The Positive Side
of Cross-Selling

Electronic devices tend to work  better with batteries.

Batteries should be recommended.

Perhaps you heard: Cross-selling was in the news not long ago.

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren’s comment “Cross-selling isn’t about helping customers get what they need” went instantly viral. There’s no telling how many people it reached and prejudiced against what can be a mutually beneficial customer service.

To say that alleged abuses make cross-selling not about helping customers is like saying that overeating makes food bad for you. There is responsible and irresponsible eating, much like there is responsible and irresponsible cross-selling.

The difference responsible and irresponsible cross-selling isn’t hard to detect. Responsible cross-selling is all about helping customers. Irresponsible cross-selling isn’t.

Responsible cross-selling consists of identifying and offering to fill needs or wants. It provides a valuable service, because customers don’t always think to request what they need. If you ever brought home a new electronic gizmo only to wish the cashier had cross-sold you some batteries, you can identify.

For that matter, customers don’t always know what they need. A friend recently bought a canoe, life jackets, and paddles. The salesperson suggested—cross sold—a small dolly designed for hauling canoes from the parking lot to the water. My friend had never heard of canoe dollies, but the next day as he lugged the canoe up a long, sloping path, he found himself grateful he’d been cross-sold.

Sometimes customers are aware of needs but unaware there are products that fill them. When I worked in the marketing department of a sizable bank, I became an instant hero when I informed another department that the printing company they used also provided automated envelope stuffing. A bit of cross-selling on the printer’s part would have saved staff from months of needless after-hours envelope-stuffing.

Responsible cross-selling takes care of customers by offering them what they may need (and backing off when the answer is “no thanks”), and helps out banks and merchants with ethically earned, incremental profits along with increased loyalty.

Irresponsible cross-selling consists of browbeating or deceiving customers into buying what they neither want nor need. I’m sure you can identify with that, too, if you’ve ever experienced salespeople all but wrapping their arms around your ankles and threatening to hang until you buy.

Cross-selling’s “brand” has taken something of a hit in the media these days. If you have a responsible cross-selling program, good, though you might want to consider calling it something else for a while. Perhaps “customer care.” Which, in fact, it is.

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