Cross-selling: 10 ways to sell more to your customer
Maximum sales results for minimum effort.
Cross-selling is the art of getting a customer to buy something
else along with the product they've already chosen. The well-worn
textbook example of cross-selling is the McDonald's all time great:
'Do you want fries with that?' Simple, yet incredibly effective for
Important note: cross-selling isn't about manipulating customers.
Completely the opposite, actually: it's most effective when you
stick to extra items the customer would have a genuine interest in
anyway - items that are well-connected to their original choice.
Step over that almost invisible line, and you'll look pushy and
But if you stay safely within the boundaries of relevance and
restraint, customers actually appreciate a nice spot of
cross-selling. It makes their life easier, after all. So here are
the best 10 ways to do it.
1. Get prepared - then ask!
Make sure you've built a range of products that complement each
other. So if you sell antique furniture, get some good quality
wood-polish in stock ready for a last-minute cross-sell. (Travel
sites like EasyJet and Expedia are masters of this on a larger
scale - if you search for a flight, they offer you hotels, travel
insurance, car rental.)
Then it really is as simple as just remembering to ask customers
whether they want the extra item. Your cross-sell item should be
cheaper than the original product, and something that only takes a
quick buying decision. The more complex the product and the way you
need to explain it, the more difficult your cross-sell will be.
Make sure staff are familiar with all your products and that
they know which go hand-in-hand, and teach them how to master the
2. Position wisely
Learn from supermarkets and newsagents the world over: there's a
reason they always have gum, chocolate bars and magazines by the
check-out. Placing a cheap impulse purchase where people queue is
enough in itself to prompt a purchase. Aim to use the cheapest
items most likely to complement your best-selling products. To
mimic this effect on your website, see the next point.
3. Gear up your website
The great thing about cross-selling online is that you have so
much data to work from. You can even automate your cross-selling
opportunities, using data on what other buyers have bought (more on
which in the point below). If that's out your budget, just showcase
your products with common sense - if someone searches for 'tomato
seeds', offer a seedling tray, compost and cellophane cover
alongside. Use the 'site overlay' function on Google Analytics to
see which products work best together (according to how customers
click from one to the other), and use your sales data wisely - it
reveals which products customers are already buying at the same
time. Make sure it's easy for buyers to find out the info they need
on extra purchases without navigating away from the original.
Every page should be maximised to encourage cross-selling
opportunities, though check-out is a particularly fertile one. Good
shopping carts to use on your site include Prostores.com,
- they've all been designed with cross-selling in mind.
4. 'Other people who bought this also
In 2006, Amazon reported that a whopping 35% of the year's sales
came from cross-sells. Their introduction of 'Customers who bought
this item also bought' and 'Frequently bought together' is nothing
short of cross-selling genius. It plays on your trust in the tastes
of people with tastes like yours. This leads neatly into a
cross-sell without it seeming like Amazon has had anything to do
with the recommendation at all, and thus absolving them from any
whiff of a hard sell. And it is of course showing you products
you're likely to enjoy.
You can replicate this effect on your website by automating the
recommendations as Amazon does (which will cost you), or you can
just manually upload items to the relevant places on your site
under the 'Also bought' heading (which is significantly cheaper,
though more time-consuming). Use your sales data on what items get
bought together, or just semi-cheat by using common sense.
Use this technique it in person by casually referring to other
customers with similar tastes and what they bought recently.
Tempting offers such as 'free postage on orders more than £40'
incentivise customers to just buy that little bit more. You might
also try a discount or gift voucher for orders over a certain
amount, or, the reward card favourite, double loyalty points (or
similar) for a certain spend.
The techniques above and below should be used in conjunction to
give customers that extra little push needed.
6. Bundle up
Meal deals - where would we be without them? A lot slimmer and
slightly richer, probably. But they work because they bundle
together products that fit naturally together at an attractive
price point. The consumer feels like they're making a saving on
stuff they would possibly buy - or at least want - anyway. Find
that golden price tag that feels like a bargain buy while still
earning you a tidy profit. Then make the offer glaringly obvious to
customers and place all the products included right next to each
7. On-product copy
If you've ever absent-mindedly read the back of a shampoo bottle
in the shower (who hasn't?), you may recall that old cosmetics and
beauty marketing staple: 'For best results, use in conjunction with
[insert same-brand product of choice]'. If you've got your
own-branded product line, this is a no-brainer.
8. Expert recommendations
If you don't have any control over the copy on the products you
sell, leverage expert opinion on which two or three products are
most effective when used together. The expert can be you if needed:
you know your niche better than your customer (hopefully!), so cite
that knowledge. Or use quotes from other experts and articles
Steal the idea so well implemented by small wine shops and
bookshops, of hand-written cards explaining employees' favourites,
but just apply the descriptions to two products rather than one. As
in: 'Julie's favourite: I've got this violet candle in my home - it
smells heavenly and fresh. I like propping it on the darkwood
candle-stand when I have friends over for dinner - so much quirkier
looking than flowers'. Personal touches like that never do your
business any harm.
9. During the pitch
If you're pitching to a customer face-to-face, whether in the
meeting room or from the cosmetics counter of a department store,
you get the chance to plant your cross-sell seeds early. In the
early stages of the pitch, as you draw out your prospect's pain
points (read more on this here), keep mental notes on everything
even as you focus your pitch around one big issue. When you get to
the close, throw those early pain points back in with products you
have to fix them - with a bit of a discount thrown in for good
measure, if you like.
10. Discounted second buy
The 'bolt-ons' and 'add-ons' that have become so de rigueur
among mobile phone companies in the last few years work because
they offer desirable (non-essential) additional products, made yet
more attractive by a bit of a discount. It feels like you're
getting a deal - even though the company makes a better profit by
selling you two services rather than one, and you probably would
have never bought the second item if it wasn't for that deceptive
£1 - £10 off. The Boots favourite 'Buy two get third free'
has the same idea behind it, though the financials are more
But as long as the add-on you offer is something your customer is
likely to lust after a little, and the discount you offer doesn't
negate your profit margin on it, it can be worth taking the hit of
that slightly slimmer profit on item two just to double your sales
per transaction - particularly during slower sales periods. It
gives your customers that grabbed-a-bargain feel-good factor, too.
(If they're not interested in your offer first time round, use
direct mail to follow up on sales offering similar incentives to
This is not dissimilar to the bundling idea, you just position it
slightly differently, as you offer it to the customer as an added
bonus at the end of the sell rather them choosing the deal from the
Smarta Business Builder
To help you on your business journey, we've created Smarta Business Builder, the complete online
tools package for growing your business. Website
Documents and Email - all in one place
- from just £20 per month with no contract! Try it out today.