Examples of cross selling

Have you witnessed or experienced any of these examples in cross selling that show it’s importance?

While fueling, a petrol attendant invites you to buy a higher grade fuel; as you await the meal you’ve just ordered, the waiter asks you what drink you would like to have; in traffic, a hawker entices you to buy an MP3 player complete with a flash disk; as you exit the church you find a CD of that day’s moving sermon on sale and you are invited to buy a book too; en route home, planning to buy only mangoes from the fruit vendor  and, having tasted a slice of a juicy orange, go back to your car with bagfulls of mangoes, oranges and bananas; you bought something online having been informed that ‘those that bought (this product you’ve just bought), also bought (this other one). 

You may have been at the receiving end of one of these transactions. Incidentally, the example of the fuel station is a case of upselling. So what is the importance of cross selling? And what is it?

What is cross selling?

Now then. Cross selling is not fraud and manipulation as in the case of Wells Fargo Bank. So what is it? It happens when on the sales person’s persuasion, most effectively done via invitation or permission selling, you buy something else other than the one you had intended to buy; and why? Because, the salesperson presented it to you when your frame of mind was in “buy” mode. “Which drink would you like to have while you wait for your meal, Sir?” When you were most naturally inclined to buy, he sold ‘across’; that is, horizontally. He sold you another product similar, or aligned, to the one you had planned to buy.

That is the meaning of cross selling. If he sold vertically upwards that would be upselling, like upgrading you from a bronze to gold package; or freemium to premium service; if he sold you more of what you are buying (like a bank sales rep convincing an institution to deposit more funds in its fixed deposit account than it usually does, that is deep selling). Now. If you are a salesperson, what about you? How do you cross sell? Indeed, do you cross sell? Or are you among those many human resource personnel and sales managers, lament, don’t?

Importance of cross selling

Feedback from sales training workshops and human resource personnel is that many salespeople dread cross selling. But how does the need to cross sell arise? Institutions start with a product or service. They then realize that it’s not a panacea to their market’s (customer’s) need and so are missing sales they can fulfill without changing who they are i.e. using existing resources. And so they develop another product; and a third, sixth and fifteenth still. For instance, wine sellers can easily have tens of different kinds of wine.

It does not always make business sense to recruit a specific team of salespeople for every product developed; and even if it did, it reflects poorly on the salesperson and institution when a client has to engage three different salespeople to buy a detergent, a soap, and cosmetic yet all three are manufactured by the one firm he is dealing with; or a personal account, credit card, and loan yet all are offered by his bank; or, short business or professional courses, recruitment and consultancy services yet his preferred training firm offers all three.  

 importance of cross selling

Sometimes though, firms may just see the opportunity to give an extra service to differentiate themselves from the competition and therefore wash and service cars at a petrol station, for example. Such is the importance of cross selling. Put differently, flip the coin. If you are the client, in such a situation, would you want to deal with a separate person or institution for every transaction you needed? And, among other benefits, lose on the opportunity of not having to form another relationship or for bulk discount? I wouldn’t.

Exploiting opportunities

Given the foregoing, the progressive salesperson should eagerly embrace cross selling opportunities. It marks a significant step in his professional growth. As this blog has averred, the prospect sees the salesperson as offering a solution not selling a product; an authority in his industry, not just with his company’s products. Offering to sell something other than what got you the client’s ear in the first place, is maximizing on an opportunity and presenting yourself as a solution provider.

Because of the importance of cross selling, some organizations will incentivize the salesperson with a different commissions structure per product sold, with the highest usually being awarded to the product with the highest profit margin.  Interestingly, judging from workshops and feedback received from readers and sales managers, many salespeople will tend to incline, not necessarily to the one with the highest commissions, but the one they find easiest to sell! And why? Because change is difficult. Yet, You don’t grow when you are comfortable. Of course, for those who do favour the products with the highest commissions naturally fare better among their peers in rankings, income and contests. However, my school of thought is that where cross selling strategy or framework is concerned, the salesperson must strike a balance between what the income structure is and what suits his client; win-win and long term thinking always works.


The importance and benefits of cross selling cannot be gainsaid. Shunning cross selling is really banging your head against the wall. It’s a win-win all around. Cross selling stretches the salespersons mind, offering personal development and growth; cross selling deepens the relationship with the prospect or client; it lets you offer a solution other than just give a product; cross selling earns you more in commissions. Perhaps the largest challenge with cross selling is the salesperson’s ability to accept it.

Read also: How cross selling can be abused. The case of Wells Fargo Bank

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