What’s One Thing That We Can Learn From E-Commerce About Sales?

illustration of upsellin or cross-selling in b2b


Although an e-commerce sales process greatly differs from the sales we’re usually cover here, I believe there are some tactics that can be taken from it and applied to our own B2B sales process. For instance, upselling and cross-selling on the order value. Let’s see how we can use e-commerce’s tactic of upselling and cross-selling and use it to boost our sales.

What do “upselling” & “cross-selling” mean?

When you go to Starbucks, the barista usually asks you, “Do you want an extra shot of espresso in your coffee?” Something similar happens in McDonald’s where you’re asked whether you want to supersize your order. Well, that is upselling in real life. The seller wants to up the value of your initial order.

Cross-selling is when you’re offered an attractive accompaniment to the thing you’re ordering. For example, you’re offered fries to your burger, or to step outside of the culinary world references, you’re buying a new camera and you can get a discount on memory cards. All in all, customers buy an additional thing to their initial order.

Relevancy is key in upselling and cross-selling

The success in upselling and cross-selling comes down to the relevancy of the offer. A prospective buyer can’t be persuaded to up the value of their order unless they can buy something relevant at the right time. That “relevancy” factor is decisive here. E-commerce stores are great at using it.

Whenever you’re ready to make a purchase, e-commerce stores remind you that you can either get more value by upgrading your purchase or buying an additional item. They do it at the right moment — when you’re about to check out. And since most of B2C customers buy on the whim, checking out lends itself as a perfect opportunity to buy more.

Here’s an example of cross-selling. Sports shoppers want to buy a sports team jersey. They added it to the cart. Immediately after, the e-commerce store offers them a hat. The hat is relevant. It’s the same sports team hat. Will they buy it?

shopify upselling example

Or see an example from Amazon. Shop visitors want to buy an Xbox One. They will need a game to use it, so the shop suggests offers them a combined deal. Isn’t it relevant?

upselling example buy a PS with a game

Those are just quick finds. But I’m sure that any big e-commerce stores have cross-selling and upselling figured out.

How to translate that into B2B sales?

B2B sales specialist also try those technigues. Upselling and cross-selling techniques are usually implemented on the pricing page. As soon as a website visitor has decided to buy a subscription or a service, they check out your pricing page, so the right message on a pricing page can persuade them to buy more. And why wouldn’t a pricing page work at upselling and cross-selling? After all, it fits  the relevancy principle. A customer is ready to buy.

Nonetheless, there’s a major difference between B2B and B2C customers. Rarely does a B2B customer buy on the spot. The majority of B2B buyers need to develop a relationship with you or your product in order to make a buying decision.

Use the B2B relationship that you have to up the deal value

We can leverage a relationship like that and try to upsell or cross-sell to them in the future. We can increase the value of what they’re buying. But when? I would say that when the relationship between us is at its strongest, it’s the best to hit them up with an upselling/cross-selling proposal.

Let’s say we clinched the deal some time ago. Yet, the time passed and we developed our offer. In the meantime, they grew their business. It’s a perfect opportunity for selling to them.

So, we have the first part covered. We have a relationship with them. But how can we tell if we fulfill the relevancy principle?

Relevancy depends on what success means at your company

Relevancy stems from customer success at B2B companies. Once your customer is judged by you to be successful, you can cross-sell or upsell to them, as your offer to invest more in your product or service would make more sense to them. It’s all because they feel that they’re truly getting value because of you. It’s reasonable to invest more.

No B2B companies are the same. They target different industries, different sectors, different decision-makers. Therefore, customer success means something different to each of them. After you define customer success at your company, you know when it is relevant to upsell or cross-sell on your services.

Upsell and cross-sell with email

Email is your secret power that unlocks an upsell and cross-sell potential at your company. Why would you use email? It makes sense because email is professional, scalable and it can be automated unlike a phone call or face-to-face meeting, ergo it can be used to follow up with clients around the globe. Let’s see how to approach upsell and cross-sell via email.

Now, when we have success factor defined at your company, let’s ask our Customer Success Team to find those customers for us. For us, such customers would be the ones who have all deliverability settings properly configured, has sent over the magic number of emails in their campaign, and have nice email statistics with just a few bounces and a lot of email opens. That’s a short version.

But let’s say that we run a B2B consulting business that sells SEO services. We know that a new Google update is around the corner. Why wouldn’t we gather the customers who might be affected by this update and try to sell them additional SEO services? Is it relevant? Yes! Can we qualify those people as “successful”? Yes! So, let’s ask the Account Managers to reach out to them via email.

Since we already have a good business relationship with them, we don’t need to worry about following a recognized email structure like the one in this blog post about  cold email copy. It’s enough to check when we contacted them the last time and who was responsible for the contact and use it as a reference. And if they know one of our CXOs – even better, let’s mention that person in the email.


I hope you feel inspired to create your own upselling/cross-selling process. I would love to leave you with those few takeaways:

  • you can learn a lot from e-commerce businesses
  • relevancy matters a lot for your offer to strike the right chord
  • define a success factor and create an upsell/cross-sell strategy around it
  • use email to upsell or cross-sell on your B2B offer

Are you going to give it a try? Please don’t hesitate to share in the comments how it goes.

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