How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Effectively: The Only Guide You’ll Need

If you’re trying to increase your agency’s revenue (and who isn’t), upselling and cross-selling to your existing clients should be a no-brainer. If done right, it can strengthen your relationship with clients, establish your credibility as a valued partner, and improve your profits. Done wrong, and you’ll be viewed as a seedy salesman in a polyester suit.

Most people may be suspicious when someone tries to upsell or cross-sell something. Nobody wants to spend more money than they have to.

But we realized that those are only the situations where the seller has done a bad job upselling. They are usually situations where the potential buyer feels like the seller didn’t really understand them, their needs, or interests, and was just trying to milk more money out of them. (Extended warranties are a prime example)

The reality is you have probably been successfully upsold and cross-sold in many situations but don’t even think about it because they were positive experiences. You likely ended up with more value than your original request, whether through a better product, an improved service, or a discount.

If done right, upselling and cross-selling your services can strengthen your relationship with clients, establish your credibility as a valued partner, and improve your profits.

Amazon says 35% of its profits come from upselling and cross-selling. We love this feature on their site.

What’s the Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling?

woman standing and holding smartphones
Image Source: Clay Banks

These terms can get confused so let’s make the distinction as clear as possible:


The upsell is really about getting your client to spend more money, to buy a higher-end version of whatever it is they originally had in mind.

Example: Your agency is creating a campaign for a client. The original budget called for using stock images but you convince them that by spending more money, your designer could make custom illustrations that would establish a distinct look and feel that the client’s brand would own, they could reuse these images in future campaigns, and it would really help create a memorable impression on their target audience. It may cost a bit more but it has the potential to return greater value.


Cross-selling is convincing your client to spend more money on other services that are different but complementary to their original need.

Example: A client comes to you looking for a website rebuild. You convince them to first have your agency do an audit of their existing site and then create a strategy based on the findings. This delivers value to the client by providing an informed plan of attack for creating a more effective, goal-oriented website.

Why You Need to Upsell and Cross-Sell

While there are a number of benefits to upselling and cross-selling, here are the most compelling:

Marketing Metrics

Why is it easier to sell to an existing client? Because they already know you, they trust you to do good work, and they like working with you. It’s easier for them to say yes. If you do it right, you can upsell and cross-sell to existing customers without appearing like you’re just trying to get them to spend more money.

While it’s usually the responsibility of the agency owner and/or a biz dev person to bring in new leads, account directors, and other members of your team can get involved by upselling and cross-selling your services to your existing clients. Now you have more people working on more opportunities for more revenue.

If you’re looking to increase your profits and cement your client relationships, then upselling and cross-selling are the best ways to do that.

The trick is to make sure you do it right. No one wants to feel like they’re dealing with the stereotypical slimy salesperson. And you really don’t want your agency associated with that kind of reputation.

So here are some suggestions for the best ways to successfully upsell and cross-sell.

Know your clients

In order to successfully sell additional services to your clients, you need to demonstrate meaningful value. And the only way you can do that is to understand their needs, their goals, and their challenges. Research as much as you can about their industry, their customers, their business, their process.

A big part of knowing your customers also involves listening to them, really listening. Learning as much as you can about your clients can help you recognize and create opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.

Do your customers know you?

Don’t assume your clients know all your services or products. Part of your onboarding process should include an overview of all your services.

Communicating regularly with your clients through blog posts and email campaigns will help ensure you don’t miss an opportunity for a lucrative cross-sell.

Focus on value

Demonstrating the value of the upsell or cross-sell will shift the mindset of your client from one of “I do not want to spend more money!”, to “We need this to be successful.”

It’s important to define the value clearly to the client, don’t just leave it up to them to figure out. Explain how it will help them achieve their goals, solve their problem, or improve their business.

As the old saying goes, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” So don’t get caught up going over all the cool features of your services; show the client how they will benefit from those features.

If you can show that what you’re suggesting is going to improve the situation for the client, and then follow through, you’ll be an all-star hero. They’ll regard your agency as a true partner in their success.

When not to upsell or cross-sell

woman standing inside clothing area
Image Source: Korie Cull

Like many things in life, timing is everything and the same holds true when it comes to upselling or cross-selling to your clients.

Be sensitive to the current context of your client and their business. Again, listen to what they’re saying and what they’re asking for to make sure your solution is applicable.

If a client is unhappy about something or your agency hasn’t delivered on other items, this is not the time to upsell. You need to deal with the immediate needs of your client to get things back on track before introducing anything else to the mix.

And don’t try to upsell and cross-sell on every project you have with a particular client. They will start to get suspicious and lose trust that you sincerely care about the success of their business over the bottom line of your business.


Upselling and cross-selling will improve your business, but you should have an agency-wide plan for putting it into practice. Your team needs to be up-to-date on your all services and should be briefed on the best practices for approaching clients. The why, how, and when of upselling and cross-selling so it’s done strategically, not haphazardly.

Leave a Comment