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Upsell ideas to drive business

Upsell ideas to drive business

When you drive up and order a burger, the response is often immediate: “Would you like fries and a drink with that?” Clearly, fast food restaurants have learned there is value (cha-ching!) in offering extras to customers placing an order. It’s a perfect lesson for almost any small business.

Upselling and cross-selling involve offering customers upgrades or complementary products that enhance their initial purchase.

This classic sales strategy has a two-fold benefit: Customers’ needs are met and you have the opportunity to increase your average order value from 5% to 25% with few additional costs.

What are the essentials of an effective upsell or cross-sell program?

If you’re developing an upsell/cross-sell promotion, it’s crucial that your front-line staff understands the offer.

Key Sport, Inc., a 4imprint customer in Rolla, Missouri, has seen the value of training for the cross-sell. A decade ago, the company combined two businesses—a retail sports store and a screen-printing operation—into one business. Over the last decade, the company has seen dramatic growth.

Owner Tom Green says training is essential to the company’s success: “The frontline employees are trained on how to sell retail merchandise and screen-printing services, which has really helped, too.”

Whether you’re planning a short-term promotion or trying to encourage cross-selling products and services across the company, schedule a training session. Hand out jotter pads with pens, so call center, sales and front-line staff members can take notes. Print promotion details on Post-It® Notes, so cross-sell opportunities are always in front of staff.  When training is complete, reward staff who upsell and cross-sell effectively with logo’d sport shirts or fleece jackets.

Determine how different groups of customers would respond, and create an upsell or cross-sell promotion that works for them. For example, an accounting firm might keep separate lists of clients who would benefit from financial planning, wealth management or income preservation while preparing tax returns—and then follow up with them after the tax season.

When you discover which customers might benefit from additional services, send them a letter with a coffee drink, inviting them to get together over a cup of coffee to discuss a new opportunity. Include a business card magnet promoting your company’s full-line of products/services when you ship the order or in a follow-up ‘thank you’ mailing.

Ask your team
Customer service representatives and other front-line employees can be great resources for upselling/cross-selling ideas, based on what they see and hear when interacting with customers.

Equip them with proper training and knowledge of what customers are looking for, and they’ll be well-positioned to help your customers succeed and your business grow.


Altman, Shari. “Want Fries and Shoes With That?” Target Marketing, August 2005.

Clark, Bruce.  “Growing Your Financial Services Firm,” Accounting Technology, July 2008, 32.

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