Cross-Selling & Up-Selling: Do Customers a Favor

Concern surrounding cross-selling and up-selling arises quite often. It appears that many sales professionals hesitate when it comes to employing these two practices. When we asked from where the hesitation stems, it seems many of you neglect to attempt up-selling or cross-selling for fear of losing the sale altogether. Salespeople are hyper-aware of negative perceptions and don’t want to risk losing rapport and credibility with a customer by sounding overly “salesy.”

We get this. What we would like for you to realize though, is that during the selling/buying process, at some point we become more than just salespeople to our customers—we are consultants and advisors—and up-selling is adding more value to the solution we are providing which is something that most customers would appreciate.

The Art of Up-selling & Cross-selling

It can be as simple as the last time you ordered pizza. The order-taker casually asked if you want wings with the pizza—why not—and extra ranch—sure—how about a 2-liter of soda to wash it down? In this case the up-sold products cost nearly as much as the original pizza. But even if you had opted not to buy the additional items, were you so annoyed that you revoked the original pizza order? Probably not.

And cross-selling? Perhaps no one does it better than the online travel industry. Their classic cross-selling technique entices you to purchase flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and even entertainment tickets as a package that many customers see as a convenience. Another example is the online bookseller’s technique – first they up-sell by telling you what other titles you may be interested in, and then cross-sell by showing you items other customers purchased—items which may or may not be related to the book you originally added to your cart.

The point is, you need to consider your audience.

Just as sophisticated e-commerce programs calculate the needs of the buyer and present options that could be relevant or present intrigue, salespeople need to assess clues to determine the needs and desires of their customer.

For example, if a salesperson at the auto repair shop is dealing with two different oil change customers: a man driving a clunker and a man driving a late-model luxury car…it’s likely that the two men have different needs. The guy with the clunker would likely be concerned only with the necessities e.g. a new battery if his is nearly tapped out. The other guy may be apt to take the salesmen up on a new air filter or an A/C flush to ensure his continued comfort as well as the efficiency of his pricey vehicle.

At some point our customers do trust us and expect us to look out for their best interests. If they can get more value or enhanced performance by purchasing more or additional products/services, they at least want to know about it and have the opportunity to decide on the purchase.

When is the best time for up-selling and cross-selling?

The point of sale is the most opportune time for cross-selling and up-selling. If a customer understands how X product will meet his/her needs and has decided to purchase, then they will also appreciate the opportunity to evaluate how Y and Z might enhance the performance of X. They won’t re-evaluate their decision to purchase X simply because you’re talking about Y and Z (after all X still meets their needs). What they will be concerned with evaluating is the added value that Y or Z might bring, and if that added value warrants the additional cost. Rather than being a salesperson who is “selling,” you are a consultant/advisor in a position to help them evaluate.

Another optimal time for cross-selling and up-selling is new customers and accounts. Studies show that the majority of cross-sell and up-sell success is with customers who are just coming on board or who are still new (within the first 6 months of service). For this reason, customer service departments are good resources for potential cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. Customer service representatives who are in contact with existing customers regularly should be trained to recognize when a customer’s needs are changing and could benefit from an upgrade or addition to their current product/service.

To sum up…

Salespeople can keep on top of the evolving needs of their customers by practicing good account management and following up with existing accounts and new accounts coming on board. Certainly keeping the products and services that existing customers are using up to date will keep them a step ahead of your competition. Your customers are relying on you, as a consultant, advisor and partner, to be more knowledgeable and aware of their needs. If you have a way to make your customer’s current product or service faster, more efficient, more powerful, then show them the value of it—they would be upset to find out that you didn’t.