Fries With That?


If you are an advisor to your client – you understand their challenge or opportunity, you work with them to assess the solutions and you assist them in procuring a solution.  You sell to their needs.

Yet, in business sales we continually encounter the term ‘cross sale’ and ‘cross selling’ – why is this? Cross Selling is often defined as:

It is often defined as ‘the act of encouraging a client who buys one product to buy a related one‘ or ‘the practice of selling additional products or services to existing customers‘.

This sales term stems from 3 key challenges in sales:

  • Order taking v order making
  • Incomplete sales processes
  • Selfish selling

If you do your job properly as a professional sales person – it isn’t about ‘cross selling’ it is simply about selling.  You don’t add products or services on, you sell your client a top-class solution that meets their needs.  It isn’t about add-ons and extras – it is about comprehensive solutions.  It is about advice led selling.

Let’s look at the three issues separately:

Order Taking v Order Making

If you let a client come in and tell you what they need and provide them with this – your client is in control of the sales process, not you.  You are simply fulfilling their order.  As you aren’t in control of the sales process, you need to ‘cross-sell’ to your client.

A great example of this is Amazon, or most other online retail platforms (and is the challenge of many traditional face to face retail models).  Their customesrs come to their site looking for a specific book or item.  At this point, Amazon aren’t in control of the process.  But what they do to resume some control is present ‘Other customers who bought this also purchased….’ solutions.  They try to cross-sell.

But, clients are a little more cynical with cross selling of this nature.  They often see it as a vain attempt to ‘get more money’ of them.  To sell more product.

It isn’t actually cross-selling.  What it is is an attempt to shift the control of the sales process back to the sales person from the customer.

The point here is you can avoid the entire cross selling issue in a new sales situation by assuming control of the sales process from the outset and selling to your client.  Even if your client comes to you wanting to purchase a specific product, drive the conversation back to why before simply selling them what they ask for (doing this is professional sales negligence!)

Incomplete Sales Processes

The other area cross selling presents itself is where there were gaps in the original sales process.  Certain key products or solutions weren’t discussed with the client which should have been.  Value was left on the table unaddressed so businesses view they have to cross-sell to their clients to backfill these gaps.  Product penetration reports are a fantastic example of this where businesses and sales leaders focus on these and direct their sales team to ‘fill the gaps.  Gaps that shouldn’t exist if the sales process was done correctly in the first place.  The issue here is shrewd clients will wonder why this wasn’t sold in the first place and, for the sales person, you effectively have to go through the sales process twice.  A waste of your and your clients time.

Yet again, this isn’t cross-selling, it is simply going back to sell to your clients properly.  Doing what should have been done in the first place.  You can remove the need for cross selling by ensuring your sales team have thorough and disciplined needs based conversations with your clients from the outset.

Sure, there will be certain times when a client’s position changes and they warrant new solutions – but, again, this isn’t cross-selling…this is still just selling.

Selfish Selling

The best (or worst) for last.  It is this area that gives cross selling it’s negative connotations – both for clients and sales people.

If you look on Wikipedia – it is stated there:

The objectives of cross-selling can be either to increase the income derived from the client or clients or to protect the relationship with the client or clients.

Now, what many people forget to read is the subsequent disclaimer:

Unlike the acquiring of new business, cross-selling involves an element of risk that existing relationships with the client could be disrupted. For that reason, it is important to ensure that the additional product or service being sold to the client or clients enhances the value  the client or clients get from the organization.

Cross-selling is an often used internal sales term which is a defacto statement for:

  • Sticky Client – we’ll make it too hard for them to leave us
  • Increase Revenue – we need to make more money per client
  • Wallet Share – let’s lock the competitors out

All of these address the first point, but don’t address the second.  Too often cross-selling is done for the perceived benefit of the vendor, not the client.  Sales teams are regularly measured on products/client, revenue/client, and similar metrics and, as a result, can sometimes lose sight of the client value in the sale and sell because they have to, not because their clients needs it.

Undeniably, cross-selling is a useful strategy in certain industries – such as the aforementioned ecommerce space.  It is important where you have a client driven sales process.

However, cross-selling has NO place in advice based, consultative selling.  If as a sales leader, you are asking your sales team to cross-sell – you have a flawed sales process and it is better to spend time addressing why there is the need to cross sell in the first place.

The biggest issue with cross-selling is it is usually a sales person led initiative.  Because, if it were a client led initiative, it would simply be called selling.  It is a term that must die in advice based selling.

Your clients are engaging with you because you are a professional.  They are engaging with you to be sold a comprehensive solution.  Cross-selling is therefore counter-intuitive in this model because if you have done your job properly there is nothing to cross sell.


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