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Would You Like Fries With That?

Cross-selling and up-selling in direct sales

Article by: John Boe
November 22, 2010

The last time you ordered from a fast food restaurant, there is a good chance you experienced some form of cross-selling or up-selling, which are highly effective marketing practices.

Cross-selling and up-selling are well-established and highly effective marketing practices utilized by a wide variety of industries. And although cross-selling and up-selling are not typical sales techniques taught in the MLM industry, when learned and implemented in your business, it could prove very profitable.

So what is cross-selling? It is a proactive, ongoing sales process designed to provide your customers with a full spectrum of your company’s products and services. The good news is, cross-selling is one of the most profitable and least risky endeavors a sales rep can undertake.

What is up-selling? Upselling is a sales technique designed to get a customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or add-ons.

My first exposure to cross-selling was as a teenager in high school working part-time at McDonalds during summer vacation. Looking back on my brief tenure selling hamburgers, I can still hear my manager’s daily refrain: “Be polite, keep the counter clean, and always, always ask customers if they would like fries with their meal.”

A couple of years later while attending college, I took a part-time job selling shoes at the mall. I was paid an hourly wage to sell the shoes, but I received a commission whenever I cross-sold any accessory items such as shoe polish, socks, or purses. This was my first taste of commissions, and as a starving college student, I took to cross-selling and up-selling like a duck to water.

Some shortsighted salespeople might suggest that customers are irritated by cross-selling and perceive it as an aggressive sales technique. Interestingly enough, consumer research indicates that the reverse is true. The majority of consumers surveyed actually preferred a full range of products and services and appreciate the convenience that is provided through a comprehensive cross-selling approach. Top producing salespeople understand the power of cross-selling and recognize it as a critical component for promoting both customer retention and revenue growth.

Not surprisingly, two of the key elements that make cross-selling and up-selling work are trust and convenience. Your customers already possess a degree of trust in your company, and this can be converted into additional sales that are not directly related to their existing products.

The best place to introduce your MLM customer to the concept of cross-selling is during your initial needs analysis meeting. Unfortunately, many MLM distributors fail to take the time to conduct a thorough needs analysis, and as a result, do not uncover potential products and services that would be of benefit to their customers. Ask questions and take good notes. Effective cross-selling is all about guided self-discovery. Through a series of thought provoking, open-ended questions, successful distributors assist their customers to uncover potential needs.

During the needs analysis interview, I highly recommend the use of a checklist that incorporates all of your MLM company’s products and services. Relying on your memory alone is a poor business decision. Take the time to jot down key information.

Developing a systematic approach to cross-selling and up-selling brings in additional revenue with relatively low expense and effort. As you prepare to meet with your customers, I challenge you to look for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities that you can incorporate into your presentation. Distributors who fail to implement an effective cross-selling program actually do a disservice to their customers and leave the back door open to their competitors!

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John Boe

John’s client list includes industry leaders such as Genworth Financial, RE/MAX Real Estate, Volvo, Chicago Title and AFLAC. In addition, he...

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