The dictionary defines the verb "upsell" as such:

Main Entry: upsell

Definition: to try to persuade a customer to buy a more expensive item or to buy a related additional product at a discount

It's a fairly common word that gets used a lot in most retail trades.

But the dictionary does not list "downsell" as its opposite. However, it seems to me that the concept of upselling does have a clear opposite concept. i.e. Trying to persuade a customer to buy a cheaper item or fewer items.

Granted, there are fewer situations where this would be used, but I wonder why the word does not exist, and whether there is another word that could be used in its place.

  • 1
    I would call it "honesty"...
    – Guy F-W
    Sep 21, 2012 at 9:55
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    If the word doesn't exist, it's because there's no need for it. Sep 21, 2012 at 10:34
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    Upsell has been created to serve a need. There was no need to create a term like downsell for something that does not exist, at least not in regular business practice. In cases of exception, you need to say it in as many words: "Trying to persuade a customer to buy a cheaper item or fewer items," else no one would understand. :)
    – Kris
    Sep 21, 2012 at 10:34
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    @BarrieEngland True, but I can think of words that don't need to exist but do. And this one is such an obvious candidate to be a word, since it would have a clear meaning and its opposite already exists.
    – Urbycoz
    Sep 21, 2012 at 10:41
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    @RoaringFish Persuading a customer to buy a cheaper item or fewer items is not giving them a discount.
    – Urbycoz
    Sep 21, 2012 at 11:24

3 Answers 3


I have in fact encountered the word downsell, in colloquial and semi-formal contexts: insurance salesmen and financial advisors use it in discussing the need to dissuade clients from purchasing financial products with attractive "features" but dubious benefits.

He was convinced that the universal policy would guarantee his retirement, and it took a lot of downselling to show him he could accomplish the same thing with a convertible term policy that fit his current budget without the risk.

Upselling is deprecated by sophisticated salespeople in the insurance industry, because it's typically a one-off sale, with a greater risk of lapse. Downselling leads to longer-sustained relationships, which are ultimately more remunerative for both the agent and, they believe (or at least maintain), the client.

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    sure it is. They're trying to get the customer to buy a cheaper product Sep 21, 2012 at 12:42
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    @Kris, no, both upsell and downsell are things sales reps do to get customers to buy more/less items or bigger/smaller items. "him" in the quote is the customer who they persuade to buy less. He perhaps downbuys, but he doesn't downsell Sep 21, 2012 at 13:16
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    @Kris I'm not really getting your point. Seems the same to me.
    – Urbycoz
    Sep 21, 2012 at 13:42
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    I don't get it either: stoneyB's example is clearly a situation where the person has spent time " to try to persuade a customer to NOT buy a more expensive item."
    – horatio
    Sep 21, 2012 at 14:54
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    @Kris Please take your own time to read things over before you post a patronising comment :)
    – Urbycoz
    Sep 21, 2012 at 15:15

While not an exact opposite, the term downsizing is used to describe a reduction from an earlier, more opulent or generous state

make (something) smaller: I downsized the rear wheel to 26 inches

This is more frequently used when the potential consumer already has a larger, more expensive, more feature-laden version of the item being sold or used.

The term cut back is used to similar effect.

to reduce the amount of something, especially money that you spend: It's time we cut back a little.

plans to cut back investment in education

cut back on: We're trying to cut back on the amount we spend for food.

  • Note that "downsize" is probably most frequently used to refer to a company laying off employees. It's basically a euphemism for "firing a bunch of people".
    – Jay
    Sep 21, 2012 at 14:09
  • @Jay That is probably the most frequent usage, but it also has very common usage, at least in the US, when referring to moving to a smaller home or buying a smaller car.
    – bib
    Sep 21, 2012 at 14:19
  • Good point, I'd forgotten those examples. I was thinking of "downsize the wheel", which is used, I'm not disputing that, but is relatively rare.
    – Jay
    Sep 21, 2012 at 16:08

I would use the term dissuade from meaning:

to deter by advice or persuasion; persuade not to do something

or the word downplay meaning:

to treat or speak of (something) so as to reduce emphasis on its importance, value, strength, etc.

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