If, as many business owners insist, it is easier to sell to an existing client than to a new one, then those just starting out on their business journey should get to grips with the concept of upselling and cross selling.
Upselling is described as encouraging the purchase of something that would make the primary purchase more expensive, while cross-selling relates to the purchase of things in conjunction with the primary product. Success is inextricably linked to customer delight, so the key lies in convincing your customer that your suggestions for additional purchases will be of real benefit to them.
Helen Campbell, founder of business coaching and training company Jazz Cat, works with a number of creative startup founders. Her advice is to put yourself in your client’s shoes and tailoring your offering to their specific needs.
“By upselling or cross selling your services appropriately you can help your client achieve their goal, for example, more time, peace of mind, or a solution to a problem,” she says.
It is all about adding value and the difference between ‘selling’ something to someone and adding value is huge. Your goal should be to support your customers in reaching their own.
“The key skill is to listen, hear your client’s needs and offer innovative and practical options,” says Campbell. “I’ve heard of people being replaced because they didn’t think big enough for their clients. Think big, be brave.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that upselling can be 20 times more effective than cross selling, probably because once they have a specific purchase in mind customers don’t want to be distracted by something else. However, something that makes their first purchase better has far more chance of encouraging them to buy.
One of the golden rules of upselling is to ensure that it is highly relevant or complementary to the current purchase. “It’s the jewellery, the cardigan, the shoes to go with the dress. It’s the better gadget with more features,” says Marie Brown, founder of Beyond the Kitchen Table, which works with small businesses to help them grow.
It’s important that staff in a shop are properly trained in knowing what to suggest; online the process can be automated, but it still needs to be carefully thought through. And rather than ‘selling it’, show the customer how it can help them with a problem they may or may not know they have.
“It might be ‘we also have this gadget that can also do X, therefore saving you time or the purchase of another gadget’,” adds Brown. “I recently bought a more expensive printer on the basis that the ink would cost me a lot less over three years.”
Digital gifting platform Swych has a consumer arm and a corporate arm and successfully upsells in both. Through its app customers can upload any plastic gift cards they have received and always have access to the digitized version on their phone, keeping the gift value present with them when they are shopping.
CEO Deepak Jain says: “Once the consumer has engaged with us through these services we upsell the convenience of sending a gift card to their loved one on a birthday or anniversary just by a few clicks on the app. So our philosophy of upselling is based on saving them time and money.”
Through its corporate arm Swych helps other companies solve key problems via gifting. For example, the company built a Chinese gift portal within WeChat to help Chinese shoppers visiting the U.S. to shop digitally at large retailers using their Chinese bank accounts.
“We have upselling opportunities to bring more services to the Chinese travelers, such as hotel reservations, live event tickets, access to ride sharing apps etc.,” says Jain. “They can skip cash or plastic and interact with more retailers and services during their visit.”
While upselling and cross selling can create opportunities to build both your brand and your business, done badly, they can be equally damaging. As Lou Ellerton, associate director at Mash Strategy Studio, points out, customers buy from a particular brand because of the value it gives them, whether that is getting more for their money than they would from competitors, or about something less tangible, for example status or self-affirmation.
He says: “You need to know what that value is in order to successfully build on it to cross sell or upsell, and then leverage or reinforce it, not chip away at it. By trying to sell something that’s not relevant to your customers, lacks credibility from you, or can be delivered better by someone else, you dilute your brand, what you’re known for, your expertise in your customers’ eyes, and you risk losing them.”