“Modernizing” Your Cross-selling & Up-selling Strategy

April 13, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

Two of the quickest ways to increase sales productivity and results are to employ the age-old strategies of cross-selling and up-selling. McDonald’s fast food restaurants were the first to bring international acclaim to these techniques by teaching minimum wage employees to always ask, “Would you like some fries with that shake?” …or, “Could I interest you in a hot apple pie to go with your meal?”McDonalds(2)

Most vendors today offer more than one solution—and oftentimes, a suite of complementary products, which is good because most customers have more than one need. Thus, getting a foot in the door with one product or service can easily pave the way to broader conversations about other potential opportunities. Expanding your sales conversations to include other peripheral opportunities is traditionally known as Cross-selling, or selling across multiple product lines. Up-selling is similar in terms of leveraging your customer relationships within an account to transform small opportunities into much larger pieces of business.

Cross-selling and Up-selling are both strategic mindsets that come from focusing on the underlying implications of the customer’s problem, goals, wants, needs, and desires, which extends far beyond just fixating on the problem itself. For example, when a customer walks through the front doors of a McDonald’s, they typically want something to eat. Of course, when they order something to eat, it makes sense that they might also want something to drink. And let’s not forget dessert! This thinking has become second nature for the folks who work behind the counter at any McDonald’s.

So, what if your business is selling office furniture, instead of selling burgers and fries? Isn’t it likely that customers who are interested in buying desks and chairs might also need bookcases, file cabinets, or other accessories that would further compliment their office? This same mentality can easily be applied within any sales organization that offers a catalogue of complimentary solutions. Whether you sell technology, manufactured goods, medical supplies, or consulting services, your ability to deliver valuable solutions in one area can easily pave the way to provide additional products and services, both now and in the future.

I not only encourage, I specifically teach sellers to make this notion of Cross-selling and Up-selling a conscious practice. With minimal effort on the part of the sales team, sellers can leverage their current business relationships to broaden the scope of their conversations to include other areas where they offer products and services that provide additional value. One approach is to be direct and to the point, where you simply ask the customer if they would like some “fries” with their “shake.” A more modern day method of broadening your sales opportunities is to take a softer tack, by asking:

Salesperson:Mr. Customer, since we are already working with you to solve this very important problem, would it make sense to take a more strategic look at how we may be able to save you time, money and effort in other areas of your business as well?”

My personal favorite Cross-selling/Up-selling question is a specific technique I developed over many years of teaching sales organizations how to jump-start their needs development conversations. At the appropriate time, you simply ask:

Salesperson: “Mr. Customer, besides the obvious goal of ______, ______, and ­­­­______, what specifically are you most concerned about?”

This question works particularly well when dealing with buyers who are reticent, skeptical, or standoffish. Rather than just generically probing for “what” issues might be most important to them, this technique gives sellers an opportunity to demonstrate a level of thoughtfulness and professional fortitude with in the delivery of the question itself. You simply fill in the blanks with two or three decision factors that might be relevant to the customer’s situation, like asking: “Besides the obvious goals of reliability, regulatory compliance, and finding the most cost effective solution, what specifically are you most concerned about?” Of course, whenever a salesperson introduces two or three relevant business issues or decision factors into the conversation, prospective customers who fancy themselves as knowledgeable will likely raise two, three or four additional areas of interest, thereby expanding the conversation, and in turn, the number of reasons to purchase more of your products and services.

Now, how about one of those hot apple pies?

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