"Would You Like Fries With That?" – Up-Selling, Back-Selling, and Cross-Selling Your Customers

May 4, 2010 by  Filed under: Marketing 

“Would you like fries with that?” may be the most profitable 6-word phrase ever uttered. Think how many millions of times people have heard that question, paused a second, and said, “sure.” Or consider the “happy meal” now so prevalent among fast food companies, or the option, almost equally prevalent, to “supersize” or the like. What do all these options have in common?


It’s simple, really. Marketers know that most of the thought and reluctance to purchase go into the first decision to purchase. After that resistance is overcome (if it is), a second purchase or a substantial upgrade in purchase, may be a mere afterthought, accomplished spontaneously. In marketing terms, these are called up-sales.

It’s obvious now, but it wasn’t always this way. McDonald’s deliberately instituted a sales program to require its salespeople to ask the upsale/backsale question. Some people thought it would annoy customers as an “obvious” attempt to make them buy more than they had intended, but I doubt that ever occurs to a statistically significant number of customers. Instead, a customer appreciates his or her attention being called to the fact that greater value can be had for only a slightly larger outlay. The benefits to McDonald’s bottom line has been spectacular.

Up-selling, Back-selling and Cross-selling

Any business with more than one product, or with different size products, should learn the lesson from McDonalds. And many have. Virtually every national business has some variation on the upsale/backsale routine, and many internet companies have really pushed the envelope in this regard. It works, and it works very well for the businesses and customers alike. I believe a lot of smaller businesses have not yet devoted enough attention to the question, however.

If You Haven’t, You Should

If you have not developed a “back end” or have not trained your sales force to work it, you may be missing an excellent opportunity to increase profits dramatically. If you are a small business, you may not have but one product, or it may not be feasible to upsell a customer. You can still increase the value delivered and your profit, though, with a little thought. One option could be to make an arrangement with another business that could serve a need related to the one your customer satisfied.

An Example

Take a walk into a hardware store for a good example of the way this can work. It often happens that you can rent equipment you will need to help make the repairs that brought you to the hardware store in the first place right from the counter of the hardware store. Often that equipment store is a completely different business. If you need professional help with the repairs, the person behind the counter can most likely make a recommendation, and sometimes they ask you if you need help. At the counter you will inevitably notice a number of possibly useful gizmos. People buy these on a whim, spontaneously (impulse buys). And sometimes there is a board with postings for services offered that might be needed by people who go to hardware stores-for lawn care, for example. Each of these things can be a profit center for the hardware store, all take advantage of the fact that once initial buying reluctance is overcome other purchases come more easily, and the net effect, in addition to the enhanced profit, is that hardware stores become a place where people with a variety of needs come confident that they will find what they want.

It’s worth putting something like that into place in your business.

Ken Gibert is a professional writer and business marketing consultant and operates Golden Sun Consulting. He specializes in writing–articles, copywriting, ghostwriting…any kind of writing–and marketing consulting.

If you are interested in direct marketing and want to know how you can direct your own ad campaigns to maximize your profit, please see: http://www.goldensunconsulting.com/jayabraham.html.

If you’re interested in the author or for more information on marketing or writing samples, please see my site at: http://www.goldensunconsulting.com.

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