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Driving Success Through Up-Selling & Cross-Selling

Sales leaders often come to us asking for help to get their sales functions to up-sell and cross-sell wherever possible in order to drive up sales productivity, improve revenue performance and increase margins. While many companies have the opportunity to transform their value, they often fail to do so because they either don’t see (or can’t seize) the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell.

But with increasing competition, tightening regulation and hesitation among buyers across all industries, shareholders are now demanding more bang for their buck from the sales force. This means that sales companies across all industries need to be selling more in every sale in terms of value and margin. In a nut-shell, they need to be up-selling and cross-selling at every given opportunity.

Up-Selling & Cross-Selling Explained

While there is some crossover between the definitions of up-selling and cross-selling, they are normally defined as follows.

‘Up-selling’ means to either:

  • Sell more of the same product or solution to the same customer;
  • Sell a more expensive version of the same product or solution to the same customer;
  • Or sell the same product or solution to the same customer but with added value, such as a service or warranty ‘wrap’. Some companies call this cross-selling if the warranty or service is seen as a product in its own right.

‘Cross-selling’ is typically defined as one of the following:

  • Leveraging opportunities to sell multiple product lines within the separate customer bases which are associated with each product line;
  • Selling a product or solution that you have sold to one division of a client organisation to another division within the same client organisation. At the customer level, this can be seen as ‘up-selling’ more products to the same client but, at the divisional level (i.e. in the client’s world), you would be engaging an influential advocate (from the division you have already sold to) to help you to ‘cross-sell’ the benefits of your product or solution to another division in the same company.

Why are Up-Selling & Cross-Selling So Important?

The benefits of getting the sales force to systematically up-sell and cross-sell in every transaction, campaign, territory and marketplace are huge. There are the obvious benefits, such as increased sale force productivity and product line margins. Beyond this, the very approach of up-selling and cross-selling (when done well) increases the selling company’s differentiation and brand positioning, as well as transforming customer satisfaction, loyalty and profitability.

It seems that every company wants to achieve both up-selling and cross-selling wherever possible. However, very few know how to do it and even fewer are able to achieve either in a sustainable way. Although they may get some early results by introducing an incentive scheme and including up-selling and cross-selling in performance review metrics, the early progress often drifts away when another initiative or crisis hits the sales function.

The problem is that sustainable success requires a sustainable change in the sales function’s processes, skills, behaviours, attitudes and support (from product lines and the marketing function) in terms of proposition messaging and defining the up-selling and cross-selling journeys.

The great news is that success can actually be achieved very quickly.

Making Up-Selling & Cross-Selling Work

If you want your sales function to drive up sales productivity, improve revenue performance and increase margins through up-selling and cross-selling, you need to make sure that your sales people are thinking, planning and acting differently at the following four levels:

1. The Transactional Level

At the transactional level, the sales person should use every opportunity to broaden and deepen the conversation. He or she should use broader, more powerful open questions early on in their sales conversations (whether it be in a meeting or on a call) to not only diagnose the customer’s needs, but also to develop (i.e. widen, deepen and shape) these needs. This will create a great platform for aligning the benefits of the broader and deeper solution(s) that the sales person wants to up-sell or cross-sell.

2. The Campaign Level

At the campaign level, up-selling and cross-selling at every opportunity should be built into the sales function’s campaign planning and execution process as key success criteria. This might seem obvious but it is important that the campaign is planned with the following aims in mind (in equal measures):

  • To successfully sell (in terms of getting a close or reaching the next milestone in the sales process for a complex sale) in every transaction;
  • To up-sell additional services that will differentiate the selling company from its competitors;
  • To cross-sell additional products as bundled solutions that offer additional value to the customer in the context of the broader needs that have been diagnosed and developed at the transactional level.

In order to systematically achieve success across a campaign, the sales teams must be supported by the marketing function in terms of defining the needs development journeys and providing (and training the sales teams to use) effective questioning frameworks and solution ‘road-maps’ for making up-selling and cross-selling work in every situation. The marketing function and product lines should ideally provide benefit messaging for each of the solutions in the up-selling and cross-selling road-map, along with case studies and guides for using objections as opportunities so sell, up-sell and cross-sell.

3. The Key Account (or Relationship) Level

In key account management, major account management and global account management, the process of up-selling and cross-selling is actually what constitutes the relationship development and, hence, the account development process.

Account development is the process of using existing business relationships as a platform to constantly up-sell to the next level of added value (as it happens for both the buying and the selling company) and cross-sell tailored versions of the same solutions across multiple divisions in the client organisation via multiple product lines.

A golden rule in key account management, major account management and global account management is that, if you don’t constantly re-sell, up-sell and cross-sell the benefits of your solution(s), you are losing your competitive position in terms of the business relationships that you have with your customers. If your company is not up-selling and cross-selling, your competition will be. This is true of the B2C world as well as the B2B world.

4. The Territory (or Market) Level

At the territory or market level, campaigns should be developed for each key market vertical (i.e. industry type) and ‘horizontal segment’ (i.e. clusters of different types of company with similar needs). As outlined above, these campaigns should identify every opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell, and the strategy for achieving both should be embedded in every campaign using a standard format and approach that everyone buys into. In other words, every campaign should fit a template for selling, up-selling and cross-selling that is agreed across the company, enabled via a training and coaching programme, and embedded into the processes for planning, execution, review and performance management.

Changing Process, Skills, Attitudes and Behaviours

To gain momentum and ultimately breakthrough, in terms of getting the sales force to systematically up-sell and cross-sell at every opportunity, your company has to rapidly develop clear processes at the transactional, campaign, key account (or relationship) and territory (or market) levels. You need to give your sales teams the skills and techniques (and supporting materials) to be able to confidently and effectively up-sell and cross-sell with immediate results.

The sales leadership team must then embed the up-selling and cross-selling journey in every review, every briefing and every coaching session at all levels (i.e. at the transactional level, campaign level, key account level and territory level). In doing so, your company will rapidly achieve momentum in terms of results and, within a few months, will start to embed up-selling and cross-selling into the culture of the organisation. The results will be spectacular if the leadership team is willing to do it well and make it stick.

Why Work with Sterling Chase?

The Sterling Chase team works with medium and large organisations across all industries to deliver a rapid and sustained step-change in selling, up-selling and cross-selling performance. We provide tailored solutions, tools and techniques that can be rapidly integrated with existing processes and systems across any company’s sales function to deliver success.

Through tailored interventions of face-to-face and virtual sales training, coaching and consulting, Sterling Chase works closely with sales leadership teams to deliver a sustained performance improvement and ground-breaking return on investment for its clients.

All of our programmes address the selling process, as well as the attitudes and competencies of the sales people, and the execution at the transactional, campaign, relationship (for major customers) and territory (or market vertical) levels.

Our award winning Selling from the Left® consultative selling model enables sales teams to systematically sell, up-sell and cross-sell at all four levels. By providing a structured process for success, it provides the questioning, messaging and dialogue themes to give the sales person the confidence to lead conversations that will systematically result in up-selling and cross-selling opportunities being created in every interaction. The model also enables the marketing team to map out the messaging in order to support the up-selling and cross-selling journeys for all of the main market verticals or customer segments so that the sales force can apply the model with immediate results.

Click here to find out more about Sterling Chase’s up-selling and cross-selling development solutions or contact us on (+44) 0845 371 3099 for a free consultation.

Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director at Sterling Chase