Making the most of up-selling and cross-selling

I’ve learnt a few things about up-selling and cross-selling, but not without making a few stumbles. Here’s how you can do it too (without the stumbles).

Sue Barrett

Do you sell one thing and one thing only? Probably not. I suspect your business has a range of things it can offer.

And I suspect that many of these things can be integrated together to make an end-to-end solution or various combinations that lead to much larger sales.

If this is the case, then how well are you selling in the size and scope of your business offerings?

Too many times sales people get fixated on the immediate sale in front of them, not really seeing the potential of that sale now or into the future. If they would only ask the right questions and get a bigger perspective to work from they might get more and bigger sales for less effort.

If you do not ask the questions you will never know. I learnt that if you ask, at best, you can get a lot more back in return and, at worst, they can just say “no”. At least if you ask you never die wondering.

So I thought I would share a pesonal story about one of my up-selling and cross-selling experiences and what I learnt from it. And this particular story because it continues to remind me not to settle for second best.

Awhile back I made a presentation to a large group of people from a big Australian corporation. My topic was about the “huge cost of hesitation”. This was my first entrée into this business and I really wanted to do a great job for all the obvious reasons. While the topic was challenging, the presentation was well received and my sponsoring client was very happy. I knew this could lead to great things.

Well within three days, I received a phone call from one of the senior managers who attended the presentation. He wanted to know if he could use an assessment tool I referred to in my presentation for the recruitment of new sales staff. I replied “yes of course you can”. He then said “OK so how do I go about using it?’

Now at this point, I could have set him up to use the tool and only sold in that tool. Instead, however, I asked him to tell me more about what he was trying to achieve; to which he replied that he was setting up a whole new business area and wanted to hire a different type of sales person than they had traditionally employed in the past. He thought the assessment could help him do that. I asked him if I could ask him with more questions, to which he replied “yes”.

I wanted to see how open minded he was, so I asked him had he defined what this new type of person would look like. He said no. I suggested there were a number of ways he could approach this and I proposed two options to him:

1. At best we could develop and map the ideal sales person profile for his business model, build a recruitment kit he and his managers could use to properly assess the candidates, supply the the right assessment tools and then provide feedback.

2. At worst he could just use the tool and we provide feedback as originally requested.

He was very happy to explore this further. I committed to getting him a detailed proposal that day. Which I did. Besides everything mentioned previously, I also included two bullet points outlining sales and sales management training which could form part of their induction training (you just never know).

After I sent the proposal, I received a call the next day asking me to elaborate on the two bullet points around the sales and sales management training piece as well. Which I did.

They then rang back the following day and asked me what my best price was. I said what they had was my best price. They said they were used to working in markets that always bargained on price. I said that was fine but that I didn’t do that in my market. My price was my price. It was transparent and they knew what they were getting, piece by piece. They said OK, that was fair, and then asked when could we get started on the project. We agreed to a date and that was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship.

So what did I learn? If you take things at face value that is all you are likely to get. By asking a few more questions, getting an understanding of their bigger picture and knowing how my products and services worked in concert and seperately, I was able to turn a $1000 sale into a $90,000 sale.

Did I do anything special? No, not at all. All I did was ask more questions and tried to understand their whole issue. Oh, and I knew how my products and services all worked together.

By the way, while they paid more, it was worth it to them because their new “breed” of sales people achieved:

  • A sales closing ratio of 4:3 within two months.
  • Sold the annual sales budget within five months.

My client was very happy and said he and his team had learnt a lot about how to select and develop sales people; skills they hadn’t had before and could now take with them anywhere they went. In turn, he referrred me on to other areas within the business, and so the journey and sales continue.


Here are some handy hints to help you up-sell and cross-sell:


  1. Product knowledge; know all your products well.
  2. Product associations and combinations; know how your products integrate with each other and how they form a bigger picture. This goes with this goes with that, etc.
  3. New topics; know how to introduce relevant new topics and products into the conversation.
  4. Education; don’t underestimate your value in terms of the educaton you bring to clients.
  5. Pricing stucture; know how your pricing works – the structures, bundling, unbundling, volume pricing, various product pricing combinations, etc.


For more information try this research site.




Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to


For more Sell Like  a Woman blogs, click here.



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