Skip to main content

Marketing and awareness can improve your sales

Mike Boivin

Mike Boivin will be presenting at Pharmacy U Toronto

Upselling is a sales technique to induce consumers to purchase more expensive items, upgrades or other add-ons in an attempt to make a more profitable sale. When many people think of upselling, they envision a fast-food restaurant server offering fries or an apple pie with their order.

Although some pharmacists might question the role of upselling in pharmacy, it can not only improve their sales but also enhance their patient care. Upselling in pharmacy has more to do with increasing awareness and recommending specific products for certain conditions and medications than trying to sell unrelated items. 

OTC companion sales

OTC companion sales are about visualizing products that are commonly used together. The key is for pharmacists to look for opportunities to suggest these products and provide the education around when, why and how they should be used.  The following table lists some examples of OTC upselling opportunities:

Common categories of OTC companion sales

OTC cough and cold

  • When recommending a cough and cold product, ask patients if they would like other items, such as:
    • Analgesic
    • Lozenges
    • Humidifier
    • Nasal saline irrigation
    • Thermometer

Travel health Kit

  • Opportunity to recommend a large number of products, including those for:
    • First aid
    • Analgesia
    • Cough and cold
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Heartburn

Skin care

  • Patient purchasing products for sensitive skin might consider:
    • Sunscreen
    • Mild cleansers and soaps
    • Hypoallergenic skin care products
  • Patient purchasing insect repellent might be counselled to purchase medication to treat mosquito bites:
    • Hydrocortisone cream
    • Antihistamines


  • Consider recommending a combination of products: 
    • Bulk forming laxative and stool softeners to be taken daily
    • Stimulant or osmotic laxatives to be used when required


  • Common examples:
    • Encourage patients purchasing calcium for osteoporosis prevention to take vitamin D
    • Vegetarians might consider purchasing Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and even iron supplementation

Nicotine patches

  • Consider adding a short-acting nicotine product, such as the gum, lozenge or inhaler to help the cravings


Prescription companion sales

Prescription companion sales are highly effective at helping to improve the tolerability of many medications, reducing the patient’s risk and improving the effectiveness of different treatments. Almost every medical condition can have companion OTC sales. Some common examples are listed in the table below. 

Common examples of OTC companion sales with Rx

Medications causing dry mouth

  • Very common with medications for overactive bladder syndrome, tricyclic antidepressants
    • Consider recommending a variety of dry mouth products

Patients with diabetes

  • Large variety of products, such as foot care cream, diabetic socks/stocking, hypoglycemia treatment, safe cough/cold products

Patients with skin conditions

  • Consider a mild cleanser, hypoallergenic skin cream and sunscreen

Patients taking complicated drug regimens

  • Blister packaging
  • Pill packs


  • Home blood pressure monitor

Antibiotic therapy

  • Variety of companion sales depending on the type of infection; could include analgesics, probiotics, cough/cold preparations


Pharmacy services

Many pharmacists don’t realize the value of upselling services like med reviews, adaptation, immunizations, blister packaging, compounding and disease management and care plans. By offering them consistently and regularly, pharmacists can dramatically affect the overall uptake of these services. 

Tips to upsell

  1. Start with your patients. Ask patients with certain medications or conditions what they are currently using to manage symptoms or adverse effects.
  2. Recommend and educate. Not only recommend a product, but also provide the education on how, why and when to use it.
  3. Plant the seed. A patient may not need the product today, but come back to it in the future.
  4. Group products. Try not to focus on one companion sale, but recommend a line of supplemental products. 
  5. Bring them closer. Moving these products closer to the dispensary makes it easier to recommend them and reminds pharmacy staff to recommend them.
  6. Maximize every opportunity. In the ultracompetitive OTC environment, it’s easier to tailor recommendations to your existing patients than to attract new ones.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds