6 Tips for Successful Small-Business Cross-Selling

“Cross-selling” is a proven technique for increasing sales by offering customers a product or service related to what they’re already purchasing or planning to purchase.

Small-business owners may fear overdoing the sales pitch, but customers in general respond favorably when told about “extras” that may fulfill additional needs. Just as a golf club vendor might also sell gloves, bags, or scorecard holders, what can your business provide that adds value for customers?

Here are six tips for using cross-selling to expand your sales:

  1. Know your customers. Based on your knowledge of what people typically buy, determine what other products or services you offer that could complement purchases. Ask customers, either in person or online, “Are you aware that we also have these other products?” Outline the benefits of using two offerings together. Set up reminders in your database to follow up with customers (to inquire whether they’re now interested in purchasing the related product).
  2. Train your employees and sales staff. There’s a right way and a wrong way to cross-sell. The wrong way subjects unsuspecting prospects and customers to a pushy, overeager sales pitch. The right way is subtler and based on serving a customer’s needs. Train your staff to be ready to explain how other products and services can help to solve a customer’s problem — framed as a suggestion, not as a mandate.
  3. Leverage your company’s website. Cross-selling opportunities abound on your site. Liberally sprinkle images and content about related products and services on relevant pages, in a way that educates shoppers about all your business has to offer. The goal is to keep the range of your products at the top of customers’ minds as they explore your site.
  4. Automate your recommendations online. Just as Amazon automatically recommends books similar to those you buy, you can automate your cross-selling efforts, too. Add a recommendation engine to your website that suggests complementary items when customers place items in their cart or check out.
  5. Cross-sell via email. In your ongoing email communications with customers, feature different products throughout the year. Share customer testimonials, success stories, and other information about complementary offerings. Your email signature also can be a useful cross-selling tool; incorporate a description of a new or related product with a link to its page on your website.
  6. Offer bundles or levels of service. Bundling is a popular method for getting consumers interested in buying a group of items, rather than a single item (“Do you want fries with that?”). Offering a discount for a bundled package makes it doubly appealing. Consider a “tiered scale” of service (with low-, mid- and high-priced levels), so that customers may choose among the different price points. A variation on bundling is to offer free shipping when customers meet a specific price threshold.

Don’t fall into the trap of cross-selling for the sake of cross-selling. You may succeed once or twice, but savvy consumers will quickly realize that you aren’t providing value in exchange for an additional purchase. Cross-sell only when it genuinely benefits your customers.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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