art of the cross-sell

I’ve been out of the city for a few weeks (posts to follow), hence the quiet around here lately.   But now I’m back in the city, and after this weekend’s flurry of goodbye parties, I hope to really buckle down and clear off the lingering items on my to-do list.  At least for a few weeks, before my brothers arrive and the whirlwind starts again.

Being back in the office is a secret relief.  While I love traveling and experiencing new things, the office routine is a bit comforting.  Of course I say this now, and in 3 weeks I’ll be itching to head out again. But currently, OSF is working on their strategic plan, and this is the sort of thing I enjoy doing – the brainstorming and big picturing that goes behind making a 2-year plan.   It is fascinating to watch their progress on this, and offer my insights based on my experiences with American organizations and non-profits.

Today, we had an enlightening conversation about the word “cross sell”.  I was asked to explain it, so I gave the superficial definition – just the idea of selling a second related product to a customer after a successful first sale.  But, because it seems a bit odd that we have a term and a concept for something so mundane, I tried to get more into the “why” of the word.  Which is where things got tough, because so much of language is related to culture, or at least a way of expressing culture.

See, the cross-sell is more than just selling a second or third product.  It’s about adding value to a product for the consumer, and about customer retention and building a relationship.  The cross-sell isn’t just for the purposes of unloading more crap onto your willing customer, though our American penchance for buying more crap makes it a bit easier.

My Mongolian colleagues understood the idea of add-on “deals”, but the psychology behind the transaction was a little bit lost.  Our service-oriented, consumerist, capitalist culture has yet to make inroads here in Mongolia.  While competitiveness is a newly burgeoning concept here, it has yet to establish itself into the national psyche.  And free-market economics, driver of competitiveness, which essentially drives the need for service and relationship-building, is still on the fringe.

So the idea of being sold a motorcycle, and then being offered the helmet at a lower cost makes sense, of course, from the consumer point of view.  But thinking about this from the business point of view is something of a new experience for Mongolians.  It’s the reason why sellers won’t go below a specific price, even if it means losing the sale entirely and having to hold on to inventory far longer than necessary.  It’s also the reason why restaurants operate with only half of their menu items, and no one seems to be bothered. And it’s the reason why buying a bottle of wine is often more expensive than buying 4-6 glasses of wine (interestingly, it’s cheaper to buy 0.5 L of beer, vs 2 0.33 L mugs of beer).

I imagine this is all rapidly changing from a Mongolian perspective, but from my perspective, where I take these things for granted, it seems excruciatingly slow. In the meantime, I have to settle for paying for my wine a glass at a time, and feeling no loyalty towards the  businesses I frequent.


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