How to upsell and cross sell effectively


by Ron D’Andrea


Do you want fries with that?

The question of a generation. The moment of upsell. It’s now such a natural question that we don’t even notice it. The customer has bought the product she wanted, and she is happy with it. But the “want fries-with-that guy” can see that this extra item will really give the customer a full meal, and add both revenue and bottom-line profitability for the restaurant.

Generally, B2C sales experiences often take advantage of upsell opportunities, but in the B2B world, there are still far too many missed opportunities to sell a more complete solution that actually more fully meets the client needs, and at the same time builds both margin and customer satisfaction. Keep reading to learn how to improve your upselling and cross selling metrics.

Upselling and cross selling doesn’t mean you throw everything you have at every customer you have. Pushing on a customer goods or services that he or she doesn’t need will undermine your main solution and damage your credibility in the process. However, often customers don’t understand the full depth and breadth of their own business, personal, and technical needs, or how you can help them more fully satisfy the needs they recognize. By helping your customer see needs they didn’t know they had, or appreciating how you can help them in ways they didn’t realize, you improve their experience and create bigger, more profitable deals for yourself.

Founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos knows. We should think of “our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

When you look at the metrics, there’s a lot of reason for getting your upselling and cross selling right:

Marketing Metrics tells us an existing customer has a 60% to 70% chance of buying again, but the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20%.

Lee Resource Inc. tells us that “Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer,” while Bain & Company puts that rate at 6 to 7 times more.

So how can you make your upsell or cross sell part of your customer’s positive experience with your company?

Earn loyalty – you’re not owed it

Marketing Metrics tells us it’s “about 50% easier to upsell and cross sell to existing clients than to find new ones,” but that’s not a given. You can’t assume you’ll make the sale just because you’ve worked together before.

Take the time to plan your dialogue. Engage the customer. Ask enough of the right types of questions to help them explore the depth and breadth of their needs – especially needs they had not considered, or needs they had known you could satisfy.

Understand what success means for your customer

Ask them what they want to achieve with your product and how they will measure that success, so you are better able to help them meet their goals. A natural suggestion of a logical upsell or cross-sell product within a conversation is going to be far more effective than piling on suggestions in a stand-up pitch. Carefully select the solutions you offer in both upselling and cross selling: Are you offering something that would help your customer succeed? Can you demonstrate the ROI?

Listen to your customer

Whether it’s a brand-new prospect, or a customer with whom you’ve worked for years, listen to your customer’s ideas, goals, priorities and concerns. By listening, you encourage them to talk more, and you’ll hear more about the problems they’re having, or their plans for growth – making it easier for you to expand your solution and genuinely help them. Remember, listen to understand, not just respond.  

Get the balance right

Upselling is a balancing act. Of course you want to have more of the pie, but you don’t want to be pushy or obnoxious. Making money can’t come at the expense of your clients’ profitability and success, so make your concern genuine. If you come across as even a bit self-serving, it’ll show – and it’ll destroy the trust your customer has in you. Make your upsell or cross sell organic, as a natural part of the lifecycle of the relationship with the customer, and time it to suit your customer’s timeline – not yours.

Consider what you’re offering

Your upsell is a more expensive version of what your customer has already committed to. If you genuinely believe the pricier version will contribute to your customer’s success, then offer it. But do it by clearly explaining the benefits in relation to your customer’s experience. Many software companies and online services have a visual comparison between their services or products – something you should consider creating for your company.

With cross selling you’re looking at offering possibly unrelated components from different parts of your company. Tailor your offer to exactly suit your customer’s needs.

Use real-life examples – statistics, soundbites and data from like customers (with their approval) – to help your customer see exactly how they stand to benefit.

Keep in touch

Both with your customer and within your company – with each other. A holistic approach to your B2B relationships will show your customers your left hand knows what your right hand is doing and will ensure both credibility and secure long-term relationship that will keep your customers coming back, upgrading, cross buying and recommending you for years to come.

How do you deal with upselling and cross selling? Have you a sure-fire way of making money and keeping hold of your credibility as a company that genuinely cares? Are you ready to improve your upselling and cross selling metrics? Contact us today.

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