Learn the art of cross-selling

Would you like fries with that?

That line’s an old cliché, but it’s what cross-selling is about. It’s the art of suggesting to customers that whatever they’re buying from you would be of more value if they purchased a complementary item. For example, if you’re selling business attire for men, and someone buys a shirt from you, you’ve got an opportunity to cross-sell by encouraging them to purchase a tie as well.

Obviously you’re looking to increase your sales by learning how to cross-sell. But there are genuine benefits for the customer as well – it’s not all one-sided. Customers will appreciate being offered an item that’ll complement what they’ve just bought, because they may not have thought of it themselves.

Common cross-selling techniques

Although methods of cross-selling are largely dependent on what kind of product or service you’re offering, there are some basic, tried-and-true techniques that can be applied to almost every business. Getting the hang of cross-selling and then making a habit of it are essential if you want to increase your sales, and you’re providing additional benefits to your customers as well.

An important part of successful cross-selling is to be prepared. It’s not something you should improvise. Think about the products or services you’re offering and plan in advance the ones you can sell together. What you’re offering as a cross-sell should be cheaper than the original purchase.

Some of the best and easiest ways to cross sell are:

  • Bundling products – what you’re looking to do here is offer a package deal, such as the shirt-and-tie example above. Or if you’re selling makeup, you might offer a set of brushes at a discounted price whenever someone buys foundation or blusher.
  • Incentivise – this is tempting customers to spend just a bit more in return for a reward. For instance, you might offer free shipping on orders of more than $50. So if a customer’s already spent $40 with you, they’re likely to go ahead and round that up to $50 if they get free postage.
  • Combine products and services – this is a great method if the primary part of your business does one thing, but you can complement it with the other. Hairdressing salons will often sell the products they use on your hair. Appliance companies might offer free installation of a new oven.
  • Complementary add-ons –Suggest to customers that what they’ve just bought would be so much better with another product – one that they will, in fact, need at some point. For example, if you’re selling desktop computers, they won’t be much good without a monitor.

Enhance your online offering

Most businesses have a website, and if yours is an e-commerce site where customers can buy online, then it’s important to have it ready to cross-sell. For example, if you’re selling jewellery online, make sure that when customers click on a particular product they’re offered jewellery polish at a discounted price.

Another great way to cross-sell online is to offer recommendations based on what a customer just purchased. If you’ve ever bought a book or DVD from Amazon you’ll recall that after you’ve made your purchase, Amazon will provide you with several recommendations, saying “People who bought the book you just did also liked these books.”


Cross-selling is one of those things you get better at the more you do it. As you gain experience and confidence you’ll get a feel for when cross-selling opportunities crop up. Learning the art of cross-selling is not something you should ignore – it’s an essential marketing tool and a very effective way to increase your sales, and inevitably, your profits.

Consider your offering and your customers. Always keep in mind what benefits you can offer to the customer by cross-sell offers, because it’s the best tactic to use when convincing them.

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