If your sales team has trouble cross-selling, it isn’t because you have a cross-selling problem. You have a selling problem.
Here’s the rub. The promise of more to offer customers sounds wonderful as a growth strategy. And the ability to provide more for clients is unquestionably attractive. But how many times have you heard about that promise getting broken because for some reason, cross-selling isn’t happening at the projected or desired rate.
I hear it from CEOs who grapple with why the combined entity created from mergers or acquisition fails to deliver on an investment thesis. I hear it from sales executives who struggle to understand why more customers don’t use multiple offerings. I hear it from front-line sales managers and sellers who have a difficult time increasing adoption rates of their new offerings.
The source of the cross-selling problem comes from people not selling properly. For if they did sell correctly, then cross-selling would be as comfortable as a cross breeze. (I live in Florida and couldn’t resist that.)
2 Cross-Selling Challenges
Here are two primary issues organizations often face when trying to cross-sell and how sellers can handle them:
1. Different Buyers Buy Different Things
While a company may need the new or extra products you offer, it’s very possible that a different buyer handles the acquisition of them. If sales are getting stuck because marketing efforts aren’t attracting the correct buyers or salespeople are pursuing the wrong buyers, those have little to do with cross-selling.
One organization I work with sells IT hardware and services. The services were added recently to create the overused, but still accurate, term of a “solution.” Services sales have lagged, however, and a primary reason is that the person who buys computers is different than the person who buys consulting services for the data center.
But finding the appropriate person to sell to is not unique to cross-selling—it is the starting point of any selling effort. Make sure your people are engaged with potential buyers who can actually say yes to what you are selling.
2. Varied Circumstances or Needs Addressed
When I worked with partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four consulting firms, our objective was to expand opportunities beyond the classic audit. It turns out the firm has more value to offer than the assurance of financials. Much more. But to effectively sell those high-value services, these partners needed an understanding of the myriad drivers of need that would indicate appropriateness.
Maybe an acquisition strategy would support a valuation project. Perhaps a conversion to a new ERP system would require technology strategy. But recognizing those circumstances, and being able to identify issues on the horizon that a CFO may have not yet taken action on, is valuable. And it provides the context for discussions about a new service.
A hallmark of the overused, but still accurate and effective term of “consultative selling,” is unearthing specific customer needs that can be addressed by what you have to offer. However, if your sellers are not intimately familiar with the issues or problems a new service helps clients address, it’s a tough road. It won’t be enough to just tell the customer how good a new product or service is, aka talking brochure style.
Again, that’s not isolated to cross-selling. Knowing how your product or service addresses customer needs is what effective sellers do every day.
Product training and education must support this. Even very effective solution-oriented professionals will revert to a pitching approach if education only addresses what is new. Sellers also need to understand the context of how the new thing benefits buyers.
Further, if there are multiple subject matter experts who get involved in complex sales (e.g. trust experts in banking or technology specialists in IT sales), I can make a strong argument that product or service knowledge may not matter much at all to salespeople. Because if sellers understand who their buyer is, and have a depth of knowledge about the issues that they are most keen to address, then getting specs on a product or details of a process is easy.
But again that isn’t just true of solving cross-selling issues because those things are at the heart of most successful sales, period.
Don’t allow your selling issue to masquerade a cross-selling issue. Recognize it for what it is, and address it head on.