Cross-Selling Definition | 15 Powerful Tips

Daniel Threlfall

Cross-selling is one of the best ways to maximize average order value (AOV) and boost value for your customers.

Cross-selling is also one of the simplest ways to do so.

By directing a customer to other products that are relevant to what they’re already buying, you can provide them with massive value, while simultaneously boosting your revenue.

Here’s an overview of cross-selling, along with 15 powerful tips I’ve seen firsthand get massive results. 

Definition of Cross-Selling

Cross-selling is where you sell a related product to an existing customer.

This can be done at the time they’re making a purchase or later on once they’ve had time to use your product. 

The goal is to increase the value of the order by suggesting additional products that a customer will likely have an interest in based on what they’re buying or have bought. 

A Cross-Selling Example 

One of the products that Chili Piper offers is an appointment scheduling app. It’s similar to something like Calendly, but far more robust, feature-rich, easy-to-use, and ultra-functional. 

It’s also designed for high-powered sales and revenue teams, making it easy for them to book meetings fast and with precisely the right routing rules (if necessary).

Pricing is contingent upon a few different factors, including how many users the customer has and what specific features they want. 

If a customer had ten users, for example, it would cost $250 per month.

But another feature that Chili Piper offers is Concierge, which allows companies to instantly schedule meetings with leads, so they can strike while the iron is hot. 

Whenever a lead submits a form, Concierge allows them to choose a date and time that’s convenient for them and distributes inbound meetings to appropriate sales reps.

So, if a customer is going to use Chili Piper Meetings, we suggest using Concierge as well.

For the customer, it’s a massive win. Scheduling meetings instantly is a sales bonanza, meaning that leads are way more likely to convert. (We prove it, here.)

The power of Concierge means that leads can book a meeting in as little as twelve seconds. 

Scheduling only would cost $450 per month.

And scheduling + live calls would cost $600 per month. 

This way we would be cross-selling and offering an additional product to enhance the overall customer experience. 

In turn, the order value would jump from being just $250 per month to $450 or $600 per month.

See what I mean about maximizing the AOV?

It’s an obvious but important note that cross-selling has to be a win-win,. cliche as it sounds. The customer wins because she is getting massive value that has a clear ROI. And your business wins, because, of course. 

How Does Cross-Selling Differ from Upselling?

Here’s where we need to address a commonly asked question.

What’s the difference between cross-selling and upselling?

Cross-selling involves offering a related product, whereas upselling involves offering an alternative that has a higher cost. 

“For example, if a customer had already purchased a subscription to your marketing tool, upselling would encourage your customer to purchase an additional integration with another marketing tool to improve their experience,” explains Sophia Bernazzani of HubSpot

Now, let’s dive into the details. 

Here are 15 actionable cross-selling tips to get the absolute most from existing customers. 

Nail Your Timing

One of the most critical parts of winning at cross-selling is getting the timing right. 

Try to cross-sell too early, and you may scare a lead off before they’re ready to buy.

Wait too long, and any potential interest may have waned. 

There is no hard and fast rule for cross-selling timing, but you’ll usually want to attempt it when either A) a customer has already committed to a purchase or B) it makes sense to offer additional products later on. 

If, for instance, during a call, a lead mentions a specific pain point that can be resolved with a related product, that would be the perfect time to cross-sell. 

Or, if they’ve been using your product for six months, you could let them know about an additional product that could help them even more. 

Personalize Your Offerings

Personalization is an integral part of modern sales and marketing across the board, and cross-selling is no exception.

According to Stacey Rudolph of Business 2 Community, only 7% of website traffic comes from personalized product recommendations, but they account for 26% of revenue. 

So, you never want to take a one-size-fits-all approach here. 

Instead, your sales reps should look at each customer as an individual, taking their unique needs into account when deciding their offerings. 

Say for instance, a Chili Piper customer has demonstrated a clear need to increase their speed to lead and reach out to leads faster.

We may suggest a way to instantly book meetings to ensure leads aren’t left hanging.

It’s all about gathering key data and actively listening to customers to identify which specific products they would benefit the most from. 

Then, have your sales reps base their offerings around that. 

Keep it Natural

Your customers are smart.

Most will instantly know when someone’s trying to sell them irrelevant add-ons, attempting to force a square peg in a round hole. 

And it’s obvious when a rep is taking a used car salesman approach, where they’re deliberately trying to crank up the sales total without offering genuine value.

The key to thriving with cross-selling is keeping it natural by offering helpful advice rather than urging a customer to buy additional products they don’t really need. 

It’s all about being on the lookout for cues where it makes sense to inject other product offerings. 

That’s why it’s so important for sales reps to know your product inside and out and understand how to make smooth segues during conversations. 

Ask the Right Questions

I don’t need to tell you how important relationships are for winning over customers and preventing churn. 

As Alexandra Gehringer of Idomoo explains, “The majority of customers churn because they failed to connect with your brand or because an event occurred that caused them to disconnect.”

More specifically, 16% of customer churn is attributed to weak relationship building. 

But you can fortify your brand’s relationships, while simultaneously identifying cross-selling opportunities by asking the right questions. 

So, give your reps a list of questions to ask throughout their interactions so they’ll know what to focus on. 

John Cutler of Pendo offers 50 potential questions to ask B2B SaaS customers, which can aid in your list-building. 

Keep Your Offerings Simple

One mistake I see many sales reps make is overwhelming customers with too many choices. 

Offering one or two additional products is fine, and a customer should be able to quickly see how those products would benefit them.

But offering several products could overload them with information and create decision-making anxiety, greatly lowering the odds of successfully cross-selling.

This is a concept known as the paradox of choice, which you can learn all about in this video from psychologist Barry Schwartz.

To avoid this issue, I recommend keeping your offerings as simple as possible — ideally, no more than three. 

Have a Demo on Standby

Let’s say that a customer is interested in buying an additional product but is a little confused as to how it works, the features, and so on.

You could try to have a sales rep walk them through it and point them to product pages, which would certainly be helpful.

But an even better approach is to send them a demo.

As James L. McQuivey of Forrester puts it, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video has to be worth at least 1.8 million words.”

That way you can capitalize on leads while they’re red hot and succinctly explain the nuts and bolts of a product in a way that even the best of sales reps cannot. 

Clearly Explain the Benefits

A common motto in the sales world is, “sell benefits, not features.”

And I think that really rings true with cross-selling.

Although it’s obviously important to explain the basic features, it’s even more important to help a customer understand how buying an additional product is going to help them. 

So be sure that your reps have a list of specific benefits to reference.

This brings me to my next point. 

Offer Customer Case Studies

Another big part of getting customers on board and demonstrating the benefits of buying an additional product is to provide them with real-life examples of other companies that have successfully used it. 

This helps customers connect the dots and see the big picture.

One of my favorite ways to do this is through case studies, which provide a particular instance of the product being used. 

On Chili Piper, for example, there’s a customer case studies section that highlights several brands, such as ChowNow, Apollo and PatientPop. 

So, if one of our sales reps was trying to cross-sell to someone in the food industry, they would want to give them the ChowNow case study and let them see the results.

This would provide them with an overarching perspective and let them see just how big of an impact Chili Piper could have on their business.

Provide Other Forms of Social Proof

You can take it one step further by equipping sales reps with other forms of social proof.

Here are some potential ideas:

  • Positive reviews 
  • Testimonials
  • Number of current users
  • Awards or achievements

This is an area where Chili Piper sells itself. The case studies, mentioned above, have titles like these:

Benefits like these are the social proof that prospects like to see that will speed them on their way to a sale. 

Offer a Free Trial Option 

Often, when you’re in a position to cross-sell, a customer believes in the current product they’ve purchased, but they’re not necessarily 100% sold on the additional product you’re offering.

I’ve found that a good way to get around that and get them over the “buying hump” is to offer a free trial option.

This is something that 44% of SaaS companies are doing, with 14% offering a 30-day trial, and 18% offering a 14-day trial. 

As long as the additional product delivers real value, a good chunk of those customers should convert

Always Focus on Adding Value

And that’s the key word that should always be the main objective of your sales reps — value. 

Sometimes, they can become so fixated on pushing out more products to customers that they lose sight of what’s really important, which is providing customers with a more robust package that fits them like a glove. 

But as long as your reps are focused on adding value, their cross-selling efforts should naturally fall into place. 

Follow Up After the Sale

Following up after the sale accomplishes two things. 

First, it shows customers that you’re truly invested in their success and gives you a chance to build stronger rapport. 

Second, you can see how effective your cross-selling efforts were and if anything needs tweaking.

For instance, maybe the product your sales rep offered didn’t quite hit the mark with a customer.

You could use your findings to fine-tune future offerings. 

Analyze Your Results

And of course, you’ll want to continually gather quantifiable data to keep tabs on the individual performance of sales reps and how well your cross-selling campaign is going as a whole. 

Gregory Keshian of Brainshark suggest tracking the following cross-selling KPIs:

  • Sales effort spend
  • Activities per opp
  • Win rate
  • Attach rate
  • Renewal rate
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV) and the cost of acquiring a customer (CAC)

Test Out Cross-Selling on Your Top Customers Initially

Like learning any new skill, it’s vital that your sales team has a chance to “get their reps in.”

When unrolling a cross-selling campaign, I find that it’s usually best to test it out on your top customers at first — those that are familiar with and loyal to your brand. 

This will allow your reps to get their feet wet and get comfortable with the process.

Then, you can gradually have them move on to other, more lukewarm customers. 

Perform Ongoing Business Reviews for Top Customers

And here’s the beautiful thing about cross-selling.

It’s a technique that you can use again and again on the same customers.

As long as you’re truly providing them with value and not being obnoxiously salesy, there’s always the opportunity to sell more to existing customers.

That’s why I suggest routinely performing ongoing business reviews for your top customers — quarterly reviews tend to work best — and try to identify any emerging pain points your products could resolve. 

For example, Chili Piper’s latest product, Inbox, optimizes email collaboration and offers account insights. 

If after performing a business review for a company we noticed that their current email collaboration is less than ideal, this would be a product we definitely recommend.

Cross-Selling FAQs

What exactly is cross-selling?

It’s where you sell an additional product to an existing customer.

How does cross-selling differ from upselling?

Cross-selling focuses on selling a related product, while upselling focuses on selling a costlier version of the same product. 

What are the main benefits of cross-selling?

  • Increased AOV
  • Higher profits
  • More value for your customers
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Deeper customer loyalty

What percentage of existing customers buy?

You have a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer. 

This is much higher than trying to sell to a new prospect, where you only have a 5-20% chance. 

Becoming a Lean, Mean Cross-Selling Machine

Cross-selling is no joke and is one of the simplest and most effective ways to boost profits. 

Research has even found that as much as 35% of Amazon’s sales come from cross-selling. 

It’s just a matter of building a rock solid process that provides your customers with major value. 

The 15 tips I’ve outlined above can help turn your sales team into a cross-selling powerhouse.

The best way to start is to take just one action item, suggested above. 

About the author
Daniel Threlfall

I help SaaS and online businesses drive viral organic website traffic to double their organic traffic and revenue in 6-12 months.

Connect on Linkedin
The Sauce Newsletter
Join 20,365+
1x a month.
No spam, just spice
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Link copied

Most Recent Articles