross-selling is a powerful sales technique that can boost order values — which leads to higher revenues and a healthier bottom line. But how exactly should you do it? Well, there are a handful of components to consider when you’re attempting to cross-sell. These include:


You have to know the right time to cross-sell. Often, the best window comes when the customer has committed to buying a product and you’ve already spent time getting to know them. For example, if someone is buying a dress and you know they’re wearing it to a casual event, then you can use cross-sell matching accessories. 

When is the wrong time to cross-sell? For starters, don’t do it right away. If a customer just picked up a product two seconds ago, it’s not a good idea to hop into a cross-selling spiel. You should also pay attention to their budget and how much time they have to shop. If the customer is on a strict budget or schedule, it’s best to get them in and out quickly. 

Value and benefit to the customer

Don’t try to cross-sell just because you’re trying to meet your sales targets. Do it to truly add value to the customer’s purchase. If you genuinely believe that an add-on product would benefit the shopper, then, by all means, suggest it to them. But if they don’t have a need, it’s best to let them get on with the original purchase. 

Shoppers today have strong BS detectors. Many can smell self-serving salespeople from a mile away. If they sense that you’re pushing unnecessary products, you will lose the sale.  


Pay attention to the cost of the items you’re suggesting. As Bob Phibbs points out, “the suggested item shouldn’t exceed more than a certain percentage [around 25%] of the cost of the original item.”

This means that if a customer is buying a $100 overnight bag, don’t recommend another $100 item. Instead, pick something within the $25 range — say a matching pouch or bag tag.

3. Consider upselling

Unlike cross-selling, which is when you recommend an item relevant to the original purchase, upselling is offering a pricier version of the item. Think of it as asking the shopper if they want to upgrade their purchase.

For instance, if someone wants to buy a basic vacuum cleaner, you could encourage them to go for the 2nd-tier or the premium model. 

Many of the cross-selling principles we discussed above also apply to upselling. You want to time your approach properly, make sure your upsell genuinely adds value, and you shouldn’t go overboard with pricing. 

4. Do product demos and testing

One of the best ways to sell a product is to show it action, or better yet, let the customer experience the item for themselves. You can do both by running product demos and testing stations in your store. 

Encourage your customers to test and demo your products by putting them out in the open versus keeping them in boxes. We can see this tip in action at The Olive Oil Dispensary (TOOD), a Burlington-based retail store that specializes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

TOOD allows customers to taste their olive oils and vinegar products before buying, and this sets them apart from competitors who keep all their products in bottles and cases. TOOD’s products are inside dispensers with taps and there are small cups beside each one, so customers can pour themselves a sample. 

“Product names and descriptions can only take you so far, and since we have dozens of products to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming,” shares the family who owns the store. “It’s so nice to have a store where customers can “test drive” to their hearts’ content!”

5. Instilling a sense of urgency and scarcity

This one is a classic selling technique, but it’s still relevant today. Fear of missing out (also known as FOMO) is a real thing. When leveraged properly, you can use FOMO to drive sales. 

Limited-time offers or scarcity promotions people to take action. Consider the following examples.

Bath and Body Works has a “today only” promotion on its checkout counter.

And in the example below, the luxury marketplace Gilt is promoting its “almost sold out items” to encourage shoppers to check out the products while they last. 

6. Educate your customers

Educational initiatives can do wonders for your sales. Teaching your customers something new not only positions you as an authority in your niche, it also builds trust and drives sales and loyalty. 

So, find ways to educate your customers. Hold classes or invite experts to your store to impart their knowledge. 

One example of a retailer doing this well is Sephora. The beauty retailer holds free makeup and skincare classes in its stores. The subject matter ranges from beginner topics (e.g., “Makeup 101,” skincare basics, etc.) to more advanced makeup tricks (e.g., contouring, eyelash wings, etc.). What’s great about classes is that in addition to getting people to stick around, they also pave a natural path to purchase.

In Sephora’s case, the associates mention that people can purchase the products they used in the class. No one is required to buy, though. Sephora’s team does a good job of not putting any pressure on class attendees.

They do make it a point to follow-up via email. Everyone who signs up for a Sephora class gets a message thanking them for attending. The email includes links to the items they’ve tried, in case the customer is interested in buying them.

7. Practice clienteling

Clienteling is exactly what it sounds like: you treat people as clients and not just customers. 

Clienteling is a sales technique used by associates to develop long-term relationships with shoppers. It involves recording each shopper’s purchase history and keeping in touch with clients to further get to know them and drive repeat traffic and purchases. 

Luxury retailers have mastered the art of clienteling. It’s not uncommon for associates to build relationships with regular clients. They keep in touch, tell them about products they might like and invite them to special events. Have a look at this example from Chanel.

Consider doing something similar to your best customers. Start treating your VIPs as clients, and do your best to cater to their individual needs. 

8. Implement aspirational selling

This selling technique is all about selling something that your customers aspire to have or become. Think of it as selling “the dream”.

To be successful at aspirational selling, it’s essential to understand exactly what your customers want. Are they craving success? Status? Security? Figure out what each shopper aspires to, and weave that into your sales and marketing initiatives.

You can, for example, display images of your customers’ role models using or promoting your products. Take Ulta, which once had banners featuring a number of beauty influencers in its stores.

When it comes to aspirational selling, you should also make sure that your associates look the part. If you sell skincare products, for example, ensure that your sales associates have great-looking skin.

9. Align with your customers’ values

Shoppers are much more likely to purchase from brands that share the same values. This is one of the reasons it’s essential to identify your company values — i.e., what you’re all about and what you stand for — and communicating that to the public.

Done right, you’ll attract customers who share your brand’s values and beliefs, in turn increasing sales and loyalty.

Patagonia has done an excellent job at this. The company stands for environmental protection, and it has a number of initiatives designed to reduce waste and protect natural resources.It also encourages its customers to reject consumerism in order to lighten their environmental footprint.

A famous example of this can be seen in Patagonia’s 2011 campaign, where the company placed the following ad in the New York Times, which boldly said “Don’t Buy This Jacket”.

The company wrote on its blog:

It would be hypocritical for us to work for environmental change without encouraging customers to think before they buy. To reduce environmental damage, we all have to reduce consumption as well as make products in more environmentally sensitive, less harmful ways.

Actions like the above demonstrate that Patagonia is willing to walk the talk. This, in turn, helps the brand attract a fiercely loyal following.Consider doing the same thing in your business. Demonstrate your values and put yourself in front of customers who share those same values.In-store, one way to do this is to hire people who embody your brand and what you stand for.

If you’re a company that promotes sustainability, for example, it makes sense to hire associates who deeply care about the environment. Why? Simple: when you hire team members who share your (and your customers) values, they’ll be able to communicate, connect, and sell in the most authentic way.

Start putting these selling techniques to work!

As you can see, there are various selling techniques you can implement to drive more revenue in your business. You just have to pick the ones that work best for your retail store. But no matter which technique you decide on, be sure to use your selling power for good. Strive to serve your customers better and see to it that you’re selling them products that truly add value to their lives. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.