Cross-selling is the art of encouraging customers to spend a little more money with you. The concept is a simple one. When you cross-sell, you offer the customer an additional product or service that is related to the services they are already buying.
And it doesn’t have to take much. In fact, you encounter retailers trying to cross-sell every time you see a “Buy one, get one 50 percent off” deal. Another example would be a graphic designer working on a company’s logo who then offers her services to develop the company’s website.
There is, however, a subtle difference between cross-selling and up-selling. A cross-sell means the customer spent more money by adding more products from different categories than the product being viewed or purchased. An up-sell, on the other hand, gets the customer to spend more money by buying a more expensive version of the same type of product, or paying for extra features or warranties that relate to the product in question.
Don’t worry about irritating customers with too many sales pitches. I believe it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to go out a find a new one and surveys show that most buyers actually appreciate being told about additional products or services. You always want to position your business as an agent of convenience. And there is no better way to do that than by talking to a customer about how you can better meet their needs.
Ideas for Developing Your Cross-Selling Strategy:
- Don’t force a cross-sell: Many cross-selling opportunities will occur naturally. If you are selling a computer, of course you want to tell them about the three-year crash-and-burn warranty. You can also offer software suites, and services to install the software and remove those pesky 30-day trial offers from the hard drive. You may also offer a printer, the ink cartridges and a carry bag. To gain the extra sale, you might simply have to mention that the other products or services are available for a discount when purchases at the time of the sale of the computer. For those of you who sell services, if you are developing strategy for a client you can always cross-sell execution of the strategy.
- Timing is critical: In some cases, the best time to cross-sell is when a customer is asking for help or information about a product or service. If they start asking about specific features, that’s when you can introduce a higher-priced model. Other items are more appropriately offered at checkout, such as an extended warranty.
- Stay focused on the customer: Be careful not to overload customers with unrelated cross-selling suggestions. Offering a belt with slacks is certainly a good fit. But if your attempts to cross-sell are not closely related to the original purchase, you could aggravate a paying customer.
- Use recommendations: One cross-selling technique is to quote specific recommendations from professionals, experts or other customers. This could be, ”Most of our moms who use this product will purchase three at a time.” You can also quote third-party experts: “Podiatrists recommend that women who regularly wear four-inch heels use Dr. Scholl’s heel pain relief and buy one size larger.” Internet sellers should use lists of related items that other customers have purchased on a website. Amazon does this better than anyone. When you buy a book, the site automatically lists other books purchased by people who bought the same book you just ordered.
- Try bundling services: Bundling is very effective for cross-selling. I love “Buy three and get the fourth item for free” deals. You want to entice shoppers to buy not just a single item, but an entire group of items that go together. Offering a price break on package deals is essential to close the sale.
- Train employees in cross-selling techniques: Your sales people are really the ones who will be able to push cross selling the best. The #1 thing you must insist on is that they be authentic with customers. You cannot have your sales people pushing women to buy dresses by telling them they look good when they don’t. You can’t up-sell a bunch of tech accessories to someone who seems like they are afraid of technology and will call tech support every day. The approach must be built around helping customers, not just selling more stuff.
Successful cross-selling is about meeting the customer’s needs, rather than pushy sales techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find just the right balance with your sales force. Keep in mind if you do not ask for the business you will not get the sale, so you need to make cross-selling a key component of your sales process. Just do it with class and you’ll have customers for life.
You can cross-sell after the initial transaction by offering complimentary products. Find out how email marketing with pbSmart Connections can help you email offers to customers.
Learn about all the different ways Pitney Bowes can help you transact customers.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named her #1woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChatWednesdays on Twitter 8-9 p.m. ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com. Melinda is also bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.