Creativity Meets Cross-Selling

Charles Duell became famous during his tenure as United States Commissioner of Patents, allegedly saying this: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  He said that in 1898.  We all know how silly that statement was, and still is.  Recently, my wife and I went to a restaurant; we got to spend the evening with good friends, we had a fine meal, and we were witness to something new that I’ve never before seen on a menu.  We also got a great lesson in cross-selling.

Quite frankly, I’ve always been surprised why so many people seem to avoid cross-selling opportunities.  It happens to be one of the easiest ways to increase profit.  Just in case you’re a little murky on what cross-selling is, it means, “selling a different product or service to an existing customer.”  The benefits of doing this are many, including increasing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and one of my favorites; it can be beneficial to both your customer and you.

So, let’s get back to that dinner with friends that seems to have nested in my mind.  We had some drinks, shared an appetizer, and enjoyed our main course. Once the dishes were cleared, we ordered coffee, and took a look at the dessert menu.  Did you notice anything unusual so far? It seemed that the only thing left to sell us was deserts… or so we thought!  

At this particular restaurant, they had a rather clever way to intelligently cross-sell one more item, and it wasn’t even for anyone at the table.  It was for the other members of our families who were waiting at home for us… our dogs!  

Our dessert menu offered a choice of four items; a hot fudge sundae, warm white chocolate bread pudding, a warm flourless chocolate waffle… and a dog biscuit.  We had planned on ordering one desert to share, but we ended up ordering two items off that dessert menu; the bread pudding… and that dog biscuit.  How could I resist?  Our dog Lily was waiting at home for us, and due to her history as a shelter dog, she suffers from some separation anxiety.  The only thing she loves more than being around us, is any morsel of any food whatsoever!  The thought of bringing her a dog biscuit from a night out seemed like the perfect peace offering, and a way to cap off a wonderful evening.  The experience also highlighted a perfect example of cross-selling, because it carefully addressed both criteria necessary:

Keep it simple.   If you offer too many solutions, or make your suggestion complicated, you run the risk of confusing your customer, and diluting the value of the main product you are really selling.  There was nothing complicated about a dog biscuit.

Do it at the right time.  Timing plays a big role in selling, and when it comes to cross-selling, this can be critical.  The most effective time and place to cross-sell is at the at the end of the sales cycle, when customers have already committed to a purchase, and are satisfied with his or her solution.  Imagine how desperate and annoying the idea of selling a dog biscuit would have been if it had been offered as we were being seated?  

The idea was simple, the timing was textbook, and as a result, we walked out with a biscuit that probably cost the restaurant 25 cents. We paid six times that amount, and we thanked the waiter and restaurant for offering it to us! What a perfect way to finish off a meal, and what a perfect way to make easy profit.

I fear that many who sell are nervous about cross-selling to their customers, and that may be because it’s often done poorly. When you can keep things simple, and you time it right, it’s a win/win for both you and your customer.  Wait, in this case, that’s not exactly true.  It’s a win/win/win for you, your customer, and your faithful friend waiting for you at home.

Related: It’s Okay To Have An Opinion