Cross-Selling in Retail : “100% of winners have tried their luck !”

Delphine Desmarets

Published : 24 June 2016
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Happy girl on a shopping spree

Before detailing the purpose of cross-selling and more importantly, how to get good at it, I am immediately going to let you in on its most absolute secret, just so we get it over with.

Are you ready? You’d better concentrate, for it is pretty revolutionary!

The greatest secret to achieving cross-selling is to SYSTEMATICALLY propose something that’s for sale.

Amazing isn’t it?

That’s right, what distinguishes the best sellers from the others is the capacity to propose some extra product or service to each client. It can be either additional or complementary to the main offer.

Given that the turnover of a shop equals number of sales * average basket * average price, the more items you sell to each customer, the bigger your turnover will be.

Well, now that you know this, you are ready to increase your turnover between 15 and 25% according to research.

And this is all the more significant in times of crisis, when it is easier and less expensive to sell a little more to existing customers than to recruit or attract new ones.

All this seems obvious and most retail sellers know perfectly well about it, yet many of them content themselves with giving customers what they came for. Some because they couldn’t care less and do the job for lack of options, others for fear of annoying their customers or worse, “ruining” them, while others yet did take a stab at cross-selling but fell short of success.

Yet cross-selling is the essence of a seller’s job.  Only giving customers what they came for – even if done with friendliness and professionalism – is not selling. We could call it distribution of goods or collecting payments, anything you like, but not selling.


For all those who want to boost the sales of their store as well as make their job as a salesperson more interesting, here’s HOW to get the hang of cross-selling.


There are 2 complementary means of action to implement:

  1. Optimizing the layout of the shop (merchandising)
  2. Mastering sales techniques, using a few tips and tricks, and of course SYSTEMATICALLY offering additional items.


Nothing to wear concept, young woman deciding what to put on

Doing some effective merchandising is fairly simple. It consists in presenting the right product at the right time and the right place in the shop.



The right product

The right product is the one that coincides with the trends. It is therefore important to make smart purchases beforehand and get a maximum of sellers involved in this step. They know better than anyone about customers’ tastes and will be more determined to sell items they have chosen themselves. If you do not have the right products – or the right sizes – in store, it will be difficult to make sales, let alone additional sales.

The right time

To have proper timing, it is important to adapt the offers of the shop to your business environment, for example:


  • The weather: if it rains in the summer it is a good idea to get the raincoats out of the storage room.
  • The neighbouring stores: if they are running a commercial offer, it is probably wise to follow suit.
  • Neighbourhood events: participating in night events, street markets, birthdays, etc.
  • Key times of the year: Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.


The right time is also, and most importantly, when your customers are available and when you’d better be open: at lunchtime, in the evening, and even (if possible) on Sunday morning.


The right place

The purchase of additional items (unplanned purchases) could be viewed as a love-at-first-sight affair between the customer and the product. Products need to shine through, leap out at customers and irresistibly seduce them.

In a shop though, there are places more strategic than others, the first of which being the showcase.

The showcase is your “silent salesperson”, the one that will provoke desire, that will make customers want to go inside or not.  It is very important to change the layout regularly (at least once every 2 weeks) to increase the chance of your clients “falling in love”, to take the time to clean the glass and arrange well-assorted articles behind it, and if you sell clothes, to present them unfolded…

In addition, the showcase is also the ideal place to display your shop’s promotions, for instance a 40% discount on the 3rd article bought, or an extra gift for purchases over 90 Eur. These special offers will certainly help sellers increase their average basket.


Then there is a second strategic place for cross-selling: the payment area.


The best examples of this are found in supermarkets, which systematically draw attention to the cheap items of daily life (such as candy, toys etc.) that are irresistible to the customer!

Why not imitate them? The important thing is to choose small items that don’t take up too much space, in particular cheap items likely to trigger sudden changes of heart and impulse buying.

Finally, within the shop, it is best to present the accessories next to the main products from the same collection or brand – i.e. computers next to screens, USB sticks and cables; suits next to shirts, ties and belts; perfumes next to day creams and lotions.

As regards ready-to-wear, you can elicit desire by dressing up mannequins with more than 3 items and some accessories to make them look alive and make the clothes look like they are really being worn.

Now that your shop is optimized, the seller can remain true to his art, namely, seducing customers with products they had no intention of buying in the first place.




Funny colorful portrait of an attractive young woman

Of course there are specific techniques for cross-selling and I will reveal some at the end of this article. However, in order to cross-sell you must already know how to sell, and thus master some basic techniques: client reception, discovering needs, argumentation, handling objections, closing, etc.

Developing these techniques is obviously not the subject of the article, however there are two steps that must be particularly well-rounded if you want to have any chance at cross-selling.


A warm welcome

Portrait of an attractive young woman laughing hard

Warmly welcoming customers to put them in the best possible mood is essential if you want to propose products/articles and more.

Did you know that when a customer enters a store it takes them 8 seconds to form an opinion on the development of the upcoming sale?  Unconsciously, in 8 seconds, they get to know whether or not you are happy to welcome them, whether or not you are knowledgeable, whether or not they are going to have a good time, etc.

You want to make more sales? Start by tending to the customer’s arrival!


A real discovery

Colorful portrait of an attractive young woman

It is absolutely essential to discover the needs and expectations of your customers in order to offer them the appropriate products, both main and additional.

Actually, nothing could be easier. Just ask open questions (no yes-or-no questions) to obtain more information.


  • Why do you want a new car?
  • What type of clothes are you looking for?
  • What kind of club are you looking for?
  • Where would you like to use this tent?
  • What would be a good computer for you?
  • For what occasion do you need a shirt?

But what is really important when asking questions is to listen to the answers!

  • Mine’s too old and I don’t feel safe driving it.
  • I love the one worn by Nicole Kidman.
  • I saw the latest set from Ping in the US and they look amazing.
  • I’m going to Vietnam, and I’ll need protection from the rain.
  • Something cheap and basic, it’s for my 10 years old daughter.
  • I don’t know, I want to look good, show me what you have.

Not only must you pay attention to their explicit answers, but also those that are not formally expressed but can be guessed through careful listening.

This is what we refer to under the acronym SPICES:

  • Safety / Quality
  • Pride
  • Innovation
  • Comfort
  • Economy
  • Sensitive

Once you figure out the true motives behind a customer’s desire to buy, you can propose items suiting their needs as well as other relevant products by using proper argumentation:


  • This car is known for its robustness, it scored 10/10 in crash tests, and you can go for the B12 ABS security option to make it even safer to drive!
  • You have amazing taste, many of my other clients would love to wear it. I think you will look fantastic in it, and may I suggest, coupled with this unique bracelet, I’m sure you will make them all jealous!
  • Here is the new G25 steel club, it’s just come out and you’re actually the first client to check it out.  Also, if you’re interested, I have received this driver from the US which is very powerful, would you like to try it out as well?
  • I have what you need, that one over there is Gore Tex and totally waterproof, and since you are going to Vietnam I would recommend this net to keep out mosquitos. Also, if you need daytime protection, we have this lotion…
  • For children, we have this PC at 399 €, it is entry-level but still a quality model that will last several years.  And if you have some budget left, we are running a great offer on flat screens. Here, take a look…
  • I think this navy shirt would look nice on you, I see it fitting very well with the jeans you’re wearing or maybe with these beige chinos… They perfectly suit your style. Would you like to try them both?

Of course, there are other techniques to master, but this part of the questioning phase is really crucial to achieving successful cross-selling.

By being interested in the needs, desires and buying motives of your customer, you create a win-win relationship that will make their shopping experience more pleasant.

It is very important never to sell something that does not match the tastes of a customer, for you not only risk losing the initial sale, but they may also never come back to your shop.


First some examples of what not to do:


  • Offering nothing
  • Finish with “do you need anything else?”
  • Rushing to get the payment from the first item sold
  • As long as the customer has had enough, the game is on!

Develop a systematic reflex

Colorful fresh portrait of a beautiful playful young woman

Remember: The absolute secret to successful cross-selling is to SYSTEMATICALLY ask.

The more propositions you make to your customers, the more potential sales you can make, it’s simple maths.

It has to become a reflex, like saying hello or registering payments at the till. It is what separates the best sellers from the others.

Create associations

Walk around your store, look at the display, and imagine the product associations you could present to customers.

It may be accessories, complementary products, maintenance products but also products destined to other family members (“Have you seen our children department?”) or totally different products (“We also have a furnishing department with very original items”).


If you have just received new products or if you have a promotional offer running, you need to talk about it (“Did you know that you get 20% off if you bundle 3 items?!”).

In brief, you need to know beforehand what you will be able to offer to increase your average basket because this preparation will give you more assurance.


Prepare your hooks

List the industry-specific catch lines, for example:

  • If I may, I think that this other article would look amazing with this one…


  • May I suggest you try these trousers, they’re a great match for this top, a lot of my customers love this look…


  • I can recommend from experience this accessory as very practical with the item you have chosen..


  • We also have a great range of cleaning products to help maintain your article…


If you don’t feel comfortable at first and are afraid to force the customer’s hand, use the “next time” technique:


  • We also have the matching necklace… Here it is, you may want to try it out next time…
  • For your information, we also have a zoom lens for that camera, I’d be happy to show it to you next time you visit…
  • We have a superb jacket that matches this skirt, maybe for some next occasion, I’ll show it to you while I prepare your bag…


Suggest without imposing

Funny young woman holding high heels shoes

In any case, you should make your offers with enthusiasm, try to enrapture your customers’ senses, offer them something that adds value from their perspective, and be careful to always introduce the additional product through a simple suggestion and let customers decide.

Don’t be pushy… a no is a no. Whatever happens, you’ll have scored some points and some customers may think your suggestion through and come back later.

Well, I hope I have inspired you to do your job as a real seller, which is to always look beyond the first customer request. And since we can only evaluate our progress in light of what is measurable, I invite you to calculate your current average basket and observe its evolution over the weeks and months to come. I’m sure it will be on the rise.


Happy cross-selling to all! 


Delphine Desmarets

© Halifax Consulting

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