Cross-selling: What NOT To Do

Cross-selling became popular with one of the most well-known phrases across America, “Do you want fries with that?” What a brilliant way to up the worth of Mcdonald’s. What is chump change for you is billions in Mcdonald’s pocket. An upsell can increase your revenue and improve your margins.  

A successful cross-sell can be a giant win toward reaching your quota. We get it. It is like catching a huge fish. But there are many common pitfalls. Cross-selling can go wrong. So wrong. Here are some tips to help you not get it wrong.  

Don’t pitch a product you don’t know. You’re being tasked with upping your quota by pitching a new product. You should not be asked to cross-sell if you have yet to be cross-trained. You need to understand important information like: 

  1. What pain points does the product alleviate? 
  2. Who is the target customer?  
  3. What are common questions potential customers tend to ask? 
  4. Who are the competitors and how do we compare? 

You probably have questions about pricing, process or timing. Generate a list of questions and get answers before you dive into the cross-selling process.  

At the same time, use the selling process as a learning opportunity to learn more about your customers, their workflow, challenges, opportunities and anything else that might be valuable in your current relationship or as it relates to the product that you are attempting to cross-sell. 

Don’t go in blind. Don’t confuse cross-selling with upselling. Cross-selling is NOT upselling. You have access to a lot of information about your prospective cross-sell clients, this is not an add-on or an upsell. You are pitching an entirely different product or service. Treat the process as such. Don’t assume anything. This product may involve a new department with different decision makers, etc. If the products do correlate or correspond, make that clear in your pitch. Don’t make the sell harder than it needs to be.  

Once you have done your homework about the product and customer, consider the best approach to maintaining your current relationship with your customer while opening the door for this new possibility.  

Don’t pitch all your clients. Each product needs to be pitched to the right customer. If you pitch the wrong person, you will probably not have a sale. Make sure your people and products align. Don’t force it. Sometimes it is obvious. You wouldn’t pitch a dog product to a cat owner. Sean Kronengold, Collaboration Specialist at concurs:

“Some products are tailored only for specific industries, while some products can benefit clients across industries. IF you think that a product may be relevant even though it was not created for an industry, you can still pitch it with that caveat in your pitch. Your client may provide insights that help you in future cross-sells. You may gain a better understanding of which departments or individuals are the decision makers for this new product or service.”

Sean Kronengold, global sales manager at

Sometimes it is more nuanced. The right buyers for this product or service may not be in your client portfolio. You’ve got to figure that out before getting them on a call. You don’t want to lose your client’s respect or have them think that you don’t know them or value their time.  

Don’t underestimate the value of timing. Timing can be everything. Coordinate your cross-sells with the general renewal and sales cycle to pitch at the right time. You don’t want to get in the way of a service that they are already signed on for. In other words, don’t overwhelm the customer.  

Don’t lose your original sale. Two experts weigh in:

“Don’t get the customer into a situation where they can’t afford both, and now can’t decide which they want or need more. Have a solid sale on the first item before going to the second.”

Jason Light, Master Closer

Remember why you originally were making this sale. The client and product made sense. In this situation, one closed sale is better than two losses.

Rob Liano, Telesales Strategist concurs and suggests:

“Don’t go off track and distract from the original product/service when you get interest in the cross sale. Circle back to it while building value in the offer and present it as a package deal at the close.”  

Rob Liano, Telesales coach, consultant and speaker

Don’t pitch your troublemaker customer. Every customer is not a good customer. Let’s own it. Some customers can be infuriating. If you know that a customer is a drain on your resources, it’s probably not worth getting into the relationship even deeper. Save that time and energy for a customer who is more pleasant to work with. The primary downside of cross-selling is that cross-selling can cost your net profit. Why does that happen? Mainly because someone like you sold to unprofitable customers. Consider yourself warned.  

  • Don’t sell when you know that it will be a mismatch. Remember that your relationship with your clients trumps all. As time goes on you will get to know your customer and only pitch based on what you know from previous conversations when appropriate. Only make a serious effort when you think that the product would be a good fit for your customers’ wants and needs.  

If you think a particular cross-sell is a long shot, approach it as such. Let your client know that while you think this product may not be necessary based on what you know about them and their business, you wanted to make sure that they are aware of the catalog of products that your company offers.  

By presenting opportunities with authenticity and keeping the customers’ mindset and proclivities on the front burner, you will build trust with your customer. You should have their best interests in mind in your sales strategy. It will hurt their loyalty in the long term if you think or do otherwise. 

Want to easily tag in your teammates to collaborate in your sales and client relationships? Collabria recently launched our design partner program. It makes it possible for you to follow through on promises made to clients, with collaboration as needed, quickly and efficiently, so that you maintain long-lasting relationships.

Want in? Become a Collabria Design Partner. You gain free access AND we will send you some swag.


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