Ask ten people how they define cross-selling and almost nine will define cross-selling from a product, solution and portfolio perspective, from a vendor’s view only. Asking Google, most of the definitions show pretty much the same, based on an inside-out perspective, based on own products, solutions and their potential. I didn’t find a single definition that cared about the customer and the value a vendor could add to a customer using specific cross-selling possibilities.
So, what do we expect? Of course, we expect that sales reps are successful with cross-selling. “Why not?”, you might argue from a product marketing, content or training view point, “we prepared everything for them, the stories, the content, the bundles, the packages, the pricing offers, the trainings. They just have to close the deals, can’t be so difficult!”
But why is it still so difficult? Why do so many research studies name cross-selling as one of the sales forces biggest challenges? Why do the same studies also tell us that cross-selling is not happening as expected? Why is that so, if the whole bunch of sales support activities were made?
OK, somebody else has to be wrong! The sales reps just ignore what we prepared for them, right? That might happen, as well. But is that the root cause of the problem?
No, I don’t think so.
Instead, I believe that cross-selling is a much more complex endeavor and that the above mentioned common cross-selling view points only address one side of the coin.
Don’t get me wrong – we need all these approaches. But I think, they are not sufficient.
Now, what’s the other side of the coin?
I think, the outside-in perspective is missing. A GoToCustomer perspective which works backwards from the customer based on the new so-called “customer-derived” four P’s, such as problem, patterns, path and proof. After that, mapping to the own portfolio including all the cross-selling possibilities can be successful.
“OK”, you might say, “that’s why account teams have strategic account plans. They have to describe how our portfolio might map to these customers”.
Attention, that’s the next pitfall! This account planning view point is unfortunately very common and exactly the reason, why the process is often considered as a waste of time. I don’t need to mention, that account planning like this is of course not helpful for cross-selling. Why? Because that’s just another inside-out approach.
Ask your account teams what they think about strategic account planning. No, wait a minute! Ask them first of all, how they define an account. Some of them will tell you pretty frankly, that you are asking a crazy question. Others will say “interesting, actually we don’t have a clear definition, it’s what we know about an account or so, I guess…”.
So, that’s the first obstacle to be fixed – to change how to look at an account.
Now, let’s have a look at these major key elements of an outside-in account plan to be able to identify additional cross-selling potential:
Remark: These are only the highlights relevant for cross-selling. The whole account plan should include of course an account profile and all the data regarding the current state, budgets, own and competitor contracts, opportunities, leads, power map etc., visions, derived account strategies etc.
- How should we look at an account, if we take an outside-in approach? We should look at the account how the customer is organized itself. We take a holistic view based on the highest legal entity, followed by all business units and all relevant budget centers (1:n:n). Highest legal entity means e.g. to look at Daimler AG, not only at Mercedes Benz Cars and Daimler Trucks. There are a few more business units…
Highest legal entity, ALL business units and ALL RELEVANT budget centers – that makes the difference. Why is that so relevant for cross-selling? Because our customers have optimized their procurement processes much quicker than we have adjusted our selling systems. As they are often matrix-matrix organized, we need to know about the initiatives that are under way in the different business units – they might kill other initiatives, we are working on, just looking at “our” business unit. Then, we need to know ALL relevant budget centers, and that’s much more than the CIO budgets only.
- Strategic relationships within an account:
Be aware, a title is not a role! Make sure that you consider the function itself (network operations, application management, shared services, etc.) and the altitude level (C-level, SVP, VP, director, manager level, etc.). Considering both dimensions is mission critical, because a VP level has other expectations and patterns than a manager level. Then, add the quality of these relationships and their attitude towards your company (account, not opportunity level). BTW: Providing role typical patterns is a general marketing task, while specific account and industry driven patterns can be provided by the sales enablement teams. Connecting these relationships to business units and budget centers is the next very important step to get a strategic overview on where and how to cross sell!
- Analysis of relevant budgets (I’m focused on ICT budgets):
Use external insights to get more details and clarity on the ICT budgets of your strategic accounts. Pitfalls are to look only at the CIO budgets and to look only at your current growth rates within those budgets. ICT budgets have a trigger – the customers revenues in their markets – not the revenue you make with them. Challenge these external numbers with your account teams and you will figure out, that they are often only aware of certain parts of the relevant budgets. That opens a discussion on strategic potential – which is cross-selling potential, and how to get there! Then, don’t forget to connect the relationships to the relevant budget centers to be able to “follow the money” and to cross sell!
- Account’s challenges and pain points, that are relevant for our business:
This is the most difficult “muscle memory”, when it comes to an outside-in approach. I strongly recommend to use a tailored business driver model to derive challenges from the account’s official publications in addition to the account team’s knowledge. Define business challenges at least on a business unit level and be aware to articulate them as a problem we as a vendor can solve – don’t stay on a topic level. Buyers are not interested in topics…
Next, prioritize the account’s challenges based on the urgency of these challenges, your current state in terms of installed base, relationships and their quality, current quality of services and delivery and your fit to own unique capabilities including the consideration of existing portfolio-driven cross-selling paths.
Then, analyze the prioritized challenges using questions like WHAT and HOW, WHO and WHY, WHEN and WHERE to identify the three dimensions relevance, context and timeliness. Clarify all these questions before you even think about the own portfolio! After that, you can map to your own portfolio – and guess what! You will identify much more products, solutions and services (including partners) that are relevant to solve a specific customer problem, working from the outside to the inside. Because you get started on a business level, you identify all the information behind a certain problem or initiative and therefore, you will be able to tailor cross-selling stories exactly to the needs of this specific customer/budget owner.
Now, it’s time to derive your account strategy, to define your next steps for each account plan lead, who is talking to which role with which story? Did we consider all relevant patterns of the relevant roles we have to talk to? Do we know who will be the executive owner, the different impacted stakeholders, etc.?
After such a process, you are in a much better position to leverage the cross-selling potential in each of your accounts.
Considering both sides of the coin is important to create additional VALUE for the customers, MORE cross-selling opportunities with HIGHER volumes for vendors.
I’m looking forward to hear more about your cross-selling experiences, in a product, solution and services business.