Article

What is cross-selling? Definition, examples, and tips

Cross-selling can deepen your customer relationships, but only if you deliver real value.

By Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Published March 16, 2021
Last updated October 6, 2021

“Do you want to make that a meal?”

It’s one of the most common offers at a drive-through window (and one many of us say yes to). It’s also a great example of cross-selling.

Fast-food restaurants may cross-sell with nearly every transaction, but it’s a valuable tool for support teams to use, too. To cross-sell effectively, you’ll need to understand the basics—what the concept means, how it benefits your bottom line, and how to do it successfully.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling definition: The act of selling another product or service to a customer.

Simply put, cross-selling is persuading a buyer to purchase an additional or complementary item. It’s the “do you want fries with that?” sales technique of showing customers other products or services that would be helpful to them.

A sales rep might use cross-selling with a first-time client by suggesting they buy a bundle of IT accessories to supplement their software purchase. A support agent, on the other hand, can encourage existing customers to buy additional products based on their current needs.

Cross-sell vs. upsell

Cross-selling is persuading a customer to buy other products or services to complement a purchase. Upselling is encouraging a buyer to purchase a higher-end, more expensive product or service. To see how the two sales tactics differ, consider these ecommerce sales examples.

Cross-selling examples

Cross-selling often happens near the moment of purchase. Customers are already in the buying mindset, so they’re more open to add-ons and cross-selling opportunities.

  • Cross-selling on a product or service page: Many companies include “customers also bought,” “frequently bought together,” or similar sections on their product or service pages to showcase items that customers may want (or need) to add to their order. Amazon does this well.
    Amazon

    Source: Amazon

  • Cross-selling on the checkout page: When customers are on the checkout page, they’ll typically see a prompt to add related or “must-have” items to their cart before completing the transaction. These suggested products and services are often less expensive than the items already in the customer’s cart and complement them well.

  • Cross-selling via email: Your email contacts have already engaged with your brand—whether by signing up for the newsletter or making a purchase—so they’ll likely be more receptive to cross-selling suggestions than a brand-new site visitor. Strengthen your recommendations by basing them on the user’s browsing behavior, if possible. For example, email a customer about a product they were viewing on your online store a few days ago.

Upselling examples

Timing and positioning are key to upselling success. You’re not overtly trying to get customers to spend more money—you’re striving to help them reach their goals and improve their overall experience.

  • Upselling with integrations: Customers who use your product regularly will likely want to connect it with other tools in their tech stack. Reserve certain integrations for higher-tier plans as an incentive to upsell your most engaged users.

  • Upselling based on user action: Push an upgrade too quickly or forcefully, and you run the risk of annoying customers out of your sales funnel. Instead, create triggers that suggest upgrades based on specific actions. Say a user is signed up for a basic plan but clicks on a higher-level feature in an attempt to use it. This could trigger a simple pop-up window that encourages them to upgrade so they can gain access to the feature.
    Zapier

    Source: Zapier

  • Upselling by turning a complaint into a sale: This scenario is perfect in a customer support environment. For example, if a customer calls in to complain that their product ran out of licenses, the agent can recommend that they buy a bigger package with more licenses. To effectively upsell, though, the agent would need to use the consultative sales approach and propose this higher-tier package as a solution to the problem—not as an extra cost.

Benefits of cross-selling

We’ve touched on the most obvious benefit of cross-selling: It increases your revenue. But there are also long-term wins that come with using this sales technique.

Increased average order value

Along with making you more money, cross-selling can also help you stabilize revenue. If consumers are continually adding other items to their cart, your average order value (AOV) will grow.

Say your company’s best-selling face cream costs $20 and brings in $20,000 per month from 1,000 shoppers. To increase AOV, you could encourage customers ordering this face cream to add a $10 cleanser on the checkout page. If 500 customers add the cleanser, you’ll generate another $5,000—increasing your AOV by 25 percent for the month.

Improved retention

Cross-selling decreases the likelihood of customer churn. After all, it’s more difficult for a buyer who relies on several solutions from your company to drop your brand altogether than it is for someone who uses only one product. Even if a customer stops using one product, you’ll lose a small portion of your revenue.

By encouraging retention with cross-selling, you’ll increase customer lifetime value and, as a result, your bottom line.

Higher customer satisfaction

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report found that 76 percent of consumers expect personalized experiences. Offering suggestions tailored to each buyer’s needs and preferences when cross-selling is a great way to gain more sales and build customer satisfaction.

Cross-selling also simplifies the decision-making process. If customers are happy with your service and product, most would prefer buying multiple items from you instead of shopping around. You’re making your customers’ lives easier by providing all-in-one services, so they’ll likely value and trust your brand.

3 tips for cross-selling

You may be sold on the value of cross-selling. But before you get started, you need a foolproof strategy for success. Keep these guidelines in mind as you build out your game plan.

  1. Listen to your customers—carefully

    Customers can tell when your top concern is making money, not helping them solve their problems. For a cross-sell to stick, it needs to deliver value for your customers. The key here is active listening. This allows you to fully understand your buyers’ current concerns before making a sales-based suggestion.

    Ask open-ended questions, and follow the 80/20 Rule of Communication to ensure you’re spending the majority of your time listening. Carefully listen to what your customers say they want while determining what they need. Repeat their words back to them to confirm you’re correctly grasping the issues. Then, suggest an additional product—but only if it will genuinely solve their problem.

    Always use discretion when recommending another product or service. Ask yourself if it’s the right time to make this offer, given the customer’s background with your brand.

  2. Bundle up (products or services)

    Turn a cross-sell into a convenient solution for a customer by bundling products or services. A recent PYMNTS report found that almost 70 percent of buyers are interested in bundles.

    With most companies, it’s less expensive to purchase bundles than it is to buy individual products or services separately. Bundles are still a win for businesses, though, because customers are more likely to accept a cross-sell if it’s a deal. As long as the bundle price isn’t too low, it’s better to secure the larger order than to settle for a single-item order.

    For SaaS companies, bundles are a particularly great way to get customers to add another software suite to their current subscriptions. Imagine a customer who uses your sales CRM wants to add an automated call-recording feature, but there’s a catch: That feature is offered only with a second compatible product. You should absolutely let this customer know the benefits of buying a complementary product—just make sure you’re conveying how it’s adding value so it doesn’t sound like a sales grab.

    Say you offer the cross-sell, but the customer is hesitant because they would use only one additional feature on the other product. This would be the time to offer a bundle for a reduced price. It’s a win-win: The customer gets what they need for a price that is more reasonable than buying both products separately, and it increases the value of their account.

  3. Use customer feedback (+ research) to ease pain points

    Buyers are more likely to trust your recommendations if you’ve done the homework to prove you’re knowledgeable—both about your products or services and about your customers’ pain points.

    Use case studies, testimonials, and reviews to understand how consumers have reacted to your products and services. Studying feedback about buyers’ pain points isn’t always a pleasant exercise, but it’s a critical one. By learning what is and isn’t working for customers, you can improve both your offerings and tailored recommendations.

    To learn from customer feedback, you first need processes in place for collecting input. For example, once a customer makes a purchase, your support team could send them a survey to gather information about their experience. Or, your sales team could ask a customer about their experience during a follow-up call.

    Tweak your cross-selling approach based on buyer input. The more you can learn about what your customers actually want and need, the more painless your cross-selling experiences will be with them in the future.

Cross-selling is a team effort

Support teams are focused on facilitating relationships with customers, so they’re in a great position to cross-sell at times when sales teams may not be able to. Trust is key, so if you feel a “pitch” from your sales team may seem pushy, your support team could simply “recommend” the same solution.

To successfully blend sales and support, you must ensure the cross-sell is offered at the right time. One way to achieve this is to use a CRM to keep track of where buyers are in their customer journey. Zendesk Sell includes both support and sales features to make lifecycle tracking easy. Use this information to suggest the right products at the optimal time so you can provide your customers with a personalized experience that feels anything but salesy.

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