Learning the art of cross-selling to increase sales

Cross-selling is the act of telling customers that whatever they’re buying from you would be of greater value if they purchased a complementary item.

Ways to sell complementary items

By learning how to cross-sell, you’ll be able to increase your business’s sales. For example, if you’re selling women’s clothing and someone buys a dress from your store, you’ve then got an opportunity to cross-sell by encouraging them to purchase a scarf as well.

There are genuine benefits for your customers. They’ll appreciate being offered an item that complements what they’ve just bought. It may be something they weren’t even considering.

So when you’re cross-selling, keep your customers’ needs uppermost in mind and try to:

  • Create a sense of urgency around buying the complementary item. For instance, ‘50% off –today only!’ will probably be hard for consumers to walk away from.
  • Ensure the complementary product or service is relevant to your customers’ main purchase. For example, offering fries and a soft drink with a burger purchase works, whereas offering some discounted sunglasses with that same burger may not.
  • Clearly communicate the value of the second product or service. For instance, you could train your sales staff to know your business’s complementary items inside-out, so they’re confident when discussing their added value.

Convince customers that what they’ve just bought would be so much better with another product – one that they’ll need at some point. For example, if you’re selling laptops, also aim to sell a mouse, mouse pad and headphones as complementary items.

Examine your customer data

Take a look at your sales data and try to identify trends to see what could be sold. For example, if you operate a menswear store and sales for jeans are strong, but belt and sock sales are weak, consider offering belts and socks as complementary items at special prices.

Improve the way you do business online

Most of us have been through the purchasing process of any big online retailer like eBay or Amazon. At some point during the buying, checkout, or after-sales process, you’ll probably have encountered a ‘pop-up’ offering you a complementary item for a discounted price.

Other sites may offer you a list of possible add-on purchases after you make payment. It could even be a list of products that people who purchased your original item also bought.

All of these tactics are forms of suggestive selling – in other words, cross-selling items that are complementary to your original purchase.

Bundle products or services together

By offering package deals you’ll have the opportunity to sell more. Bundling items together to make them more attractive to customers is a fairly common strategy.

For example, if you sell secondhand cars, you might add a GPS, stereo system and speakers to some models to enhance their appeal.

A few product bundling techniques include:

  • Pure bundling – where you offer a group of goods or services that are only available in a bundle and aren’t sold separately.
  • Mixed bundling – which involves selling products both as bundles and as individual units.

Spend time deciding which items to make complementary

Cross-selling isn’t something you want to improvise. Think about the products or services you’re selling and plan in advance the ones you could promote together. Come up with a plan on paper before deciding how to arrange your cross-sell items in-store or online.

Your package offers should be cheaper than the combined price of the original items.

Ensure your website is ready

This is particularly important if you’re conducting most of your business online. Analyze your website and decide on the key pages or points during the purchase process where you could offer your customers a complementary item.

For example, if you’re selling cosmetics online, make sure that when your customers click on a particular good, they’re offered some other related items at a discount.

Use incentives to tempt customers

Another strategy you might adopt to increase sales could involve tempting potential customers to spend slightly more in return for a reward.

For example, if you priced some goods in the range of $70-90 and you used some cross-selling techniques (along with offering free shipping on purchases over $100) some of your customers will likely round up their shopping carts to at least $100 so they get the free postage.

Combine products and services

If you have complementary areas of your business, you may be able to increase sales by combining products and services.

For example, barbershops will usually try to sell you hair products to go with your haircut. Likewise, gas stations offer duel roles of selling gasoline and serving as convenience stores.

Next steps

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