Once you have received a "yes" commitment from a customer, it's easier to continue the positive pattern of continued "yeses." The customer finds it hard to break the affirmative sequence. You then will have the opportunity to Upsell them. — The Art of Upselling

Becoming a victim of the upsell is like getting paper cuts: Receive enough of them and you'll bleed to death — or at least your finances will. Upselling is simply the salesperson's process of adding an extra item or upgrading your initial purchase to a higher level that costs more. This sales practice certainly isn't unique to the automotive realm, but it has become a fine art in car dealerships, tire stores and repair shops.

Language of the Car-Related Upsell

You can usually feel an upsell coming when the salesperson begins describing a perceived benefit or convenience that would supposedly make your life easier. For example, a tire salesperson might say: "While we're installing your new tires, it's a great time to get the brake pads changed. Would you like us to take care of that today for you?"

Many salespeople upsell using "assumptive" statements that are subtly woven into the conversation to get consumers to agree to a sale. For example, an automotive finance manager might say: "Of course you know how damaging the sun's ultraviolet rays can be on your new car's finish. So I'm sure you'll want to protect it with our paint protection package."

There can also be a strong element of peer-group pressure in some sales pitches: "This is the plan our smart customers choose because it's a dynamite value."

Another sales tactic is to avoid the "yes" or "no" answer, and instead ask the customer to choose one of three things. Finance managers sometimes sell extended warranty packages this way. They'll often ask customers: "Which extended warranty do you want: platinum, gold or bronze?" Notice that there's no "if" in the question, just a "which."

Where You Can Spot Upselling

The upsell abounds in all types of stores and sales situations. In the automotive arena, you'll often find upselling in:

New-car sales:

In the finance and insurance office, F&I managers will almost certainly offer the extended warranty. But they also may try to sell supplemental alarm systems, paint and fabric protection and pre-paid maintenance plans.

Dealership service departments:

If you go in for an oil change, the service manager may try to sell you additional services or repairs. The classic approach here is to present a list of "dealer recommended" services, many of which are for preventive maintenance that are not the required services found in the owner's manual.

Tire stores:

If you go in to buy a new set of tires, you will probably be offered tire warranties, brake jobs, shock absorbers and wheel alignments.

Quick oil change stores:

The classic upsell here is an air filter. But another popular item that oil-change businesses promote is the automatic transmission flush and fluid replacement. Brake jobs are also popular upsells, along with synthetic oils for engines that don't require them.

Fending Off the Upsell

Here are four quick ways to fend off eager salespeople who are doing a rote upsell for some product or service with little value for you:

1. Know the upsell is coming:

Simply knowing you are in an upselling zone will help you be on your toes and avoid reflexively agreeing to purchases you might not need to make. Most people want to be agreeable, but when you're being offered different products, consider their real value before accepting them. Often, you can buy these things elsewhere at a lower price.

2. Resist assumptions:

The best defense here is to understand the gambit and sidestep it. For example, rather than agreeing that ultraviolet rays are destructive to the paint, you can counter by saying, "Thanks, but I always keep my car in a garage."

3. Don't give in to guilt:

Don't let guilt motivate you to buy something you don't need. It helps to remember that salespeople may think highly of a particular service or product because it will make them more money.

4. Be ready for follow-up pitches:

Just because you said no once doesn't mean you won't be tested again. Good salespeople always try to overcome your objections. If necessary, it's OK to fall back on vague responses such as, "I'm not interested at this time." Then, you aren't trying to reject the products and services. You're only saying that you don't want them now.

5. Recognize something worthwhile when it's sincerely offered.

While it's good to be on the lookout for upselling, it's also smart to avoid reflexively saying no to everything. Salespeople will sometimes make customers aware of a product that has real value or some benefit that customers hadn't known about. And sometimes it makes sense to get several service items done at the same time. Your time has value, too.

The Upside of No

Recognizing the upsell is not only vital to protecting your money, it also focuses you on what you really need. You came in to buy one product because you needed it, and it takes awareness and willpower to decline when a salesperson springs into action with offers of add-ons and upgrades. By knowing your own mind and your needs, your "no's" result in small savings that can, over time, turn into a mountain of cash.