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The secret of consultative cross-selling or up-selling

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There are many components that go into a successful sale and while I am hesitant to narrow it down to just one thing I will share with you a simple concept that you could consider a "secret" to cross selling success. Of course, it's really not a secret – few selling techniques are. However, we see so few sales people actually use the strategy that it's easier to conclude that this one must not be common knowledge.

The secret to being really good in sales, and to come across to your clients as a helpful professional and not as a pushy sales person, is to make it your goal to have the client acknowledge a problem first before you try to solve it by selling them your product.

When you can do this you are well over half way to making the sale. As consumers, we tend to listen to sales people when we think we are getting a benefit – when we think what they are selling might help us. Naturally, the odds go up of a sales person making the sale if we are listening to them.

Unfortunately, many sales people just tell you about how great the product is and how it benefits the average person and then they leave it up to us to root through the benefits looking for value. They rely on us, the consumer, to ask questions and our questions guide their process. The challenge with this obviously is that it puts the pressure on the consumer to do all the work. Sometimes we will work hard to understand how a product benefits us (if, for example, we are really keen and have an acute problem we are aware of and want to solve) and other times we won't put forth any effort at all. When we think we are getting up-sold or cross-sold, we don't usually work too hard at all. After all, the sales person is selling us for their benefit. That is clear to us from their lack of knowledge about how the product will help us specifically.

Good sales people, in contrast, do the work for you by asking questions that get the real problem out in the open, and in some cases, help us as consumers understand our own needs. They ask questions that get you to focus on what you are doing as opposed to what you are buying; they recognise that people do not buy products but rather they buy what the product will do for them.

The principle: Problem first, product second

Example: Online banking

Problem it solves: It makes it easier to do routine transactions; saves time.

Get the client to acknowledge the problem: By asking questions that get them to expand on how they do their banking and on whether or not they find coming into the branch to be inconvenient.

Example: Jewellery floater on a home owner policy

Problem it solves: It alleviates any concern someone might have that they won't be adequately compensated for expensive jewellery they lose or that gets stolen.

Get the client to acknowledge the problem: By asking questions that get them to talk about their expensive/invaluable jewellery and whether or not they would be upset if they lost it or didn't get enough money from insurance to cover the replacement.

Example: External Hard Drive for your computer

Problem it solves: Provides a sense of security or peace of mind knowing that, should something happen to your computer's hard drive, you will not lose any of your important files.

Get the client to acknowledge the problem: By asking questions that get them to expand on what files they have on their computer currently that they would be devastated if they were lost (family photos, important documents they have written, music etc); asking what they do now for back-up and how confident they are that their data is safe.


How do you decide what questions to ask when you want to sell a specific product?
Ask yourself – what problem does this product solve? What motivates people to buy it? What problem would the client have to have for them to justify buying it? The answers will give you a good idea of where to take the conversation first before you get into a product "pitch".


The critical part of this process is patience. As a sales person, you need to cultivate the skill of being patient. Ask questions and let the client talk. Let them acknowledge the problem first. In fact, the longer the client talks about the problem the easier it is to sell a solution. Don't be like the over-eager sales person that continually cuts people off mid-sentence after only knowing a sliver of the client's problem. Relax; develop the habit of asking good, thoughtful, questions that focus on the client's circumstance and whether or not they have the problem that the product you are thinking of selling solves.

Do this all day long and clients will rave about how helpful, professional and friendly you are. Do this all day long and your sales manager will rave about the fantastic results you are getting!

"The actions of men are like the index of a book … They point out what is most remarkable in them."

– Heinrich Heine

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Copyright © 2008 by Fusion Performance Group Inc.
Copyright © 2012 by Fusion Performance Group Inc. If you share this, print it out, or reproduce it in any way, please retain this copyright statement.If you share this, print it out, or reproduce it in any way, please retain this copyright statement.