Ever been to McDonald’s and heard the question “Do you want fries with that?” This simple question must have earned McDonald’s billions of dollars over the last two or three decades.
It is funny then that most salespeople, sales managers, and CEOs don’t even attempt to replicate the same selling technique across their own customer base.
Cross-selling can be a major earner for any business, regardless of sector. The ability to sell more to someone who is already loyal is an incredibly cost-efficient way of doing things, not least because extra profit is made, but also because no resources need to be used to locate and acquire a new customer.
What’s more, showing a customer that you understand their wants and needs can act not only make you profit in the short term but to boost customer retention in the long run.
If, on the other hand, your cross-selling attempts go wrong, you can leave a customer feeling as though you don’t understand their business, or as though they’re just another name and number waiting to be called in your CRM system.
Listed below are 5 tips you should take on board when attempting to cross-sell.
1. “Would you like an Xbox with that Big Mac?”
So imagine that you’ve just ordered a Big Mac and the strange-looking teenager behind the till asks you the question above.
You’d be pretty confused.
Well, you can leave your customers feeling just as confused when cross-selling if you don’t go into the call with a logical purpose.
Asking the wrong question of the wrong person at the wrong time (or any combination of those three things) will result in your customer feeling bemused and questioning the relationship.
It’s important to think about the original sale and the nature of the customer’s business before trying to sell a thing.
Just because one cross-sells will work for one of your customers doesn’t mean you should try the same technique with everyone. Nobody in Mcdonald's offers you fries with a McFlurry, after all.
Offering inexpensive, simple, or complementary items will make the conversation much easier and a lot more natural. It’s also easier to offer these products if they’re new to your catalog.
“Hi John, we just got this great new XYZ in and I thought of you straightaway…” is a great opening line to any sales call; it makes the customer feel valued. As long as the product is a match for them, that is.
If you have to force a sale too much, then this may be a sign that either the customer or the product is not right this time around. Let it come naturally and the product should do the rest of the talking.
Put some thought into your call before you make it, too. Think of a nice, personal line to start with like the one above. It’s often said that there’s no harm in trying, but in the case of cross-selling, you risk making a customer feel as though you don’t understand their business by trying to sell them pointless products.
Timing is everything when it comes to cross-selling.
In some senses, it’s a great idea to cross-sell to a customer right at the beginning of the relationship. If someone is buying a $20,000 car from you and you offer them a $5 air freshener, their attitude may well be “Sure, what’s another $5?”.
If, however, you call them a few weeks later and offer them a $5 air freshener, their attitude may well be different; they’re now in a different state of mind. And, while it’s important to take advantage of this, it’s just as important not to get ahead of yourself and push the cross-selling opportunity so much that you lose sales altogether.
The important thing to consider is how committed the customer/potential customer is to the sale. If you’re calling a customer who has ordered the same thing from you every month for the last 5 years, it’s well worth pushing the cross-sell because you know that they’re committed to you and will be likely to both listen to what you have to say and, also, to keep ordering if they don’t like what you tell them.
If, on the other hand, you’re calling a customer whose orders have been slipping month on month, you should probably try to find out what their current challenges are and why the order is slipping before you try to make them buy anything else.
Again, it’s important to remember that cross-selling is a completely situational thing. Your best judgment should be used whenever deciding whether or not it’s the right time to push for more.
3. Knowledge is power
Having a thorough knowledge of all of your products or services will help determine if there’s an opportunity to make an extra sale.
Assume your first effort doesn’t work and you find out why the customer said no, a deep knowledge of your product catalog may help you to counter their reason with another cross-sell offer.
Know common matches between products, why these are paired, and how they can benefit the customer to help convincingly make the sale. There’s certainly no point in offering contradictory items at first, no matter how advantageous they may be as stand-alone items.
“Hi there, I know you buy 10 gallons of ice cream from us every month, would you like to add any car tires to the order?”
That said, knowledge is a two-way street, and it’s just as important to learn from your customer as it is to teach them something new about what your business offers.
If you spoke to the customer about their current challenges, you may find out that they own a fleet of ice cream trucks that need new tires every year, and that there’s an opportunity to purchase a small amount of them monthly for cash flow and storage purposes. Who knows? Nobody does. Not until you ask.
As I said above, it’s incredibly important to treat every cross-selling opportunity as a unique one because, no matter how well two products may seem to go together, every company faces unique challenges. Sure, lead with the obvious cross-sell, but when they’re not so keen, delve deeper into the challenges they’re facing to understand them.
That way, you can offer a product that they may need if you already have one in stock or, if you spot a trend across the customer base, your R&D team can either source or create a product that fits that market-wide need.
4. Customer first
Never lose sight of the reason that you are cross-selling.
It should only ever be done if it has a substantial benefit to the customer. Any attempt at making a sale that is simply for the business’ own financial gain will come across as too forceful and, in the long run, lose more business than it will gain.
It’s important therefore, before walking into the meeting or picking up the phone, to work out exactly what the benefit is to the customer and, when you do start to speak, make sure that you lead with that very benefit, telling them exactly why that product made you think of their business.
If you don’t – even if the product is perfect for their business – it may feel to them as though you’re simply trying to milk them dry.
5. Build a bond
Sometimes, you should see cross-selling as a tool to build loyalty and protect your market share as much as to boost sales. In fact, many businesses will use cross-selling to keep accounts from slipping.
Say, for example, one of your customer’s orders has been slowing down over the last few months. You can quickly nip this in the bud by making them a cross-sell offer that’s too good to turn down. “If you continue to buy ABC we’ll give you 2,000 XYZ every month for next to nothing.”
The extra value that they’ll get from this deal will make them stick around for even longer.
Even if they see the product they originally purchased from you at a cheaper price elsewhere, they know that shifting the business to one of your competitors means they’ll lose the other great deal that they get from you.
Using cross-sell, ‘loss leader’ deals like this may mean you don’t make as much on the related product, but can keep customers on board for years.
Do you have any other tips to add to the list or glaring mistakes to avoid? Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion in the box below.