Selling stuff is how you make your living. It’s the very basics of running a store: get products. Sell those products at a fair markup. Make the money that keeps the lights on in-store and that lets you live your life.
Your salespeople are integral to that.
Salespeople. Floor staff. Just staff.
Call them what you like.
Their end goal is to shift products in your store.
If you’re an independent retailer, you may well be your entire sales team – and sure, you know your products and industry better than anyone, but how well-equipped are you to effectively sell, cross-sell and upsell?
Cross-selling and upselling: a quick definition
Cross-selling is selling a different product or service to a customer alongside the item they were already planning to buy. It’s generally akin to a real-life “related products” section – for example, asking someone if they’d like gloves to go with a hat, a memory card to go with a camera, or a bowl to go with pet food.
Upselling is where you try to get them to buy something more expensive that they might need but isn’t quite so related. For example, if you’ve ever bought flights online, the airline will usually try to upsell you with hotel rooms, car rental, or any other number of additional services you might need on your vacation.
No doubt, you already cross-sell in your day-to-day life, but how effective is your upselling?
How far can you push it before you turn a customer off? After all, customers want to feel valued – and not just like they’re there to have products pushed at them.
It’s a fine line to walk and the psychology of it is hugely important.
The psychology of cross-selling and upselling – tactics you can use to cross- and upsell more
Marc Wayshak is CEO of Marc Wayshak Sales Research & Insights and he’s written multiple best-selling books on sales and leadership.
On his YouTube channel, he has pinpointed 13 steps to selling that actually work.
How to cross-sell and upsell in retail
1. Drop the enthusiasm (or act naturally)
Most customers can see right through an act. They’ll know immediately if you’re being too friendly or over the top in the hopes of winning them over. Talk to them like you would any other customer who walks into your store.
Maintain a dialogue that makes sense – don’t just suddenly become overly-invested in them because you think you have the opportunity to cross- or upsell to them.
2. Stop pitching so hard
Likewise, don’t jump straight into a pitch before you’ve actually ascertained if the person has any want or need for what you’re selling.
Someone coming in-store to buy a dog bowl doesn’t necessarily want new toys, food, and whatever else you can think of.
3. Lay off the pressure selling, especially when cross-selling or upselling
You might be tempted to give them a heavy nudge in a certain direction, but most customers will scarper if they feel like you’re putting too much pressure on them in the moment. You want a customer who will return to your store, not someone who makes a quick sale and never comes back.
“We don’t want to be putting pressure on customers,” Marc says. “It’s such a taboo. It’s not helpful and it may kill the sale. We want to remove all pressure from the sales process. Instead we want to take a step back and avoid reactance – where we push someone and they immediately want to pull back because it’s not something they’re sold on yet.”
4. Focus on them
Basically: “What’s in it for them?” They can buy just about anything they want from the comfort of their own home. They are the most important person in this process.
5. Step into their shoes
Really consider their perspective. Why are they buying the item they want? What might actually interest them? Who are they as a person?
6. Create value through smart questions to determine how best to cross-sell and upsell
Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking what brings them into your store and why they’re buying the item they have in-hand. This is the basic information you can use to craft a better sales pitch.
7. Hearing a “no” doesn’t mean you’ve lost
They might say ‘no’ – and that’s okay. Just because they don’t want what you sell now, it doesn’t mean they never will. And hey, sometimes it just isn’t a good match.
“Top sellers,” Marc says, “are just as interested in finding customers who aren’t a fit. If they’re just there to look around and have no intention of buying anything, you can quickly disqualify them and move on. Just be sure to be polite and to leave the door open.”
Just because they don’t want to buy in this exact moment, it doesn’t mean they never will.
8. Say what you feel (to an extent!)
Your time is precious. If you’re tangled in a chat with a customer that seems to be going on forever but not actually leading anywhere, you can gently excuse yourself and move on.
9. Understand their challenges
Sure, you can ask them outright why they’ve come into your store – but what’s behind that? Let’s say you’re a bookstore. They might flippantly say they’ve come in-store to buy a book. End of discussion.
But who is the book for? Ask. Maybe they’re shopping for a niece or nephew. Now you have an in: what is the niece or nephew interested in? What kind of book might they like? You’ll have the information you need to recommend a book (or set of books) for them.
Key word here: recommend.
You shouldn’t be pressuring them or making them feel like they’re being forced to consider something. Instead, you’re recommending a product that makes sense.
10. Tie that challenge to the value
In the bookstore example, you can easily tie the value of a certain series of books to the challenge the customer is facing. Say, for example, the customer is shopping for their nephew who is a reluctant reader but who really enjoys fantasy video games.
You could recommend the Percy Jackson series, because you know it appeals – you could even pair it with some relevant merch you have in-store. Instead of the customer choosing a book themselves and leaving, you have the opportunity to tempt them into a bigger-ticket purchase.
11. Make it an actual conversation
You’re not drilling for information. Instead, it’s an informal chat. In the example above, you could disclose that you also have a young relative who is a reluctant reader but that they really enjoyed the books.
It doesn’t have to be complicated!
12. Worry about budget afterwards
Generally, you shouldn’t begin your conversation with the question of budget.
“We don’t want to start our conversation by talking about price,” Marc says. “We want that to come at the end of the discovery process. What that would look like is we’ve gone through the challenges, we’ve gone through really understanding the whole issue. Now it’s time to talk about budget – you can give them a range and say ‘where on this spectrum do you think this fits’? Now you’re letting them come back and say what might work.”
In the book example, it’s the difference between selling one book versus selling a trilogy and merch from the film. And because you give them the option of choosing, it feels much gentler.
13. Use feedback loops
Ask questions that reinforce what the customer wants and that pulls them back into the conversation. In the bookstore example, it’s asking if the nephew likes a certain TV show or if they’ve read a certain book.
As Marc says, “if you find yourself talking for more than 60 seconds, stop and ask, ‘does this makes sense?’ or ‘do you see what I’m saying?’”
Circle it back to the customer and the reason why they’re there. With the bookshop example, it’s asking “does this sound like something your nephew would like?”
Cross-selling and upselling tactics you can borrow for your store
✅ Use your best customers as a sounding board
It’s much, much easier to sell to someone who knows your store. You know this already. It’s retail management 101. If you’re only dipping your toe into cross- and upselling, why not trial it on some of your best customers?
Try a newsletter delivered to certain customers, either by email or in the mail. Offer them products related to something they’ve already bought. If you really want to incentivize them, consider using a coupon code to get them in-store.
You can even start rolling it out in person when they’re next in-store. If you know one customer likes to buy a specific brand of liquor, for example, why not try and tempt them with a new product from the same manufacturer or see if they’ll come in-store for a tasting event where you’ll offer similar products?
✅ Use your data to get better at cross-selling and upselling
The more data you can track, the better. This could be using a smart POS in your store, or capturing data on your website. Whatever you do, use this data to your advantage – for example, you might be able to determine that customers who buy one product are also much more likely to buy another.
It’s a simple strategy that you can implement in your store – and as it’s backed by data, you should see good results.
✅ Try an incentive plan with your staff to reward great cross-selling and upselling
Apart from your products, your staff are the most important asset your store has. Happy staff make happy customers, so make sure your staff are adequately trained.
It’s worth investing in training, but for a little extra motivation, consider starting a league for your floor staff. The top performer could win a small prize at the end of the month.
✅ Use your visual merchandising to your advantage for better cross-selling and upselling
You might not think it, but your store space is like an additional salesperson. No doubt, you’ve carefully considered your store layout, but did you know there are certain tips and tricks that can boost your sales via the magic of visual merchandising?
- Group like with like. Or, show it off. Creating a shelf space that builds a scene is a great way to plant the seed of cross- or upselling. For example, if you’re a hardware retailer, you could create a BBQ scene in summer, or a ‘tidy your garden’ scene in fall, complete with relevant products.
- Follow the rule of three. Always put relevant items together in a trio instead of just one. That way, your customers will see the link.
- Use colors to your advantage. Yellow is happy and friendly, while blue can be relaxing. Red, on the other hand, can suggest passion or danger. (Use it big and bold in signage and you’ll definitely draw attention.)
- Be smart with your signage – and use it to deliver more than the obvious. Kochhaus, Berlin, uses its signage to advertise its delivery meal subscription service, but includes ingredients and a recipe, as well as bundling the relevant produce on the shelf:
- Consider what goes where. If a product isn’t selling, is it because people don’t want it or because they can’t find it? Trial moving your products around and tracking if it has a better success rate. Of course, prioritize your big ticket items by the door so that they immediately draw attention. The more impressive, the better.
✅ Take advantage of shopper/consumer psychology
Consumer psychology is a huge field of study, but much of it has been proven to drive real results for retail stores. Some tactics you should consider include:
- Use the number 9 in pricing, instead of whole numbers. Gumroad, an e-commerce platform, found that users were far more likely to buy if the price ended in a 9, instead of rounding up to the next whole number. In an instance of a price of $1.99 versus $2, the conversion rate was 5.2 percent compared to 2.39. An astonishing difference!
- Try the principle of reciprocity. Or: give and get. Offer a small incentive with a purchase – for example, a beauty store bundling a free makeup bag with a purchase of makeup above a certain price.
- Use urgency. Give customers a certain window of time to act on an offer. That way, they may feel like they’re more likely to miss out if they don’t act. Just be careful not to overly enforce urgency, as that will turn customers off.
- Use social proof to create legitimacy. You want your customers to trust you and your store. An easy way to do that is to use social media to get reviews from customers. Put them on your website or use them in your signage in-store. If your customer sees that someone they can relate to bought and enjoyed the product, it reduces the risk for them.
All of these small steps will help your customer trust you – and, in turn, buy in to what you’re selling.
It’s simple, if you don’t master cross- and upselling, you could be losing thousands in revenue a year for your store.
That’s the difference between keeping the lights on and actively thriving as an independent retailer.
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