Cross-Selling vs. Upselling: What’s the Difference

What is the difference between cross sell and upsell

Ranee ZhangDec 29, 20225 mins
What Is Cross-Selling?

Cross-selling involves encouraging a customer to purchase related products or services in addition to what they are currently buying, while upselling involves encouraging a customer to purchase a more expensive version of the product or service they are interested in.

Both techniques are used to increase sales and revenue, and they can be effective when used in the right context and with the right approach. That’s why 10% to 30% of e-commerce revenue is generated through upsells.

To draw out their similarities and differences, this article defines what cross-selling and upselling are, explains the differences between them, and even provides a guide on encouraging customer success teams to cross-sell and upsell customers. It also gives some great examples of upselling and cross-selling across functions.

What Is Cross-Selling?

Cross-selling is a sales technique that involves encouraging a customer to purchase related products or services in addition to what they are currently buying. For example, a customer who is buying a new laptop might be offered the opportunity to purchase a carrying case or a warranty at the same time. Cross-selling is often used by businesses to increase the amount of money a customer spends on each purchase, and to help them sell more products and services.

Cross-selling is useful for businesses because it can help them increase their sales and revenue. By offering related products and services to customers who are already interested in purchasing something, businesses can potentially increase the amount of money that each customer spends on each purchase. 

This can help businesses to sell more products and services overall, and can also help them to build stronger relationships with their customers by providing them with everything they need in one place. 

Additionally, cross-selling can help businesses to identify opportunities for new products and services that customers may be interested in, which can help them to grow and expand their operations.

Imagine you are at a clothing store, and you are interested in purchasing a new pair of jeans. While you are at the checkout counter, the salesperson asks if you are interested in purchasing a belt to go with the jeans. This is an example of cross-selling, because the salesperson is offering you a related product that you might be interested in buying in addition to the jeans.

In this case, the salesperson is using cross-selling to try to increase the amount of money that you spend on each purchase. By offering you a belt in addition to the jeans, they are hoping that you will be willing to spend more money. If you decide to buy the belt, the store will make more money from your purchase, and you will get a product that you might not have bought otherwise.

What Is Upselling

Upselling is a sales technique that involves encouraging a customer to purchase a more expensive version of the product or service they are interested in. To return to the laptop example, a customer who is looking at a basic model of a laptop might be offered the opportunity to upgrade to a more expensive model with more features and better performance. 

Upselling is often used by businesses to increase their revenue by encouraging customers to spend more on each purchase. It can also be used to differentiate a business's products and services from those of its competitors.

Upselling is useful for businesses because it can help them to increase their revenue and profits. By offering customers the opportunity to upgrade to a more expensive version of a product or service, businesses can potentially make more money from each sale.

In addition to increasing revenue, upselling can also be useful for businesses because it can help them to differentiate their products and services from those of their competitors. By offering customers the opportunity to upgrade to a more expensive version of a product or service, businesses can create a sense of value and exclusivity around their products.

Upselling can also be useful for businesses because it can help them to build stronger relationships with their customers. By offering customers the opportunity to upgrade to a more expensive version of a product or service, businesses can show that they value their customers and are willing to go the extra mile to provide them with the best possible products and services.

What Is the Difference Between Cross-Selling and Upselling?

Cross-selling and upselling are similar in that they both involve encouraging customers to spend more money. However, there are some key differences between the two sales techniques.

Cross-selling involves encouraging a customer to purchase related products or services in addition to what they are currently buying. The goal of cross-selling is to increase the amount of money a customer spends on each purchase and to help businesses sell more products and services.

Upselling, on the other hand, involves encouraging a customer to purchase a more expensive version of the product or service they are interested in. The goal of upselling is to increase the revenue and profits of a business by encouraging customers to spend more on each purchase.

Overall, cross-selling and upselling are similar in that they both involve encouraging customers to find the value in a higher-value overall purchase. However, they differ in that upselling seeks to upgrade items and cross-selling attempts to add additional items for purchase.

But cross-selling and upselling still require the same basic five steps. The five steps of cross-selling and upselling are as follows:

  1. Get to know your audience: Understand who your customers are, what their needs and preferences are, and what products and services they are likely to be interested in. This is a critical step–without it, you won’t be able to complete the others accurately. Make sure to take your time and do proper research here.

  2. Create a customer journey: Map out the steps a customer takes from the time they become aware of your business until they make a purchase, and beyond. Identify opportunities to cross-sell and upsell to customers at different points along their journey.

  3. Offer relevant products and services: When cross-selling and upselling to customers, be sure to offer them products and services that are relevant to their needs and preferences. This will increase the chances that they will be interested in making additional purchases.

  4. Speak to their needs: When cross-selling and upselling to customers, be sure to use persuasive language that highlights the benefits and value of the products and services you are offering. This will help to convince customers that making additional purchases is worth their time and money.

  5. Follow up: After cross-selling and upselling to customers, be sure to follow up with them to see if they are satisfied with their purchases and to offer them any additional support or assistance they may need. This will help to build stronger relationships with your customers and will increase the chances that they will return for future purchases.

Whether you’re cross-selling or upselling, those are the five core steps that you need to take in order to hit your goals. 

How to Encourage Customer Success Teams to Upsell and Cross-Sell 

Some customer success teams struggle with cross-selling and upselling. While that’s understandable, it can be a great revenue driver, so it’s important to make sure they can overcome this difficulty and start cross-selling and upselling. Here are a few of the best ways to help them out:

1. Semi-annual or quarterly check-ins

One way to encourage customer success teams to cross-sell and upsell customers is to hold regular, semi-annual or quarterly check-ins with customers. These are great opportunities to naturally transition towards a conversation about upgrading or adding to the customer’s current product implementation. For example, you can do this as a quarterly business review.

During the semi-annual check-ins, customer success teams can review the customer's account history and look for opportunities to introduce an upsell or cross-sell. By reviewing the customer's situation and history with the company, the customer success team can identify products or services that would be beneficial to the customer and that they may not be aware of.

2. Eliminating the fear of contacting customers 

Of course, if your teams are going to reach out to customers, they can’t be afraid of them. Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to get rid of their fear of contacting their customers. 

Often the source of that fear is really a fear of messing up. Your team will be less afraid of making mistakes if they have solid training and have seen examples of customer outreach that worked. 

That means providing team members with the training and support they need to feel confident in their ability to communicate with customers is essential. You should also try creating a positive and supportive work environment that encourages open and honest communication.

One great way to make sure your team is ready is by giving them the tools to succeed in a customer meeting. A simple tool that can make a huge difference is one of Airgram’s free user research meeting agenda templates. These templates can make agenda-setting, note-taking, and transcription-writing much simpler.

By eliminating the fear of contacting customers, team members will be more likely to engage with customers and offer them additional products and services.

3. Educating customers 

At the same time, you can educate your customers about the benefits of the products and services you offer, and about the value of making additional purchases. These education programs can be a great opportunity for customer success teams to reach out to customers.

They can also spark questions from customers. Customers looking to learn more will get in touch with their customer success representatives, sparking inbound conversations as well. That’s on top of the value of your customers learning about all the ways they could upgrade the product they’re currently using. 

Customer education can also help to build trust and credibility with customers. By providing customers with useful and relevant information, you can show them that you are an expert in your field and that you are committed to helping them succeed. This can make customers more likely to trust you and to be open to the idea of making additional purchases from you.

Finally, customer education can help to create a more informed and confident sales force. By providing team members with information about the products and services they are selling, you can help them to be more effective in their upselling and cross-selling efforts. This can increase the chances that they will be successful with those efforts.

4 Examples of Upselling and Cross-Selling

Sometimes it can be hard to picture what upselling and cross-selling could look like. That’s why it’s so important to have good examples. Here are 16 examples of different teams cross-selling and upselling. 

1.  B2B Sales Team

B2B sales teams sometimes struggle to create compelling cases for cross-selling and upselling. But no matter what industry they’re in, there are some great examples of how they can be more successful.

Upselling

  1. Salespeople from a provider of IT support services offer a customer the option to sign up for a managed service plan, which includes proactive monitoring and maintenance of their IT systems.

  2. A sales representative reaches out to let a customer know about an upcoming feature that will only be available to customers on a higher-tier plan. They offer to upgrade them to that plan with the additional feature right away during a quick sales meeting.

Cross-Selling

  1. A provider of HR services offers a customer the option to add recruitment or talent management services to their existing HR package.

  2. A provider of IT support services lets a customer know that they could add cybersecurity services, such as malware protection or data backup, to their existing support plan. That could come in the form of a bundle, which is a popular way to cross-sell.

2. Customer Success Team

Customer success teams are well-positioned to cross-sell and upsell customers because they have a deep understanding of a customer's needs and challenges. They work closely with customers to ensure that they are getting value from the products or services they have purchased.

That puts them in a unique position to identify additional products or services that could help customers achieve their goals or overcome their challenges. As a result, customer success teams can make personalized recommendations that are tailored to each customer's specific needs and interests, which can make the cross-selling and upselling process more effective.

 Additionally, because customer success teams are focused on helping customers achieve success, they can approach cross-selling and upselling in a way that is consultative and customer-focused, rather than pushy or aggressive. This can help build trust and rapport with customers, which can make it easier to cross-sell and upsell in the future.

Upselling

  1. A customer success manager looks back at past support tickets a customer has submitted. Based on those requests, they suggest an upgraded service package that allows for faster and more immediate responses to their support issues.

  2. Customer success teams also have access to the kinds of problems their customers face. They can match those issues to features offered by higher-tier versions of the product during a semi-annual check-in. 

Cross-Selling

  1. Customer success teams can also use support conversations as cross-selling opportunities. For example, a customer success specialist could recommend an additional product that could solve the problem a customer is reporting.

  2. Follow-up calls can also be opportunities for cross-selling. Customer success teams could schedule calls to check in with customers after resolving issues and use the conversation to review additional products they may be interested in. 

3. Account Manager

Account managers are responsible for managing relationships with customers, which means they work closely with them to understand their goals and challenges, and to identify ways that the company's products or services can help them achieve success. 

As a result, account managers can make personalized recommendations for additional products or services that can help customers achieve their goals or overcome their challenges. 

Additionally, because account managers are focused on maintaining and growing relationships with customers, they can approach cross-selling and upselling in a way that is consultative and customer-focused, rather than pushy or aggressive. This can help build trust and rapport with customers, which can make it easier to cross-sell and upsell in the future.

Upselling

  1. Offer higher-end or more advanced versions of the products or services that the customer has purchased. For example, if a customer has purchased a basic version of a product, an account manager could offer them the option to upgrade to a premium or deluxe version that includes additional features or benefits.

  2. Create an education session on how to use the features of upgraded versions of the product. That creates demand for the more premium product and can tie in with meetings on projects the customer is working on.

Cross-Selling

  1. Offer additional services, such as maintenance or support, to extend the life or value of the products or services that the customer has purchased. For example, if a customer has purchased a product, an account manager could offer them the option to sign up for a maintenance plan that includes regular check-ups and updates.

  2. Bundle related products or services together and offer them at a discounted rate. For example, if a customer has purchased a product, an account manager could offer them the option to purchase additional products or services that are commonly used together, such as training or support, at a discounted price.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing can help with cross-selling and upselling efforts in several ways. First, it can be used to send personalized recommendations for additional products or services to customers based on their interests and past purchases. This can help identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, and it can present customers with relevant and personalized offers.

Second, email marketing can be used to provide information and education about the benefits of additional products or services, which can help customers understand the value they would gain by purchasing them. This can be particularly useful for cross-selling, where the customer may not be familiar with the additional products or services being offered.

Third, email marketing can be used to create a sense of urgency or exclusivity around cross-selling and upselling offers, by using tactics such as time-limited promotions or limited-quantity discounts. This can encourage customers to take action and make a purchase quickly, before the offer expires.

Overall, email marketing can be a powerful tool for cross-selling and upselling, as it allows businesses to reach customers directly with personalized, targeted offers that can help them achieve their goals and overcome their challenges. Here are a few examples of that:

Upselling

  1. Email marketing can keep customers updated on product updates. If a new feature is added to a premium version of the product, email marketing is a great way to keep customers informed and inspire them to make the upgrade.

  2. Email marketing also lets you create urgency around short-term deals. You can reach out with a Black Friday or New Year’s offer for an upsell by email.

Cross-Selling

  1. Target recent purchasers of a given product with email marketing for a complimentary good. For example, reach out to recent purchasers of pens with email marketing around paper, notebooks, and other office supplies.

  2. Automate cross-selling campaigns based on certain signals a customer gives out. You could say that once a customer is nine months into their subscription, you begin reaching out with cross-selling offers, for example.

Conclusion

Cross-selling and upselling are important sales techniques that can help businesses increase their sales and revenue. 

Cross-selling involves encouraging a customer to purchase related products or services in addition to what they are currently buying, while upselling involves encouraging a customer to purchase a more expensive version of the product or service they are interested in. 

Both techniques can be effective when used in the right context and with the right approach, and they can help businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers and to differentiate their products and services from those of their competitors.

Ranee Zhang

Ranee is the Head of Growth of Airgram and has rich experience in the SaaS field. She developed a passion for writing as a young girl and believed the written word could unlock doors as well as the imagination.

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