Improve Sales & Service with Suggestive Selling

Free online training from Pet Store Pro and PIDA builds skills to increase growth.




Small independent pet retailers simply don’t have the resources to offer steep price discounts, wide inventories and direct home shipping to boost sales. Instead, you rely on your people to make a profit. One method to help your employees improve sales is through suggestive selling.


What is this, you ask? Where can they learn this skill?


Fortunately, there’s a FREE resource designed specifically for independents, like you, that has a course on this very topic, Pet Store Pro (


Pet Store Pro was developed by the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) to specifically address independent pet store owners’ need for consistent, reliable employee training. The program was launched in 2008 with a focus on business basics and pet care for entry-level employees. Since then it has expanded to offer 30 associate and management-level courses and remains 100 percent free, thanks to continued full funding by the distributor members of PIDA. Now in its eleventh year, Pet Store Pro has been used by more than 34,160 pet store owners, managers and sales associates from over 6,730 retailers.


Suggestive Selling 

Your associates have many opportunities to make an excellent impression on your customers and boost sales at the same time. People shop at independent pet stores to find solutions to their problems. They expect to receive knowledgeable advice and useful information. When your associates suggest additional products that add value to a shopper’s original purchase—or make customers aware of items they may not have realized they needed—they create a positive shopping experience that benefits both sides.


It’s easier than you might think to train your team to make suggestive selling a routine part of their conversations with customers, once they become comfortable with the process. Your associates may feel awkward making recommendations at first because they don’t want to seem pushy, or they just may not know what to say.


Pet Store Pro’s “Suggestive Selling” micro-chapter teaches pet store employees how to use four easy techniques—cross selling, bundling, upgrading and substituting—to provide great customer service. Associates can complete the course in about 15 minutes and learn lots of pet retail-specific tips to apply lessons right away.



When associates recommend products and services that naturally go together, they help customers get more from their original purchase. Cross-selling can also save customers time by reminding them of items they intended to purchase but forgot. Since shoppers often buy these items together even without prompting, they usually welcome the reminder and are open to suggestions.

The more your associates know about what your store sells and what your customers purchase, the better they’ll become at suggesting items that complement one another. To help your team identify cross-selling opportunities quickly, encourage them to pay attention to merchandising displays to find products that go naturally together. Associates should also read your store’s sales flyer, so they can let customers know if items they may want are on sale.



Suggesting groups of products that are packaged together, such as pet starter kits and gift sets, makes shopping more convenient for customers. Bundling makes it easier for shoppers to make a selection, while saving them time and giving them the confidence that they’ve purchased everything they need.


Associates should use the bundling technique when customers:

• Need supplies for a new pet adoption or purchase;

• Ask for gift ideas for a pet; or

• Are concerned about the cost of individual items.


Associates should become familiar with pre-packaged sets of products when stocking shelves, so they know what’s available for bundling. Many stores have checklists for new pets that will help your employees identify everything a customer might need.



Upgrading, or upselling, encourages customers to spend more now to save time and/or money in the long run. Stocking up on favorite items saves shoppers time and minimizes trips to the store.


Associates should use the upgrading technique when customers:

• Qualify for a price discount by buying more than one item;

• Get a better value if they buy a larger size; or

• Comment that they really like an item or have problems finding it.


To identify upgrade opportunities, associates should listen to customers’ comments and observe their non-verbal cues. It’s also important for your team to learn what customers think about past purchases and the reasons for product returns.



When your store doesn’t carry or is out of stock of a particular product or brand, your associates can use the substituting technique to save the sale. Suggesting a different but equivalent item means customers won’t have to visit another store to find what they need. Associates should take care not to criticize the shopper’s usual brand, especially if your store doesn’t carry it.


To convince customers that a substitute makes a good fit, associates need to be able to explain:

• How different sizes or formulations of a brand compare to each other;

• How the brands your store carries within a category compare to each other; or

• How the brands your store carries compare to popular brands you don’t stock.


Practice Makes Profits

As your associates become more comfortable in their roles and learn more about the products in your store, suggestive selling should become something they do automatically. One of the best ways for your team to practice is to role play with associates, family or friends. You might provide scripts or have associates make up their own based on the products they see customers buying most often.


Check It Out

Be sure to check out the other 29 other associate- and management-level courses currently available on Pet Store Pro. Content is fact-based, brand-neutral and industry-specific, so employees can quickly put what they’ve learned to use. The online format is easy to navigate from a computer or tablet, letting students’ study independently whenever and wherever it works for them—and for you. PB


Celeste M. Powers, CAE, is the president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). PIDA’s mission is to enhance the well being of the wholesaler-distributor, to promote partnerships with their suppliers and customers, and to work cooperatively with other organizations in fostering the human/companion animal bond.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

V-Planet Expands to Thailand

Dog owners in Thailand will now have access to v-planet's non-GMO dog food.

Mars Petcare Reveals Foster to Forever Program

Celebrity pet adoption advocates will raise awareness of the need for pet adoption and directly support those who permanently adopt their foster pets.

Hill's Pet Nutrition Partners with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement

Hill's Pet Nutrition is helping to fund disaster relief grants to shelters impacted by COVID-19.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags