Cross Selling is an Internal Sell First
In the last decade as a professional service marketer I have participated in or facilitated several cross-selling programs. Some were very successful and some were failures.
The failed programs were often too much about selling and not enough about service. But that’s not the only way to look at this business development tactic differently.
The more services that clients buy from you, the more loyalty you build with them. If you think about your services as solutions to client problems, it’s much easier to suggest additional services that may help them. Clients would rather buy from you than have to qualify - and trust - yet another service provider. Which opportunities are you missing to get that business?
If you are missing opportunities, here’s why:
Clients don’t know what you do beyond the service they use. When receiving formal client feedback through third-party interviews, firm leaders are most surprised to learn that clients don’t realize the full scope of services available to them — especially the ones who have been with your firm for years.
Professionals don’t know how to - or won’t - sell their colleagues’ services. Whole firm business development trumps solo business development every time. One or two rainmakers can’t hold up an entire firm anymore.
Professionals share successes from the firm’s perspective and not the client’s pain. Instead of telling stories about your firm’s latest project or win, talk about how you solved a client’s problem or concern. It’s more likely to pique client interest if the story mirrors their needs.
Firms aren’t using their online presence to full advantage. Websites can share news and information important to clients at their convenience, but most professionals admit to only targeting prospects with their website. They assume that clients will just call them.
As you can see, successful cross-selling requires an internal sales process first. One idea is to create internal service spotlight cheat sheets for the staff to use. Put together a synopsis of the service, how it benefits the clients, the team members involved and five questions to ask to identify a need. Even better, have the service team leader come into a staff or department meeting and talk about a success story.
On that note, staff also needs to understand each client. As firms grow larger, client knowledge is often scattered and diluted. Client highlighter meetings can get everyone on the same page to understand cross-selling opportunities. The professional with the primary relationship should facilitate this conversation by talking about one “A” client and the current services provided. Leaders from other departments and teams should ask questions. One tip: do some research on your client prior to the meeting. Do a Google search of your client and the relevant industry to facilitate more discussion.
Use agendas at client meetings. Be specific about what you want to address with the client. Instead of merely asking, “How’s business?” or “Is there anything we can do for you?” an agenda keeps you focused. For example, post-project meetings should go beyond questions of client satisfaction and discuss next steps for the client’s relationship with your firm. Be ready with suggestions based on what you learned from the last project or case. Keep the meetings short and focused to respect your client’s time.
Another way to spark discussions about additional services is a client service checklist. These can be filled out when the client service manager/partner in charge of the client has a few minutes to review the file and think about the client. The checklist should include questions that relate to the firm’s various services. For example, a law firm could list each practice area and ask questions such as: “Has the client in the last six months mentioned a difficult employee? Or “Were there any complexities to the client’s last leasing arrangement?”
Bring high potential team members with you to client meetings. Team members who have shown promise on your team but haven’t worked directly with a client may notice details during the meeting that the lead partner could miss due to familiarity. It is particularly helpful during a strategy session to include team members with specific technical expertise who can identify new service opportunities. For example, invite an accountant who works in employee benefits along for a general tax planning appointment. Plan a few questions for the team member to ask, and let the client know that you are bringing the team member along to provide additional guidance. Promo the time because your goal is to introduce the client to your team member. Have the team member make a few, value-added recommendations in order to initiate a conversation with the client about additional service solutions.
The final tip I can give you is - follow up! The biggest failure of cross selling is lack of communication after initially introducing a service offering to existing clients. You won’t get much traction if you simply assume that clients will visit your website, read your newsletter and call you when they need help. If you assume that, you should also assume that they’re thinking of shopping for another service provider.
Dawn Wagenaar is COO of Ingenuity Marketing Group, which provides the strategic InGenius GrowING™ program to support accountants and attorneys on growth strategies such as cross-selling techniques. Contact her at 651-690-3358 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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