Blog Article

Why won’t my sales team cross-sell?

Posted by Michael Vaccaro

Michael Vaccaro

5 ways to make cross-selling work.

Many of our clients have asked us about cross-selling recently, especially as a way to goose up their growth rate. For the uninitiated, “cross-selling” is having your sales team sell not only the products or services they typically represent, but also related or complementary products/services that the company provides.

Cross-selling seems so logical to many companies, almost like found money. Wouldn’t any sales team member want to have more things “in their bag” to present to their customers and prospects, as a means for earning more incentive pay? And shouldn’t it be more efficient and productive for the business to be able to cross-sell?

Address obstacles at different levels

To make cross-selling work, though, obstacles at multiple levels must be addressed:

  • Individual sales team members – their level of knowledge of other products, willingness to team or share control, and incentive to cross-sell.
  • Sales organization – consistent messages from different managers, and a means to get the right people to connect across traditional silos;
  • Customers – sometimes they resist! Surveys have shown that “attempts to bundle services” (blatant cross-selling attempts) is a top complaint undermining supplier partnerships.

Cross-selling tips

A thoughtful and integrated program might include the following elements to overcome those obstacles:

  1. Focus on two or three easy cross-selling target “solutions” that everyone in the sales team can remember and understand.
  2. Create a simple reward scheme with non-trivial upside for the sales team – perhaps through an incentive multiplier.
  3. Appoint some cross-selling specialists to assist the sales team or make connections between the right team members.
  4. Schedule purposeful internal networking events to help build trusted relationships across sales teams.
  5. Provide support tools like longer-term account planning or skills coaching, to encourage the sales team’s interest in going beyond their traditional comfort areas.

Don’t Cross-sell EVERY time.

However, companies should also recognize that there are situations where cross-selling just isn’t going to happen. If the customer isn’t interested, or if the integration of products/services is relatively difficult, cross-selling is probably not a good approach.

Figure 1: Invest in cross-selling where it makes sense.

Cross selling

So, while cross-selling is not exactly found money (as you need to decide on the level of investment that hits your sweet spot), it can be done. And if it’s done right, you’ll see the results.

Where have you seen cross-selling work? Please leave a comment below.


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1 Comment

  1. Dom Keane

    Dom Keane

    May 1, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for the insight Michael, its helped me clarify my thinking as to why cross selling is such a challenge.
    For me, the greatest indicator of a cross selling opportunity being taken or missed is based upon a three pronged base
    1) good rapport building, generating a genuine trust from the client that they are being “advised” and “offered choices” rather than being “sold” something, without it the client mistrusts the process they find themselves being channelled down
    2) a genuine interest in the world of the client, their existing issues/problems and the likely issues/problems they may face in the future, without that you cannot hope to consistently expose a clients needs and wants to them to help them see the benefits of the multi dimensional solution you are offering
    3) a crystal clear understanding of how the additional products or services you offer weave together to provide a total and protective solution, without it, the salesperson will most likely miss the opportunity, but even if they don’t, their explanation will lack the conviction of a genuine convincing solution

    If the salesperson fails to meet a single element of the above then the cross selling opportunity is unlikely to succeed
    Instinctively I reckon most Salespeople can tell us when they feel that a cross selling opportunity was beyond them, the absence of effort or weak push towards it is likely to be based in a deficit in one of the above areas although they may be unable to articulate exactly why they felt that way
    Thanks Michael, I really appreciate the overarching perspective you have provided

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