The art of the cross-seller

What is the prevailing view on cross-selling and up-selling? In my business, we “bank” a few extra quid on every sale to a new customer on the basis that we are confident we can sell them something else. In fact, some of our pricing decisions are based on this assumption. For a generally risk-averse business, this seems somewhat optimistic.

But do customers want to be cross-sold/up-sold to? In this online price-comparison transactional world, do customers buy relationships or do they simply buy products and feel confident they can decide what else they need? I bought a new Hi-Fi the other day and was relieved when the sales assistant sold me connecting plugs and wires. My bank constantly tries to sell me savings, insurance and lending products. If I book a holiday, I expect the foreign currency/travel insurance conversation. Amazon is the past master at the “people who bought that product, also bought this one”.

Yet when I go to a supermarket, I don’t get staff offering me a pint of milk when I buy my Shredded Wheat.

Why? Because its business model assumes that I will do my own cross-selling as I go around the store with my trolley – even when the milk and the cereal are in different parts of the store, and when there is no obvious purchasing link between the two.

So which is right? Do we as consumers know what we want and so pick and choose accordingly or do we need the “experts” to leverage a sale off the back of an initial purchase? While you could argue that it all depends on the product/service, I would contend that the internet has sought to destroy even the most complex of relationships. It encourages people to distil every purchase to its bare essentials (usually price), transact remotely and remove most forms of empathy in the process.

It is therefore somewhat amusing that these same price comparison sites are now trying to build relationships of their own – “you bought car insurance for your new Mini from us last week, now would you like to insure your Meerkat”?

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