Years ago, I started serving on the board of a company I was a former client of, and for the first time, I realized the company had services I’d been clueless about when I had been their client. I would have been interested in those services if I’d just known about them.
This experience left enough of a mark that one of the first things I did in my board leadership at the company was simplify it down to just two sections — B2B and B2C — and emphasize that everybody should be selling as many different things as possible. The company looked at itself as different businesses, but I looked at it as different customer bases. The company chose to align with my client-centric thinking and, combined with a commitment to continuously break mental fixedness in the organization, the move helped take the company from 8th in the industry to 4th in the industry in just four years. Getting your company to similarly embrace intentional cross-selling can deliver the same kind of transformational growth for your organization.
Keeping It Simple Is Competitive
It’s human nature for people to lean into what’s comfortable and familiar as a subconscious way to avoid risk or threat — there’s a science behind this known as the mere-exposure effect. At the same time, traditional organizations are built based on departments and levels, which makes it easy for silos to develop. The result is that many employees don’t feel the need to get to know people who work elsewhere in the business or understand what other team members do.
But imagine you’re out for groceries. Would you rather cart yourself around town all day going to five different stores, or would you rather hit one store and grab everything on your list in one swoop?
Most shoppers would prefer the second option. It’s so much more convenient. In the same way, most consumers don’t want to juggle tons of different firms for everything they need. They also like having a single point of contact within a business. Keep in mind, too, that if you don’t try to cross-sell and you force your customer to explore elsewhere, there’s always a chance they’ll discover the competitor’s offer has more value to them. If that happens, it’s only a matter of time before they leave.
When you cross-sell, customers get the convenience of a single provider. On your side, you get the financial boost of a higher-value sale. Cross-selling thus is one of the best moves for gaining a competitive advantage.
It’s Just Good Service
Much of the time, people in an organization don’t cross-sell because they get too locked into the label for the role they have. They tell themselves and others, “I’m not in sales — I’m not going to sell!”
But if you’re interacting with customers in any way on the front end, you’re in the best position to learn what clients need. If you truly have a customer-centric view, wouldn’t you want to do a better job for those clients? Cross-selling is a pathway to offer your clients additional items of value. In fact, from this perspective, if you know something would help a client and you don’t offer it to them, it’s almost negligent.
The key to getting over the “I’m-not-in-sales” mindset is to realize it’s about the relationship, not the product or service. Every offer you make considers the customer in front of you on a personalized level, meaning you’re showing what will be most helpful, rather than merely checking boxes from your inventory or service list. If you do that consistently, you build a stronger bond with clients who will trust you and stay loyal.
You can extend this concept to your coworkers. Workers often simply tell a client what they personally don’t do and clarify their own areas of expertise, rather than think about who else on the team the client could go to. But every time you walk down the hall to a colleague and say, “I think Client Joe would be a great fit for you,” you build rapport with that coworker. So cross-selling helps your team relationships as much as it does your provider-client relationships.
Creating a Cross-selling Culture
Because of people’s tendency to seek familiarity and create silos in business, workers don’t always understand the scope of the services provided by their employer. They struggle to see the opportunities that are in front of them because they don’t understand everything that helps the company run. For employers, great cross-selling thus starts by getting people on your team to learn about the business. What does each department do? How is it relevant to the bigger picture? What are all the connection points and workflows?
Once people know what makes up your company and why it all matters, you can start working intentionally to foster greater appreciation between team members. That might mean a simple kudos in your newsletter, setting up cross-department mentoring programs, or being more inclusive in who you invite to meetings and events. When people know how they connect and that you’re enthusiastic about every part of the whole, it’s easier to get them to buy into the cross-selling process.
For both of these points to be successful, communication is critical. Whatever is going on in the company, whatever learning, changing, or progressing is happening, share it across all divisions. Make sure everybody has the ability to talk competently about everything the company does, even if they have a niche area of expertise to focus on.
Represent the Firm, Win the Game
Typical consumers want transactions to be as simple as possible, even when they need multiple things. Cross-selling is a competitive way for you to offer them this simplicity, as it eliminates customer hassle, increases the total value of your sales, and ensures buyers don’t head to other companies. So don’t just represent your knowledge set. Represent your entire firm. When everyone on a team does that well, expansion will naturally fall into place.
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