A Helpful Hand: The Benefit of Cross-Selling & Up-Selling

Daniel C, Felsted


Up-selling Defined

Up-selling is the art of assessing the intended use of a product and, where appropriate, suggesting another product that more precisely fits the needs of your customers. Finding your customers the best fit. That is why they come to you.

Say one of your customers comes to you with questions about oil for his car. He has chosen to buy 10W30 weight motor oil. You ask him a few questions about his car. “What year is it? How many miles are on it? What size engine does it have?” You learn that his car has high mileage and is driven for commuting. Armed with these facts you suggest an oil that is a high mile option better suited for his car’s needs.

Cross-selling Defined

Cross-selling is providing additional information about a product that enhances the use of the item being purchased. It should be something that makes the use of the product safer, easier, faster, more convenient, or even more productive.

When selling a utility knife in a hardware store, the clerk can assess by a few simple questions that a customer is planning on cutting flooring on a cement floor. A simple, logical cross-sell is to suggest that the customer add a packet of blades to their order. It will eliminate the need for the customer to come back and purchase blades later that night.

Are you are using your experience to make things easier for your customers?

A Helpful Hand

Many employees worry about up-selling and cross-selling. They may not see themselves as a salesman and think that they will offend the customer. In your training, you should remind them that your customers come to you for expertise. By making suggestions to your customers, items that complement and enhance what they are buying from you, you are confirming your expertise and offering a valuable service.

You could ask: “Did you know, most customers that bought this sleeping bag came back in to buy a compression sack. Most said that they wished that they had it on their first use. Would you like me to show you how it works?”

In this case, you don’t even need to suggest that they buy the item. All you are doing is showing them the value of a complementing product and they can decide if they are interested or not.

If your customer is buying a network copier, you don’t neglect to sell them the network cable, do you? Of course not; the cable is necessary to use all that the copier has to offer, and so is the paper, the toner, the staples and a staple remover. So is a binding system, some labels, some envelopes, and some stamps. All the items that your customer uses in conjunction with the product you sell help them do their job more efficiently.

So, up-selling and cross-selling are only being the expert your customers are looking for. You know how to help them and they look to you for this help. Help them be more efficient and more productive—it’s your job.

Practice Your Up-selling and Cross-selling Skills

There are many ways to improve your up-selling and cross-selling skills. The first is practice. Many times you might not know exactly where to begin. Here are a few suggestions.

• Offer related “sale of the day” items.
• Make a list of, and commit to memory, items that complement each item you carry and their related benefits.
• Offer a FREE how-to booklet or article related to the subject.
• Offer a catalog of extended product lines—items that you can get but don’t stock.
• Offer free shipping and handling for online orders that reach a certain dollar amount, say $100 or more.
• Discount second or third item purchased.

Value Matters

Remember, you are providing value, something each of us wants and needs. Once you have a list of cross-sell and up-sell items that you can work with (see Making a List below) practice making suggestions and include stories of how they have helped your other customers enjoy the product.

You could ask: “You will really be pleased with this brand of paint. Here is a checklist that will help keep your paint job stay organized and be finished on time. Let me give you a FREE stir stick, in fact, take two. You probably have extra paint at home. Do you have a drop cloth at home, a paint can opener or any masking tape? You can find those products here next to the paints.

“When the offer presents a true additional value, and it is presented in a positive manner, the process has marketing impact whether or not the customer buys. Every time a rep and a customer have a pleasant interaction, it creates an advertising impression that simultaneously delivers both product and service information.”
        —Liz Kislik

When you and your staff are comfortable with your offers it will become natural. When teaching your staff, emphasize that consistently making the offer is more important than making the sale. It is the benefit to the customer, and their knowledge that you are thinking of them, not whether or not a sale is made, that makes the difference.

Making a List of Items That Complement Each Item You Offer

Example: Item being sold is a Dutch oven

    Cross-sell items:
        Pan scrapper
        Stirring spoon/ladle
        Cast iron cleaner and conditioner
        Cookbook/single recipes
        Lid lifter
        Carry bag
        Charcoal/Charcoal basket/lighter

    Up-sell items:
        Single or double burner stove
        Larger or additional Dutch ovens
        Dutch oven cooking table
        Other cast iron items—skillets or griddles

You are offering needed service to the customers, not just selling—you are helping, you are offering more than just a product, you are making your shop a destination. Cha-ching!

“Buying more usually leads to buying more.”
—Liz Kislik

Customers are usually willing to pay as much as 30% more than they expected if they see value in what you offer them. So what are you waiting for? Work with your staff and become the experts that your customers are looking for, and watch loyalty and profits grow simultaneously.

For more ideas on how to work with your staff to build customer loyalty send me an email and request my FREE e-booklet, How to Excel in Customer Service.


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