What is Cross-Selling?

A waitress is cross-selling when she suggects side dishes or desserts to go with a meal.
Electronics stores often use a pitch for a computer to sell add-ons like speakers and printers.
A fast-food restaurant might urge customers to try a new product with its hamburger.
A server may use cross-selling to sell a glass of wine to a customer who only intended to purchase dinner.
Condiments may be sold as being a great compliment to a hamburger as part of cross-selling.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2015
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Cross-selling is a strategy of providing existing customers the opportunity to purchase additional items offered by the seller. It typically involves offering the customer items that complement the original purchase in some manner. The idea behind this strategy is to capture a larger share of the consumer market by meeting more of the needs and wants of each individual customer.

The idea of cross-selling translates well into just about any business situation. In the fast food industry, customers are often invited to try new products or established complementary items. For example, when an individual orders a hamburger at a local fast food restaurant, the server will often ask the customer if her or she would like a side item to go with the hamburger. If the restaurant is offering a new dessert, the server may also suggest to the customer that the new item may be a desirable complement to the hamburger. By employing this simple approach, the server may entice the customer into making another purchase above and beyond the one originally intended.


This technique is also commonly employed in retail sales. When purchasing a washing machine, the salesperson may extend some type of special offer to the customer in order to entice the buyer into also purchasing a dryer. If the customer is in the market for a new computer, the savvy salesperson may provide information on several other ancillary devices that will make the computer more valuable to the consumer, such as a printer, exterior drive, or a wireless mouse. As long as the additional items complement the original purchase in some manner, the approach can be referred to as cross-selling.

It is also possible to engage in cross-selling with services as well as products. The telecommunications industry is a prime example of this type of sales activity. When establishing local telephone service, the new subscriber is often invited to enjoy other telecommunications options offered by the service provider. These may include long distance packages, cell phone services, or high-speed Internet services. While different from local phone services, the ability to provide this broader range of telecommunication options makes it possible for the customer to address several related wants or needs through a single vendor.

While cross-selling is often a highly desirable activity for both the seller and the buyer, it is not without some degree of risk. In the event that one of the additional goods or services does not live up to the consumer’s expectations, the negative experience could color the perception of the customer in regard to the other purchased products. As a result, the customer may choose to sever relations with the vendor, taking all of his or her business to a new provider.


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Post 19

this is much easier to understand than my business classes. thanks. I'm happy to find this website.

Post 16

very informative article.

Post 12

i was confused but now i know what is cross-selling. thanks

Post 10

Good one. Hats off!

Post 9

simple and informative. apart from definition quoted examples made the topic to be easily understood.

Post 8

this explanation of cross selling really shed some light for me. Hats off to you.

Post 7

A nice article. It really helped me to gain an understanding of the topic.

Post 6

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Post 5

your discussion helped a lot. Thank you very much.

Post 4

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Post 3

this straightforward info is really helpful for management students. thanks a lot.

Post 2

Thanks for writing about cross selling. actually i want to know.

Post 1

it was indeed a very valuable topic on cross selling..I have got lot of fundamental ideas behind cross selling.. :)

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