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Would You Like Fries With That?

Understanding The Difference Between an Upsell and a Cross-sell and How Utilizing These Strategies Can Make You More Money, Improve your Retention and Build Lasting Relationships with Clients.



"Would you like fries with that?" is a topic that is written about by sales professionals often. However, more time then not they get it wrong. An article I recently read talked about the idea that Mc Donalds pioneered the idea of asking "would like fries with that?" as a classic upsell. The idea was that before the invention of the combo meal, a hungry patron would come into Mc Donalds, order a burger and the server behind the counter would ask, "Would you like fries with that?" If the customer said yes, bingo McDonalds made an upsell and more money. First of all this is. across-sell and not an upsell but we will get to that in a moment. The author then takes a giant leap and makes the comparison to someone who comes into a store and buys a pair of $500 shoes. His premise is that if the customer has $500 to buy shoes, they must have money, he then goes further to say that a buyer willing to pay $500 for a pair of shoes must be in a buying mood and all a sales person needs to do is ask the client if they would like a belt and wallet to go with the shoes. His premiss is that the because the customer bought $500 shoes the cross-sell of a belt and wallet is a no brainer. He goes on to say that this is a classic upsell, which it is not and as a sales professional you just made more sales and and more commission right? So then, what is wrong with this strategy?


Well...A lot so let's break it down.


Understanding the difference between an upsell and a cross-sell

First this sales expert does not understand the terminology of sales. What he described above in NOT an upsell but a cross-sell. Cross-selling is a powerful tool both in creating new revenue streams and in building customer retention, but before we continue let's get the terminology right.


A cross-sell is a is a sale that is related to or complimentary of the original purchase. An upsell is an upgrade of the original product at a higher price. With those definitions in place lets re-examine the example above, because the idea is still a great strategy.


In the first example a server at Mc Donalds is asking a customer if they would like fries with their burger. In the days before a combo meal that was a cross-sell. Adding fries and or a drink is complimentary to the burger and added to the overall purchase price and profit. This cross-sell not only adds to the price of the product or service but is a strategic way to increase retention as well.

Why is cross-selling a powerful tool when it comes to customer retention? Let's look at it from the point of view of the insurance industry.


Many insurance customers have their auto insurance with one company and homeowners or renters with another. When an insurance agent can cross-sell a customer and have them as a client for both home/renters and auto the likelihood of retaining that customer increases by a minimum of 10%.

Now let's look at the shoe example both from the idea of a cross-sell and an upsell. In the same article the author suggest that if a customer comes into a store looking for a pair of $500 shoes that they must be flush with cash and it is the perfect opportunity to "upsell them but offering an expensive belt and wallet to go with the shoes." Again that would be a cross-sell and not an upsell. but lets look at this example closer.


I have a foot problem that requires me to wear quality shoes. When my foot problem first started I went to Nordstrom in search of Ecco shoes as I knew they had a reputation for comfort. The Ecco's I was looking at were about $200. As I tied on shoes the sales expert recommended that I try on a pair of Mephisto's. These shoes were far more comfortable than Ecco's and also $300 more expensive. $500 was a lot for me to spend on a pair of shoes but the extra comfort was well worth the price. The sale person understood my pain point and knew that if he could solve my problem I would likely be willing to spend the extra money. However just because I was willing to spend the extra money on shoes that solved a problem I had it did not mean I was willing to to spend more money on a belt and a wallet.

I had a real problem, a pain point and that was my foot problem. The Nordstrom sales professional took the time to ask the right question and listen. By doing so he became more that a shoe salesman, he became my trusted advisor for shoes. He displayed his knowledge and let me know he cared. Once I trusted him I was willing to try on a pair of $500 shoes and buy them. That is an Upsell.


What about a cross-sell in this situation. Let's go back to the same Nordstrom sales professional and back to the Ecco shoes. I try on the same Ecco shoes and like the comfort and style. As the Nordstrom sales professional is asking me questions about my purchase and listening to my answers he learns that I am buying these shoes because I was just hired for a new corporate sales job and I want an updated wardrobe. Bingo! Now that the sales person knows that I am updating my wardrobe for new job, he can pivot and emphasize the importance of having a new belt and wallet to go with the shoes. Not because I am flush with cash but because he has learned that I am trying to portray a certain image at my new job and the belt and wallet will strengthen that look. My pain point this time was not a foot problem but upping my personal style and image.

Each customer you encounter requires you to ask questions, build rapport and understand their pain point. Learn your customers needs and wants. Then determine if there is an upsell or cross-sell opportunity. Doing so the right way with the right understanding will help you close more sales, make more money and retain clients for the long term


IGNITE your ability to become a million dollar closer by understanding and using cross-selling and upselling.


  • Cross-sell - Encouraging a customer to buy products or services that are related to their original purpose.

  • Upselling - Encouraging customers to buy a higher end version of a product or service

  • The chance of closing a new customer is 5%-20% while the success of cross-selling an existing customer increases to 60%-70%.

  • Cross-selling and upselling clients leads to better retention due to the fact that your client is now more heavily invested in your products or services.

  • Cross-selling and Upselling requires asking solid questions

  • Understanding the importance of listening and applying it to your sales process is key to IGNITING your success.






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