Keys to Successful Cross-Selling

Over time, our clients have asked us to help them train their sales folks to do cross selling. Most times what they meant by that is that they want their sales people to recognize and ask questions about opportunities for sales of products or services from their company’s other divisions or in their other markets. Then they either want them to refer this opportunity to another sales person in another part of the company or, in some cases, make the sale themselves.

Our own experience tells us that we usually find only what we are looking for, even when other opportunities abound. And that we only look for those opportunities that represent some kind of a personal benefit.

Here are some of the critical issues that need to be addressed for a company to successfully cross-sell across divisions or departments.

Motivation – What would motivate your sales people to want to cross-sell?

There are several ways to “help” sales people cross-sell. The first, and probably most important aspect is the incentive they receive for cross selling. For example, if your sales people are commissioned, then why would they want to spend precious time on an area that reaps them no return on their investment of time? On the other hand, if they are recognized in a way that is meaningful to them, they will be motivated to cross-sell. If cross-selling is one of your critical success factors, then it makes a lot of sense to make sure the right motivators are in place for sales people to even want to do it.

Keys to Successful Cross-Selling

Product knowledge – Do your sales people know enough about the other products/services your company has to offer?

As mentioned earlier, as sales people we only recognize opportunities for those products or services that we know. We have learned over the years with our clients, that going in to present the features and benefits of our products or services is hit or miss. To take a “factory-out” approach to cross-selling only spells defeat. We recommend that instead of teaching the features and benefits of your products or services, that you have a forum to discuss what problems they solve for your clients. Your sales people won’t have to learn all the details of the products, but they can learn what types of problems your company has the ability to overcome for its clients. In some cases, the answers could represent a more customized solution, a customer-back approach.

Customer knowledge – Do your sales people know their customers’ business issues and needs?

Knowing the problems your product or service will solve isn’t enough. In the real world, the companies with which we work don’t all have the same problems. First, your sales people will need to do research to know what is important to their individual clients. They will need to become the expert on their clients’ business, anticipating their needs and being proactive with solutions. Your sales people will also need to know how to uncover those problems for the client in the course of their discovery and determine if they are important enough for your client to want to do something about them. One way is to develop the questions they will need to ask to help them uncover these needs. In so doing, they will find opportunities for your company to provide greater value with a broader, more comprehensive range of solutions.

The other benefit to this approach for your sales people and your company is that your clients will view your sales people as people who care about their success and not just about selling more stuff. As a result, they will look to your company more often for solutions to their needs. This, in turn, protects your client relationship, increases their reliance on your company and prevents the competition from moving in.

Collaboration – How will your sales people work together to create loyal customers buying more of your products or services?

One of the key issues for most sales people around sharing their hard-won clients is trust. “Will this other sales person demonstrate proper propriety with my customer?” “Will they be professional and work with them the way that I do?” Aside from the incentive issue, coordination and collaboration are probably the two biggest barriers to cross selling which involve others from an organization. Some companies will assign a “Team Leader,” the person who manages the account. This person will bring in “Subject Matter Experts” (SME) who help position and sell other products and services. The SME does the implementation support and follow-up for their product and service, but the Team Leader maintains contact to insure good customer service and satisfaction. From the customer’s point of view, this represents the best of all worlds. They don’t have to start all over with getting to know someone else and that someone getting to know them, but they benefit from the SME’s expertise. Compensation and recognition, in these situations, are shared on an agreed-upon basis.

Another way to overcome the lack of trust between sales people is to make sure they are all trained in and using the same sales process with their clients. This will help insure consistency between the two (or more) who interact with the client. This will also prevent the client from getting confused by the different ways your sales people may be doing business.

Customer trust and loyalty – Do you have good relationships with customers such that they will look to you to meet their other needs?

Strong customer loyalty is paramount to the success of cross-selling. Some would even say that good customer service is the price of admission to compete in most industries. If a client is getting good customer service from everyone in your organization, they will be more apt to look to you for additional help when they need it.

The Bottom Line

Cross-selling can have a major impact on maintaining the growth of your business. In fact, a recent marketing survey reported that 60% of most companies’ profits come from existing customers, while 40% comes from new customers or marketing efforts. When you cross-sell to existing, loyal customers, you don’t have to compete for their attention. They already trust you and your company to provide the right solutions to meet their needs. This reduces the need for extensive marketing and advertising expenditures. If done the right way, cross selling is a sound strategy for sustainable growth.

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