By Elizabeth Harr
Many executives in the VAR community recognize cross-selling services is the holy grail of increasing revenue per client — or one of them, at least. It’s also a proven way to make the most out of existing accounts and add more value to each client relationship by selling not only the services the client originally hired you to provide, but also complementary services that are equally appropriate.
Challenges And Strategic Questions
Cross-selling services delivers a variety of critical benefits to a firm, yet executives are all too often confounded by the difficulties cross-selling presents.
Actually, the reason cross-selling services has become so difficult is usually no mystery: The simple, uncomfortable truth is your clients just don’t understand what you do. You may have the most well-written and designed collateral and website. What’s more, you are probably diligent in mentioning every one of your service lines whenever speaking with clients face-to-face about your services. And yet … clients still don’t really know all that you do. To add insult to injury, if you were to ask them what additional services they wish you would offer, they would very likely mention services you already offer.
In the book my firm co-authored with RAIN Group, Professional Services Marketing, we reported on an extensive study we conducted of professional services firms. One of our most significant findings was that between 50 and 75 percent of individuals who buy professional services say they are unaware of the full range of services their providers have to offer. And to underscore the point made above, when we asked service providers about the additional services their buyers told them they would be interested in the providers already offered the services their buyers said they were looking for 80 percent of the time.
You already know there is potential for cross-selling your services, but what’s the smartest way to do it? Here are four key things to keep in mind.
- Simply because you offer a particular service, doesn’t mean you should. If you haven’t done so already, ask yourself this hard question: Do each of your services align with who your brand says you are? You may feel you’re covering all your bases by offering a wider and wider range of services, but it’s important to recognize doing so can have its disadvantages. For example, selling too broad an array of services may require additional staff or the development of new skill sets. That could be a good decision, but to reiterate — if a service isn’t core to who you are, maintaining and supporting those services will provide you with diminishing returns.
- Simply because you can provide services to clients in any industry, doesn’t mean you should. Here again our research shows the higher growth, greater revenue firms are those that had the confidence and bravery to specialize. When you position yourself as being everything to everyone (or even just being lots of things), your message will likely become muddled. And when that happens, it’s no mystery why even your most loyal clients aren’t aware of everything you do. Even worse, it expands your list of competitors.
- It pays to stay on top of your clients’ emerging needs. Our research makes it clear that research is the key to getting your mix of services and target industries just right. In fact, “the more you know, the more you grow” has become the corporate mantra at my firm. It’s not just a slogan, however: Our research also shows professional services firms that regularly conduct research to understand what’s on their minds of their target audiences (and what they truly need from their services providers) dramatically outperform those firms that don’t. This type of research sheds light on how to better communicate your services’ benefits, thus improving the impact of cross-selling to existing clients.
- Your brand is central to your ability to cross-sell services. Strong brands facilitate cross-selling services because they help clients better anticipate what they can — and should — get from you. A strong brand also helps you craft a clearer and more consistent message to your audience about your specific areas of expertise and exactly what services you offer, and thus more compelling reasons to call you whenever a new need arises.
I hope this post has shed some light on some of the reasons why cross-selling doesn’t happen more naturally. The answer often lives in the complex relationship of your services, brand, and customers’ evolving needs. By developing a strategy that addresses the four factors described above, you can greatly increase your firm’s ability to deepen its relevance to existing clients and win new business.
About The Author
Elizabeth Harr is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, management, communications, and alliance development. Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management.