While you may not have recognized it, the last time you ordered from a fast-food restaurant or went to the post office, there is a good chance you experienced some form of cross-selling or up-selling. Cross-selling and up-selling are well-established, highly effective marketing practices utilized by a wide variety of industries.

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.

My first exposure to cross-selling was as a teenager in high school working part-time at a McDonald’s 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 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. Paid an hourly wage to sell the shoes, I received a commission whenever I sold an accessory item such as shoe polish, socks or purses. I took to cross-selling like a duck to water.

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

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

The best place to introduce your customer to the concept of cross-selling is during an initial needs analysis meeting. During the needs analysis interview, successful salespeople assist their customers to uncover potential needs through a series of thought provoking, open-ended questions. I highly recommend the use of a checklist that incorporates all of your company’s products and services.

Relying on your memory alone is a poor business decision; so take the time to jot down key information.

Unfortunately, many salespeople fail to take the time to conduct a thorough needs analysis and, as a result, do not uncover potential products and services that benefit their customer. Ask questions and take good notes; effective cross-selling is all about guided self-discovery.

Developing a systematic approach to cross-selling and up-selling brings in additional revenue with relatively little expense and effort. As you prepare for your next client appointment, I challenge you to look for cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to incorporate into your presentation. Sales reps 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!