Why (and How) You Should Sell Complementary Products

rsz_computerwithphone by Tim Parker on December 31, 2012
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Admit it: You’ve gone to a store to purchase one item and walked out with a whole lot more. We’ve all done it. Some serious science goes into designing store layouts so that they’ll encourage us to buy more than what we came for. If you’re not using that science, you’re missing out on sales.

One key is to think like a big-box retailer. Why does Home Depot offer fertilizer and fertilizer spreaders — and place them next to each other in its stores? Why does Best Buy display phones along with the stylish covers that go with them? Why does your server at Applebee’s bring the dessert tray to your table after you’ve eaten your entree? They know that if you’re in the mood to spend money, you’re likely to shell out a little more if the right deal comes along.

Are you missing turning one sale into two or three? If you’re selling any product without offering complementary items to go with it, the answer is yes.

Here are a few tips for driving sales through complementary products:

1. Offer a second product for free or at a discount. Competing with larger businesses that can sell a big-ticket item at a lower price is difficult. Offering a free complementary product, such as an accessory, enhances the purchase’s value. If your margin doesn’t allow you to give the product away, offer it at a substantial discount.

2. Communicate the add-on’s value. Don’t just “throw in” a complementary product. Tell customers how much it’s worth — and encourage them, when comparing prices, to consider the value of the second product. While you’re at it, train your sales staff to mention complementary products in their sales pitches.

3. Make your offer immediate. Don’t give customers the option to think about a purchase and come back later. Offer a package deal when they buy today. Alternatively, you could make your promotion a limited-time offer, especially if your customers tend to comparison-shop.

4. Double (or triple) up. One complementary product is good. Two are better. Giving people a choice of items gives them more ideas. For example, if customers buy a lawn mower from your hardware store, let them choose one of several attachments for free. If they really want two, you’ve just made another sale!

5. Don’t overreach. Offering a complementary product that truly adds value to a purchase may not always result in a sale, but a customer will not be annoyed by your suggestion. However, trying to sell a product that has nothing to do with a purchase may work against you. If you don’t have a truly complementary product for a particular purchase, don’t offer one. Remember: You’re trying to not only make a sale, but also gain a repeat customer.

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Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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