10 Tips to Enhance Cross-Selling

At one time or another we have all felt on entering an automobile dealership or furniture showroom floor, we were descended upon by vultures; those hungry salesmen hoping to score another commission! It is almost worth it to go somewhere else to buy what you need, where making the sale isn’t so obviously the reason the salesperson wants to help! This is made worse when the salesperson is not trained and launches into a memorized spiel.

A salesperson must remember that when customers call or visit their place of business, they have come to buy something they want not to be sold something you sell. In most cases, they want the best value at the lowest possible price, especially nowadays when pockets are thin. There are a few reasons customers are willing to pay more, making it imperative for those hoping to establish a loyal customer base to learn how, and when, to cross-sell.

Cross-selling does come with some risks, but it also comes with benefits. The products or services your customer service representatives attempt to add on to the sale must be of value to the customer. There is always the risk that the item you sell does not work out for a customer and they may decide to never come back because of their negative experience. A CRM solution that displays the cross-selling products a particular customer is most likely to buy based on carefully planned analysis of that specific person's prior purchases, feedback and complaints history, preferences and budgetary limitations ensures greater success with conversions and reduces customer churn.

Let’s take a look at the following example of a customer’s negative experience with cross-selling:
A young woman named Elaine entered a tire repair shop with her five-year-old son. She was already weary of being taken advantage of because her knowledge of cars was limited, though she had tried preparing for her visit to the tire shop.

Elaine had learned enough about rims to know some were extremely expensive but the cheapest; all black, ordinary rims would not help her at all, should she ever want to resell the car. Elaine also learned some tire rims were made of solid aluminum and some were not. If her new wheels were solid aluminum they could be sold as scrap metal for $60. She had also called a different repair shop earlier that day and received a “bottom-line quote” for an “out-the-door sale” on four new rims that were one step above the standard black rims, in order to bargain or at least match the competitor’s price. The repair shop manager agreed to match the price of $325.00 out-the-door for four new rims. Elaine also made sure she told the tire shop manager from the start that all she had was $325.00 and no more.

The new rims were put on the car quickly. Elaine was happy she did not have to wait too long, but when the mechanic came out, he had with him one of the tires that had been on her car. Elaine thought she had made the appointment to have her rims replaced, NOT her tires! Before she knew it, the mechanic pushed down on the rubber tire to show some cracks on the side walls and started with a show of concern for Elaine’s safety, especially since she had children, while smiling at her son. He went on to say two of the tires were in this state of disrepair and he couldn’t in good conscience let her leave without replacing them. After an awkward silence, he added, “I’m a sucker for kids.”

Elaine’s first red flag went up. She had come to the repair shop to have her rims replaced, NOT her tires. She had come with an out-the-door quote that the repair shop had agreed to match, but suddenly she was concerned about the tires! Elaine looked the mechanic in the eye and repeated what she had stated when she first arrived; that she had only the $325 to pay for her RIMS to be replaced, and that she didn’t have the money to buy anything else. Elaine believed the man wanted her to leave the shop only after ensuring her car was safe to drive.

In response to her statement she had just $325, he said, “That’s okay. Since you bought the tires from us and they are in a poor condition, (another red flag went up) I will give you a deal. I have a couple of used tires- I can put on that are in better condition than your current set.”

He entered all the information into his computer at the front counter. Then he approached the young woman, and said in a whisper, “See, I saved you over $100.00.”

Red flag number three.

The invoice showed an additional amount of $114.00 to be paid. Immediately, she reminded him that she said she did not have any more money than the $325.00 for the rims.

The mechanic replied, “That’s okay. You can pay it the next time you come in,” as Elaine found herself signing for something she had never intended on buying from the shop.

The mechanic told her it would take just a moment to put the “new” used tires on her car and she would be free to go, but as she waited, the very person came out with a different, larger tire. She thought he was going to tell her the other two tires on her car were spoilt too, but instead, the stood in front of another customer, a woman sitting two chairs down! He pushed down on the tires showing the other woman the cracks in the wall of the tire, just as he had with her.

Confused and feeling SURE she had just been conned, Elaine left the repair shop glad to be done with the whole uncomfortable experience.

As she drove home, Elaine pondered over her experience and red flag number four arose larger and more obvious than the res - she may have agreed to pay $114 for tires that would wind up in terrible condition just as fast as the last ones! Elaine could not be certain she didn’t just buy her own tires all over AGAIN! Also, she had not asked to be present when her rims were installed and tires were replaced – an expensive mistake!

What could have been a helpful and reassuring sales experience had turned into what felt like an opportunistic sale, causing the young woman in the story, to be suspicious of the mechanic’s tactics and integrity. Elaine made the decision to have her car repairs done elsewhere in the future. Her bottom-line quote had turned into an “end-of-the-line” sale that resulted in the tire shop losing a customer's loyalty.

The moral of the story is that cross-selling comes with risks. The salesperson must look at cross-selling as an extension of customer service that solves whatever problems the customer may have first and then look for an opportunity to enhance the customer’s experience. There is a point, be it a fine one, that the salesperson must cease cross-selling at the risk of losing the customer for good.

The following tips will teach your customer service representatives to listen to the customer and to be sincerely interested in what the customer shares, asking questions along the way to learn more, but to also build a relationship with the customer that lasts.

10 ways to optimize cross selling with effective customer relationship management-
  • IDENTIFY which customer has called or come into your place of business. 
  • LISTEN to the customer and clearly establish the reason why the customer has called. 
  • PINPOINT what the customer needs, whether or not the customer realizes these needs at the time. Watch body language and signals of interest or disinterest. 
  • ENSURE CLARITY by making sure any issues the customer had before have all been taken care of and that the customer understands any and all agreements. 
  • INQUIRE if the customer has any questions to show you care enough to be thorough and ensure that the customer is happy.
  • BUILD RAPPORT to listen for any signs of reluctance, discomfort, or uncertainty, to discern whether or not the customer may be open to cross-selling. 
  • TRANSITION into cross-selling with investigative questions to find out if the customer has any additional needs. Observe the customer. 
  • SUGGEST products or services that will meet the customer’s needs, if the customer is receptive. 
  • EXPLAIN the product or services in a manner that shows how much they will help the customer. If receptive, a salesperson can suggest additional products or services. If the customer rejects, the salesperson should avoid pressuring the customer. 
  • RECOGNIZE the customer’s body language and responses, close the sale after receiving a confirmation from the customer. 
A happy and satisfied customer can be free advertising for your company, and someone who will recommend your services to others, who, in turn, will tell still more. Similarly, an unsatisfied customer can spread negative feedback about your company and choose a competitor’s product or service, negatively affecting that strong and loyal customer base you have worked so hard to maintain. Establishing a strong relationship with your customers that allows for open, real, and honest communication will generate an environment more comfortable for sales transactions for both the seller and the customer. A successful salesperson can sense when a customer is not interested in additional products or services at a particular time. These should be observed with respect for the ongoing protection of the customer base and continued business of your company.

In today's competitive world of retail and customer support, the most successful products and services are those that are created by incorporating the needs and lifestyles of customers. This translates into only cross-selling those products that are beneficial for a customer and provide added value that will transform them into loyal customers.

Hard-selling is not a viable option in today's highly competitive market where similar products are manufactured by manifold businesses. Cross selling opportunities generated by an intelligent CRM solution can help your customer facing teams to establish a strong relationship with your customers that allows for open, real, and honest communication that will generate an environment more comfortable for sales transactions for both the seller and the customer.

Jeanette Krueger