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4 Keys to Successful Cross-Selling

By Susan Hall

Does your sales organization have Strategy, Systems, Skills and Safety in place? In Episode 32 of the Strategic Insights Podcast, Susan Hall and Joane Ramsey share four key strategies for more successful cross-selling.

Susan Hall: 00:01 Hello and welcome to the Strategic Insights Podcast. I'm Susan Hall, Vice President of Business Development and Performance Improvement. Today, I'm joined by my colleague, Joane Ramsey, Senior Performance Improvement Consultant. Welcome, Joane.

Joane Ramsey: 00:14 Thanks, Susan.

Susan Hall: 00:16 Today, Joane and I are here to talk about an issue that we know is on a lot of sales leaders' minds and that is, how do we leverage our sales force and sell across various functions and product lines? In other words, how do we cross-sell most effectively?

I know, Joane, through our experience that many clients have embarked on this kind of a strategy and they've just been met with a lot of frustration. What we have found is that it is not as straightforward as leaders might initially think. However, there are some things that you can do to make your cross-selling strategy to grow business and grow revenue that much more effective. So let's start out by talking about some of the things that get in the way of a cross-selling strategy. What's been your experience, Joane?

Joane Ramsey: 01:05 Well that's interesting, Susan, because this question can have so many different answers depending on what the organization is trying to accomplish. So one of the things I think tends to get in the way is that they announce they want to cross-sell. However, they do not equip their sales force to be able to do that.

What I mean by that is in cross-selling, you really need to equip your salespeople to understand the products they are selling and are expected to sell and understand what the expectations are that come with that.

How are they going to do it?

Who is going to do it?

Where do they go for support and to get the feedback they need in order to continue to improve sales?

Susan Hall: 01:53 Absolutely, and how are they going to be rewarded as well and who's calling on whom? All of those issues need to be addressed. Let's talk about what needs to be in place in order to create a culture that supports and rewards cross-selling to expand and grow business.

We've found in our experience of consulting with high performing sales organizations that it really comes down to four things and they all start with an "S".

1. Do we have the right STRATEGY in place?

2. Do we have the SYSTEMS to support our cross-selling strategy?

3. Do we have the SKILLS that we need to collaborate and sell in a more broad comprehensive manner?

4. Do salespeople feel SAFE?

In other words, do they feel like they're being treated fairly, not only with their compensation, but also in terms of their customer care? Joane, can you talk a little bit about the first "S" and that's having a clear cross-selling strategy in place?

Joane Ramsey: 02:57 That's an area where it's interesting because again, companies will announce that the expectation is just cross-sell. It's really important to put a well thought out strategy in place because when they don't, what we find is that management announces the expectation of cross-selling, but the salespeople are not doing it correctly. What ends up happening is you have management that starts growing frustrated with their salespeople because the salespeople do not understand how to go about implementing the expectation that was set for them.

I think the critical success factor here is that when you are considering cross-selling, you need to put a Strategy in place that goes beyond just announcing that everybody is now expected to cross-sell. That you look at it and you really think about the questions such as, "What products do we need to train sales in?"

"Who will be selling them and how?"

"Do we really want our salespeople selling all those products and services?" or "Do we need to consider if there is a different team that needs to focus on cross-selling, such as a group of inside salespeople?"

It's really critical to keep those questions in mind when working on a strategy for cross-selling and making sure that it's well thought out before you ask your salespeople to cross-sell.

Susan Hall: 04:29 Absolutely. Once you have that strategy defined, then the issue becomes, "Do we have the right Systems in place to support it?" Joane, you mentioned focus. People do what they're rewarded to do, so salespeople need to understand the rewards. Are they rewarding salespeople for positioning and selling other products or are there mechanisms in place for sharing leads and client information? Will their CRM allow for sharing client information? So all of those things in terms of systems and structure need to be in place as well. How about the third S, which is Skills for cross-selling?

Joane Ramsey: 05:09 Susan, that is such a great point because a lot of times what we find is, it's overlooked. I think it's important to consider that once the strategy and structure are in place, management needs to look at what skills are necessary to give their salespeople in order to help them sell what they're expecting.

For instance, if they're used to selling a blue widget and they're used to selling product, typically they go about asking very few questions and they plug in that blue widget. I think it's really looking at it and helping salespeople understand that there is a broader context that they now need to consider and think about because they're going from selling a product to a broader offering of potential solutions, after market parts and services or even adding value in terms of the customer service that they will bring in.

It's really critical to provide them with skills that help them understand how to do the job at that level and really develop a broader perspective in understanding their client's issues, their wants, their expectations in order to bring a full spectrum of solutions that are broader than what they are used to.

Susan Hall: 06:34 Right, and we really have to widen our net, if you will.

Joane Ramsey: 06:37 Yes.

Susan Hall: 06:37 Good point. We've talked about Strategy, Systems and Skills. The fourth is just as important, but quite frankly I think this one gets neglected the most and is probably one of the biggest derailers for a cross-selling strategy, and that's the issue of Safety. What we mean by that is do salespeople trust that by positioning their products and services across the organizations their clients will be treated fairly? Most salespeople are pretty protective about their clients. It's not just a common compensation issue, it's also a customer care and attention issue.

For example, what happens when you have two sales people from your company calling on the same account? Who gets the commission or bonus and also, what does that look like to the client? Is it confusing or is it seamless? Cross-selling often gets derailed when salespeople bump up against each other's boundaries or swim lanes.

When we work with our clients to help them define their cross-selling strategy and systems and answer these questions we've been asking today, we also really focus on helping them communicate and collaborate internally, so that they know how they're going to play nicely in the sandbox, if you will, and how they're going to deal with those gray areas that you mentioned. This way they're ultimately going to get better results with customers.

Joane Ramsey: 08:03 Yes. It's also important to build engagement from various functions. I think sometimes that also gets forgotten. When we work with clients, we often bring various teams together and help them align and set up the rules of who will do what and who will work with whom. We call them the operating principles. They have a process for dealing with the gray areas.

Susan Hall: 08:26 Right.

Joane Ramsey: 08:26 We want to make sure that everybody understands where the support will come from and where they can go if they have questions.

Susan Hall: 08:33 Great. In summary, cross-selling is not as easy as leaders might first think, but it can work very effectively to grow business if you address these four issues. One is Strategy. Do we have a good comprehensive strategy and are we aligned on who is selling what? Are we considering our cross-selling strategy to be leads or do we want the same salespeople selling multiple products? All of those questions need to be answered.

Secondly, Systems. Do we have the systems and structure in place to reward people appropriately and also communicate internally and to customers what this new process will look like?

The third is Skills. Do we have the right skills in place to sell solutions instead of products, so that we can have a broader, more comprehensive understanding and bring more value on a bigger scale to our clients?

Finally, Safety. Do salespeople and managers feel like they're being fairly treated and compensated, and also that their customers are going to be well taken care of and not confused?

By putting all of these four issues in place, I think clients can think about and implement a much more effective strategy to grow and expand their business.

If you have any questions or want to learn more, please contact us. Thanks again for joining us today.

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Published: October 27, 2020

MEET THE AUTHOR

Susan Hall

Vice President- Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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