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What the Difference Between Cross-Selling & Upselling?

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Sales strategies encouraging consumers to spend more money range from cross-selling to upselling. In this lesson, we discuss these two strategies and how they differ from one another.

Sales Strategies

Have either of these scenarios happened to you?

A. You head to the car lot looking to trade in your car and purchase a new one. While completing your purchase, the salesman recommends that you purchase all-weather floor mats to protect the interior of your car.

B. You arrive at the car lot, intent on trading your older car for a new one. You have your eye on the basic model of your favorite SUV, but the salesman talks you into the limited edition model with a moonroof and satellite radio.

Do either of these sales tactics sound familiar to you? If you've made any type of purchase lately--whether it's a car, a sweater or fast-food--you've probably experienced one of these situations. Let's take a closer look at cross-selling and upselling and how they differ.

What is Cross-Selling?

Like the floor mats in your new car, cross-selling involves convincing a customer to spend more money on a purchase for accessories that ''match'' their existing purchase. With this tactic, a sales associate identifies items that might complement a customer's initial purchase.

Cross-selling and upselling are common sales strategies.
cross-selling, upselling, sales, pricing strategy, selling, customer service

Cross-selling happens both in person and online. Remember those wireless headphones you checked out at on an e-commerce site? Right below them on the product page, you may have been shown pictures for other accompanying items like a charging cable or batteries. A lot of the time, cross-selling involves purchasing items you know you need (like batteries) but that might have slipped your mind. A savvy sales associate (or online platform that makes recommendations) can help ensure you make an additional purchase to your original one.

Cross-Selling Examples

Cross-selling in action might look something like these examples:

  • You're shopping in an electronics store for a new smartphone. The sales associate recommends a screen protector and specialty case to go along with your phone.
  • You're ordering lunch at your favorite sandwich shop and the clerk asks if you'd like to add chips and a drink to your order.
  • You're trying on a new blouse at a department store when the sales associate presents a pair of pants that match the blouse perfectly.

What is Upselling?

Upselling, on the other hand, involves a sales associate working to get a customer to spend more money on a upgraded version of something they were already looking at purchasing. Upselling means that a sales representative might see a customer's interest in a middle-of-the-road digital camera and start talking to them about buying the next model up (featuring a heftier price tag).

For some, upselling comes across as too pushy, but for the business, a successful upsell generates added revenue from what would have been a less expensive purchase. For a business that is upselling, it is important to show the consumer the added value that the upgraded product will offer.

Upselling Examples

Upselling in action might look like one of these examples:

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