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Article 8 min read

What is cross-selling? The complete guide (+ examples)

Cross-selling is the process of selling a related product or service to an existing customer.

Por Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Última actualización el August 23, 2023

“Do you want to make that a meal?”

If you’ve heard a fast food restaurant employee utter this phrase through the drive-thru intercom system, you’ve already experienced one of the most common examples of cross-selling.

Fast food restaurants capitalize on cross-selling opportunities during nearly every transaction because it’s effective and creates a better customer experience (CX). Any sales or support team can utilize this sales tactic.

To cross-sell effectively, you’ll need to understand the basics—what the concept means, how it benefits your bottom line, and how to do it successfully.

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is a sales technique that involves selling customers a product that relates to or supplements a current or past purchase.

When a customer service representative cross-sells, they persuade the buyer to purchase additional products that will benefit them—often via increased functionalities.

How does cross-selling work?

A sales rep might use cross-selling with a first-time client by suggesting they buy a bundle of IT accessories to supplement their software purchase. A support agent, on the other hand, can encourage existing customers to buy additional products based on their current needs.

Cross-selling is largely a situational sales technique, but it typically follows a standard process:

  1. A customer makes a purchase.

  2. A sales rep follows up with the customer to identify unmet needs.

  3. The sales rep recommends products that supplement the original purchase and meet the customer’s needs.

  4. The customer decides whether or not to purchase the related product.

  5. If the customer passes on the product, the representative will follow up later and pitch them again—if the situation warrants it.

Benefits of cross-selling

The most obvious benefit of cross-selling is the revenue increase, but there are also long-term wins that come with using this sales technique.

Advantages of cross-selling

Cross-sell vs. upsell

Cross-selling persuades a customer to buy other products or services that complement another purchase.

Upselling encourages a buyer to purchase a higher-end, more expensive product or service. To see how the two sales tactics differ, consider these e-commerce sales examples.

Cross-sell vs. upselling

Cross-selling examples

Cross-selling often happens near the moment of purchase when customers are already in the buying mindset. At that point, they’re more open to add-ons and complementary products.

Here are a few examples of brands that excel at cross-selling.

Chupi: Cross-selling on product pages

Many companies include “customers also bought,” “frequently bought together,” “you may also like,” or similar sections on product or service pages to showcase items that customers may want (or need) to add to their order.

Chupi, a fine jewelry retailer, cross-sells to shoppers by recommending additional products they may like beneath the product they are interested in.

Chupi jewelry page

The jewelry store also uses its customer service team to support sales representatives’ cross-selling efforts. Customers often call or message the Chupi team for more information about products, and Chupi encourages this by incorporating chat widgets on product pages.

Chupi jewelry page

The customer care team answers questions compassionately, and when the customer is nearly ready to make a purchase, the support agent deftly passes them along to a salesperson. Once the agent escalates the ticket, the salesperson can book a virtual consultation with the customer and follow up with a package. This strategy has yielded an impressive conversion rate of 65 percent.

Thrasio: Turning complaints into sales

This scenario is perfect in a customer support environment.

In the case of Thrasio, the next-gen consumer goods company takes a positive approach when customer issues arise, sharing effective solutions with consumers in the form of cross-sell opportunities.

Thrasio agents leverage rich customer data and support interactions to recommend the best products to resolve customer pain points, satisfying the customer and boosting revenue.

Mizzen+Main: Customer service cross-selling

Mizzen+Main

Mizzen+Main, an online menswear retailer, utilizes Zendesk to enable support agents to quickly pivot to sales when the need arises. As a result, agents can create cross-sell opportunities at scale.

Mizzen+Main helps support teams attain sales goals by equipping them with important context about customers, including their purchase history, clothing sizes, open orders, and general account details.

Armed with this information, agents can personalize customer interactions, sell items that complement past purchases, and act as personal shoppers to drive sales.

Staples Canada: Cross-selling via white-glove customer service

Staples Canada, an Ontario-based office supply retailer, found cross-selling success by providing white-glove service and building connections with online shoppers.

The retailer discovered that by prioritizing customer loyalty over traditional sales strategies, support agents often succeeded in identifying and capitalizing on cross-selling opportunities, especially for home office setups. Using Zendesk and key integrations, agents gained access to a 360-degree view of customer interactions, allowing them to personalize conversations and product recommendations.

This shift from conventional sales tactics to personalized, data-driven service contributed to a 15 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

Staples quote

Upselling examples

Timing and positioning are key to upselling success. You’re not overtly trying to get customers to spend more money—just striving to help them reach their goals and improve their overall experience.

MOO: Using integrations to upsell

Customers who use your product regularly will likely want to connect it with other tools in their tech stack. Reserve certain integrations for higher-tier plans as an incentive to upsell your most engaged users.

MOO is an online printing company that serves businesses around the globe. The business relies on sales and support teams to upsell to customers and utilizes several integrations to streamline the process and maximize results.

Moo

To achieve a 360 view of their customers and identify upgrade opportunities, the customer success team at MOO uses Zendesk time-saving integrations such as Salesforce, Playvox, and Trustpilot.

Using these tools, agents and representatives know when to pitch premium customizations, suggest higher-quality materials and finishes, or prompt customers to buy again after a certain amount of time passes.

UPSTACK: Monitoring user actions and data

Push an upgrade too quickly or forcefully, and you risk annoying customers from your sales funnel.

Instead, create triggers that suggest upgrades based on specific actions. Say a user is signed up for a basic plan but clicks on a higher-level feature in an attempt to use it. This could trigger a simple pop-up window that encourages them to upgrade their plan to access the feature.

UPSTACK, a New York-based software company, uses these methods and intake forms to collect data and capitalize on upsell opportunities. This data also showed UPSTACK the value of integrating the success team into sales.

By monitoring user actions and data, UPSTACK doubled its annual revenue.

Grant customers’ wishes for deeper personalization

In the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, 62 percent of customers said that personalized recommendations are useful. Learn how you can leverage your support team to encourage cross-selling and drive more profits.

How to develop a cross-selling strategy

To develop effective cross-selling strategies, businesses must first understand who they’re selling to. Businesses can gather this information by:

  • Surveying customers

  • Reviewing support request notes

  • Tracking buying behaviors

  • Assessing customer segment data to predict customer needs

  • Unifying data across teams and departments

Once you have this information, you can determine which sales techniques will be most effective and build detailed processes and goals for each.

8 effective cross-selling techniques

You may be sold on the value of cross-selling, but before you get started, you need a foolproof cross-selling strategy. Keep these guidelines in mind as you build out your game plan.

1. Utilize integrations

Use apps and integrations to collect sales and marketing data in your preferred customer service tool. Sales and support teams can benefit from integrations.

Support teams often use integrations to access customers’:

  • Past orders

  • Shopping cart items

  • Used email offers

Armed with this knowledge, agents can provide outstanding personalized support and product recommendations to resolve a pain point, and often help nurture leads until they are ready to meet with a salesperson.

With integrations, sales representatives can review the interaction history and notes from customer support to provide additional recommendations and close the deal.

2. Build trust by only pitching relevant products

Using data from customer relationship management (CRM) tools, customer support software, and integrations, agents can recommend different products that supplement or complement a past purchase.

It’s essential that sales and service teams only encourage customers to purchase products they truly need or can benefit from. Aside from averting customer churn, following this best practice helps keep customer loyalty and satisfaction high and prevents reputational damage from occurring.

3. Address customer pain points early

Buyers are more likely to trust your recommendations if you’ve done the homework to prove you’re knowledgeable about your products or services and customer pain points.

Use the following tools to learn how consumers use and react to your products and services:

  • Case studies

  • Testimonials

  • Reviews

  • Survey responses

Studying feedback about buyer pain points isn’t always a pleasant exercise, but it’s critical. By learning what is and isn’t working for customers, you can improve your offerings and tailor recommendations.

To learn from customer feedback, you first need processes for collecting input. For example, once a customer makes a purchase, your support team could send them a survey to gather information about their experience. Or, your sales team could ask a customer about their experience during a follow-up call.

Tweak your cross-selling approach based on buyer input. The more you can learn about what your customers actually want and need, the more positive your cross-selling experiences will be.

4. Offer several purchase options

Make it easy for your customer base to make cross-sell purchases by offering several options. This can include offering different payment methods like:

  • Apple Pay

  • Debit or credit cards

  • Checks

However, businesses should also consider the most convenient channels for a customer to submit payment. Not everybody wants to enter their details into a website or download an app.

Look into your customer data to uncover preferences. You may find the ability to make a payment over the phone or live chat is more useful to shoppers and may increase lead conversion rates.

5. Don’t oversell it

Be honest about the additional product you’re attempting to sell, including its features, how it works, and how it will benefit the customer.

Avoid making broad generalizations about the tool and going on a tangent about why the customer should want it. Listen closely to buyers’ needs and make relevant, personalized recommendations.

6. Bundle products and services

Turn a cross-sell into a convenient solution for a customer by bundling products or services.

With most companies, it’s less expensive to purchase bundles than it is to buy individual products or services separately. Bundles are still a win for businesses because customers are more likely to accept a cross-sell if it’s a deal. As long as the bundle price isn’t too low, it’s better to secure the larger order than settle for a single-item order.

Say you pitch a product to a customer, but they are hesitant to buy it because they only need one feature; this would be the time to offer a bundle at a reduced price. Or if they have items in their shopping cart for a long time but don’t complete the checkout process, businesses can promote a related product and offer to bundle it as an extra incentive.

It’s a win-win: Rather than buying both products separately, the customer gets what they need for a more appealing price while increasing their account value.

7. Teach your support team sales techniques

One of the best ways to increase cross-selling success is by training support agents and helping them develop the skills to make sales.

A customer may be more inclined to accept product recommendations from a customer service agent because they approach the situation with the goal of resolving the buyer’s problem.

On the other hand, when a customer talks to a salesperson, they may consider even the most relevant recommendations to be a cash grab from someone with a quota. Of course, this isn’t always the case—but when it comes to weary customers, customer service agents can help by preparing them to convert.

8. Message customers proactively

Use available data about user events and interactions to identify the best moments to contact customers—before they report an issue.

If you anticipate shipping delays or system outages, or if customers are showing signs that they are missing key functionalities or are interested in a new product, proactive messages can help you get ahead of the situation and prepare your customers.

Cross-selling FAQ

Learn more about the nuances of cross-selling and how to do it well.

When shouldn’t you cross-sell?

Support agents and sales representatives shouldn’t cross-sell if the:

  • Product is irrelevant or doesn’t benefit the customer

  • Customer is likely to return the product, costing your business money

  • Sale may damage your company’s reputation

Agents who don’t have enough rapport or understanding of customer needs should also avoid cross-selling.

Is cross-selling ethical?

Yes, if you do it correctly. The goal of cross-selling should always be to add value to the customer. Only cross-sell when you believe another product will be beneficial and enhance the customer experience.

Never resort to deception, manipulation, or pressure selling to force a customer to purchase a product they don’t want. Not only is this unethical, but it can permanently damage your reputation, open you up to lawsuits, or cause you to lose revenue.

How often should agents suggest additional merchandise to customers at the end of a sale?

There is no preset rule for how often sales representatives should cross-sell to customers. However, if cross-selling opportunities arise organically, you can provide additional recommendations.

Here are some ways to determine if it makes sense to pitch additional products or services to a customer:

  • Ask customers sales questions to understand if they have any other needs or lingering concerns.
  • Check in with customers regularly to gauge their needs and interests as they acclimate to your offerings.

  • Follow up with products that can resolve a customer’s issue after they contact support.

What are the disadvantages of cross-selling?

The only true downfall of cross-selling is that it’s a waiting game—sales representatives must keep tabs on customer needs to identify the perfect time to cross-sell. However, from that stems some other potential disadvantages. For example, cross-selling can:

  • Reduce trust: If representatives pressure customers to buy additional products or services they don’t need, it can leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths and make them distrust any future recommendations.
  • Sometimes lead to customer dissatisfaction: Customers may become angry if representatives attempt to sell them products they don’t need after they just paid a lot of money for another item. Or if they agree to the purchase and don’t see the promised result, they blame the people who sold it to them.
  • Lead to profit losses: When representatives cross-sell to customers who don’t fit well into the business model, it often leads to a lot of turbulence and can drain profits.

To prevent these issues from arising, ensure your team always recommends products with customers’ best interests in mind.

Cross-selling is a team effort

Support teams focus on facilitating successful outcomes for customers, so they’re in a great position to cross-sell at times when sales teams may not be able to.

To successfully blend different types of sales and support, you must offer the cross-sell at the right time. One way to achieve this is to use a CRM to create a strategy and keep track of where buyers are in their customer journey.

Zendesk Sell includes both support and sales features to simplify lifecycle tracking. Use this information to suggest the right products at the optimal time to provide your customers with a personalized experience that feels anything but salesy.

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