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Cross-Selling Tips and Techniques

Apply these cross merchandising methods to sell more to each customer.

Editor’s note: After we ran “Make More Sales with Less Effort,” readers asked for specific examples of cross-selling techniques. The following is Part 2 of that initial article.

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Now that you get the idea of cross selling, and how effectively it can increase your sales at the moment your engaged customer has his or her wallet open, this is the perfect time to appropriately suggest additional items that might be of use or interest to the customer.

As a seller, your goal should not only be to convert as many sales as possible but also to increase your average order size—that means selling more to each customer. The key is to suggest the additional items while cross selling and doing so in a way that provides the best potential to encourage the customer to say, “Yes, I’ll take that, too.”

In Make More Sales with Less Effort, I explained how cross selling can help you sell more items in each transaction. Since success is often determined in the delivery of the message, here are even more tips and techniques for truly mastering these long-practiced and highly profitable cross-selling methods.

Remember your purpose

As a quick recap, I’ll answer the seemingly simple question, “Why cross sell?” Naturally, you’ll cross sell because you want to sell more products to each customer, right? Well, yes, but that’s not your entire purpose. Consider the following:

  • Cross selling can also be highly effective in developing a relationship with your customers. When you cross sell, you begin the introduction and education process with your customers, helping them better understand the variety of products you offer and how your products can suit and satisfy their wants and needs. In a way, you’re helping customers get to know you and your business by the products you offer.
  • When you cross sell using a method of targeted product relevance (that is, suggesting additional products that are relevant to what the customer has already indicated their intent to purchase), you communicate that you understand your customer. By carefully analyzing what the customer is buying, you step forward, through cross selling, to offer a relevant item that further enhances their purchase experience and overall purchase satisfaction.
  • When you practice restraint in the products you’ll cross sell, you’ll let the customer know they won’t be bombarded with “everything, and the kitchen sink” as they desperately try to purchase a particular item and escape your store. If you overplay your cross-selling approach, you’ll unwittingly telegraph that you’re a high-pressure seller, something most customers will avoid going forward.
Insert images of related products on each product page of your Web store

Where and when to cross sell

Location is everything, an ubiquitous truth that also applies to where and when you stage products for cross sell. Consider these two prime locations for best cross sell results:

  • On a product page: For online shoppers, many have shown an inclination to research additional items while they’re making their purchase selections. It’s common that, upon reviewing details of a product that interests them, they’ll also click to learn more about a well-placed, relevant product. For this reason, insert images of related products on each product page of your Web store.
  • At cart review: When customers are readying to complete their orders—and this holds true for online as well as traditional brick-and-mortar situations—this is when they’re also apt to add something more to their order. Before they begin the online checkout process, you can indicate a few select items that are relevant to what’s in their cart (consider how offers “more by this artist” to CD buyers). Next, consider the items that are visibly displayed as you approach a brick-and-mortar checkout counter. Both settings operate on the final impulse buy addition… and it’s effective.

For online sales settings, be sure to feature small images (“thumbnails”) of products you wish to cross sell while the customer is viewing their cart contents. Cross-sell product images should be accompanied by a brief text description and price of the product. Make the product thumbnail and text “clickable” to allow the customer to navigate to the details of the product and be sure they can easily navigate back to their cart contents page. Also, include an “add to cart” link that will immediately add the item to the customer’s cart prior to their entering the checkout process.

Don’t forget about third-party tools

It’s useful for you to know the value of third-party tools, such as the Auctiva Scrolling Gallery and the Auctiva Emporium. Both solutions are well suited for embedding into your merchandising plan, at eBay or at your own site, to help shoppers easily see additional products you have for sale.

Both of these cross-merchandising tools are free, and quite effective.

Using better copy in your cross selling

Use cross-sell messages that add a sense of personalization and even familiarity

While cross selling is a technique in practice and implementation, don’t overlook its power as a conversation point and relationship builder. The copy—that is, the actual messaging—you use in communicating cross-sell products can be invaluable in further establishing a spark in your prospective customers.

So rather than using simple messaging like, “Would you also like X,” try these more emotive and engaging cross selling messages:

  • Protect your purchase with these top-rated padded carry-bags.
  • Don’t forget the batteries—add them to your order before you check out.
  • A great selection. Here are a few accessories that you’ll also love.
  • Starting your collection? Add to it now with one or more of these

Notice how the preceding cross-sell messages add a sense of personalization and even familiarity between a customer and the seller. In essence, this copy works as a quick but friendly conversation as the seller shows he or she is looking out for the best interests of the customer.

When you work on your cross-selling techniques, feel free to experiment with your cross-selling approach in regard to the number of products to offer for cross sell (usually between five to eight items, depending on your site design), the point when you’ll suggest the cross sell, and the method in which you message the cross sell. Try variations of these techniques and track the results. Soon, you’ll have your own tried-and-true methods to cross sell for better profits.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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