Upsell, cross sell and the value ladder

I’m on vacation with my wife and my son and we go for a walk in the city centre. The town is pretty, medieval and a beautiful spring sun warms us. At one point our attention is taken by a gigantic fountain from which chocolate flows. The fountain is located at the entrance of a shop and we cannot fail to notice it. That flow of chocolate is an invitation for those with a sweet tooth. In fact, my son trusts it inside.

Value Ladder Chocolate Cristiano Bellucci

As soon as we enter, a very kind salesman offers us fruit to put under the chocolate fountain. While we taste the classic chocolate-covered strawberry, the salesman tells us a little about the city. As soon as the fruit is finished, the clerk invites us to follow him to taste white, dark and milk chocolate biscuits. In the meantime, he tells us about the history of the shop. After we eat the biscuits, he takes us to another shop window and offers us some chocolate pralines, again in the most varied flavours. We like the experience, we like the products, the salesman is really kind and we end up buying a little bit of everything.

Upsell and cross sell

The chocolate shop example forms the basis for some sales concepts, such as upselling. Upsell is the method of selling a more expensive version of the same product. Cross selling is the practice of offering products that complement the purchased product. Both the definition of upsell and cross sell focus on the products to be sold.

When I think of the example of the chocolate shop, I want to dwell more on all the experiences I have had. I was walking around and wanted to explore the city, I had no intention of going into a shop, let alone a chocolate shop, which is not the main product of the area. The store had something that caught my eye, thus starting my value ladder.

The value ladder

I started the value ladder with interest and a half smile because I liked the chocolate fountain. After that, it was a journey that, with every step, increased my value in the shop. I enjoyed eating all the samples and the more I went on, the more the samples were expensive. The journey was perfect for both of us, the shopkeeper and me. I ate increasingly special and good food, and they sold me more expensive things. I could have stopped at any moment because the path was pleasant and the clerk kind.

Value Ladder Chocolate Biscuit Cristiano Bellucci

The main point of the value ladder is that the focus shifts from the products to the customer. The clerk does not try to sell me as much as possible, he tries to make a journey with me that has value for both of us. My value is the pleasure of chocolate and the way it is made, and for the shop, it is the value of what he can sell me. Taking a gradual path together, the value increases naturally.

The value ladder continues

Indeed, the story in the chocolate shop continues. We think about leaving when the clerk invites us to follow to an adjacent section of the shop. This is the savoury part, based on truffles. I do not think I shall be able to switch from sweet to savoury in the middle of the afternoon. Again, the saleswoman is extremely kind, first, she just shows me the jars and tells me what they produce there. Then she prepares some canapés. The smell expands in that part of the shop and the scent is inebriating. I give in to the first tart. The others with variations of the truffle sauce on top follow one another at a rapid pace.

You guessed it: in addition to the stash of chocolate, we also come out with a healthy dose of truffles in different forms. We have plenty for ourselves and to bring as gifts.

Value Ladder Truffle Cristiano Bellucci

This part too makes us understand how the value ladder is a relationship that arises with the employees, gradually and naturally. Other customers stopped earlier and bought fewer things. Someone stocked up more. The value ladder has value for both.

What is the value ladder?

The value ladder is a journey during which the seller provides more value incrementally and the client is happy to purchase more.

Experiences with the value ladder

Working with large companies, I see that marketing and sales groups use the concepts of upsell and cross sell a lot, focusing on the products we produce, leaving out the experience that the customer has. In contrast, the value ladder is increasingly used in the B2C, business to consumer sector, for companies that sell directly to customers. In fact, small companies or professionals compete with larger companies and focus on the value they can provide to the customer. They want to make sure that clients have a quality experience, trying to add a little value to each step of the way. In doing so, they establish a relationship with the customer that goes beyond the product and even beyond time. They create a customer who will remain loyal for a very long time and always want more!  

The key is to guide someone to your value ladder where each step in your value ladder provides more value to the customer. In exchange, hopefully, they pay more money.Russell Brunson

The value ladder in action!

Now it is the moment of action: it is your turn! Think about your relationship with customers. Have you designed a step-by-step path that begins by somehow attracting a prospect, building a relationship, and selling more and more, gradually and naturally? Do you also respect the fact that the customer may stop along the value journey? How many steps can you define in your value path? Can you add new steps that can create more value for both you and your customers?


There are many marketing concepts and techniques to sell more to customers. Often these techniques focus on the products you want to sell and not on the experience you want to give to the customer. By shifting our focus to what the customer wants, on their value path, we are able to give our customers what they want and at the end of the path, we are both happy.

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