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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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December 22, 2022 |

Secrets of Cross-Selling

Cross-selling is a cost-effective way to boost sales plus provide competitive advantage.

MOST SALES GURUS agree that selling something new to an existing client is one of the best ways to increase revenue––and it’s easier and less expensive than landing a new customer. What’s more, it should require less time investment on the part of salespeople because they’re already familiar with how that client operates. The question is: Are channel pros adhering to this wisdom?

“Most MSPs––organizations that I’ve worked with––attempt to improve their bottom line by hiring more salespeople and/or investing in more marketing, whether that be SEO or pay-per-click,” says Gil Cargill, founder and CEO of Cargill Consulting Group, a sales training consultancy based in Marina Del Rey, Calif. “They default to investing more, when they’re leaving money on the table with existing customers they already have.”

Cross-selling not only boosts sales but can provide competitive advantage. “It shows your prospect that you are different than [the competition], depending on how you bundle the offer,” Cargill says. “Failure to cross-sell is a guaranteed way to suppress your bottom line.”

Here are some ways to make cross-selling an asset to your business instead of a liability:

Identify Valuable Cross-Sell Opportunities

When suggesting additional products or services, salespeople must ensure that they’re proposing real value, Cargill advises. One example: In conjunction with a new software deployment, the MSP may propose data conversion services for an added fee. While this increases the price of the original sale, it’s also a valuable offering. After all, what small business customer wants the time-consuming task of converting their own data when they already have enough on their plate?

Gil Cargill

Cargill believes that services are a profitable cross-selling opportunity, because in general, the margin stands to be higher than selling hardware and software. This does not mean that salespeople should cross-sell services only, he emphasizes, but they should do the same for hardware and software only when they can offer real value, such as higher security levels, faster performance, or better patch management. “We have to always share that the cross-sell is delivering more value than the perceived cost,” he says.

Leverage the (Annual/Semi-Annual/Quarterly) Review

Quality business reviews, technology reviews, or whatever your firm calls them, are a great opportunity for cross-selling. During these annual, semi-annual, or quarterly meetings with the client, MSPs can gain insight into how their current offerings are performing, as well as what other products and services could benefit the client.

That’s why it’s important to go into these meeting prepared, stresses James Kernan, principal at Kernan Consulting, a business coaching firm based in Omaha, Neb. “Be aware, before you go into the meeting, of what professional services your clients are currently using and which ones they don’t, and if there’s a fit.”

Kernan encourages salespeople to create a spreadsheet beforehand: On the left side, list all your contractual clients; across the top, list all the services your firm offers. This provides a clear visual of who is using what service and potential cross-selling opportunities.

Both the salesperson and someone from the technical team should attend review meetings, advises Kendra Olney Lee, president of KLA Group, a sales and marketing agency based in Denver. The technical representative’s role is to identify tech issues the customer may be having, security risks, legacy technology that requires replacement, and so on. Sales, on the other hand, should use this occasion to learn about the new challenges the client is facing and how their firm can help address them.

“There should be tight alignment between the sales and technical team,” Olney Lee says. While sales is not running the meeting, “they should have a slice of time to understand what’s coming next, what’s going on in that business.”

Recognize that Cross-Selling Differs from First-Time Sales (Sort of)

Salespeople don’t have any history with first-time prospects, which automatically makes cross-selling different from a first-time sale. However, Olney Lee emphasizes, in both situations the goal is to understand the client’s business needs and pain points.

With a first-time sales prospect, Olney Lee says the salesperson’s goal should be to understand the client’s requirements so they can make solid recommendations about beneficial products and services. This requires a comprehensive discovery process to gain insight into how that client runs their organization, the challenges they face, and their goals for the future.

Kendra Olney Lee

For an existing client, she continues, “You’ve got the history and the knowledge, and you’re understanding what’s changing in that business, and so now you’re making the next recommendation that goes along with that.”

In both cases, however, the larger goal remains the same: “You’re still listening—you’re uncovering the business requirement and the technical requirement,” Olney Lee says. “And when you make a recommendation, you are tying it back to the business requirement and the technical requirement. That never changes.”

Don’t Commit Cross-Selling Overkill

Some salespeople may be reticent to cross-sell because they view it as too aggressive. Cargill acknowledges that this could be the case when the salesperson isn’t looking out for the customer’s best interests. “If the client’s delighted––the system is very reliable, we haven’t had any tickets, the patches are current, and everything is perfect––then I’m demonstrating lack of professionalism by offering something additional,” he says. At the same time, if making changes or upgrades would result in better performance, it’s the salesperson’s responsibility to propose a solution. “The client is expecting me to maintain the system at optimum levels. If it’s not optimum, I owe the client either a cross-sell or upsell––or at least an explanation––and then the client has the option of saying, ‘thanks, but no thanks.'”

Cargill emphasizes that cross-selling should be applied in the spirit of partnership. “If the customer views you as a partner in their success, then cross-selling is easy, and it’s natural, and it just makes sense,” he says, adding that an aggressive cross-selling approach will not produce good results. “You’ll offend a whole bunch of customers and they will just tolerate you. And I don’t want my customers to tolerate me, I want them to think of me as the best business relationship they’ve ever had.”

Image: iStock / fizkes

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