“Modernizing” Your Cross-selling & Up-selling Strategy

April 13, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

Two of the quickest ways to increase sales productivity and results are to employ the age-old strategies of cross-selling and up-selling. McDonald’s fast food restaurants were the first to bring international acclaim to these techniques by teaching minimum wage employees to always ask, “Would you like some fries with that shake?” …or, “Could I interest you in a hot apple pie to go with your meal?”McDonalds(2)

Most vendors today offer more than one solution—and oftentimes, a suite of complementary products, which is good because most customers have more than one need. Thus, getting a foot in the door with one product or service can easily pave the way to broader conversations about other potential opportunities. Expanding your sales conversations to include other peripheral opportunities is traditionally known as Cross-selling, or selling across multiple product lines. Up-selling is similar in terms of leveraging your customer relationships within an account to transform small opportunities into much larger pieces of business.

Cross-selling and Up-selling are both strategic mindsets that come from focusing on the underlying implications of the customer’s problem, goals, wants, needs, and desires, which extends far beyond just fixating on the problem itself. For example, when a customer walks through the front doors of a McDonald’s, they typically want something to eat. Of course, when they order something to eat, it makes sense that they might also want something to drink. And let’s not forget dessert! This thinking has become second nature for the folks who work behind the counter at any McDonald’s.

So, what if your business is selling office furniture, instead of selling burgers and fries? Isn’t it likely that customers who are interested in buying desks and chairs might also need bookcases, file cabinets, or other accessories that would further compliment their office? This same mentality can easily be applied within any sales organization that offers a catalogue of complimentary solutions. Whether you sell technology, manufactured goods, medical supplies, or consulting services, your ability to deliver valuable solutions in one area can easily pave the way to provide additional products and services, both now and in the future.

I not only encourage, I specifically teach sellers to make this notion of Cross-selling and Up-selling a conscious practice. With minimal effort on the part of the sales team, sellers can leverage their current business relationships to broaden the scope of their conversations to include other areas where they offer products and services that provide additional value. One approach is to be direct and to the point, where you simply ask the customer if they would like some “fries” with their “shake.” A more modern day method of broadening your sales opportunities is to take a softer tack, by asking:

Salesperson:Mr. Customer, since we are already working with you to solve this very important problem, would it make sense to take a more strategic look at how we may be able to save you time, money and effort in other areas of your business as well?”

My personal favorite Cross-selling/Up-selling question is a specific technique I developed over many years of teaching sales organizations how to jump-start their needs development conversations. At the appropriate time, you simply ask:

Salesperson: “Mr. Customer, besides the obvious goal of ______, ______, and ­­­­______, what specifically are you most concerned about?”

This question works particularly well when dealing with buyers who are reticent, skeptical, or standoffish. Rather than just generically probing for “what” issues might be most important to them, this technique gives sellers an opportunity to demonstrate a level of thoughtfulness and professional fortitude with in the delivery of the question itself. You simply fill in the blanks with two or three decision factors that might be relevant to the customer’s situation, like asking: “Besides the obvious goals of reliability, regulatory compliance, and finding the most cost effective solution, what specifically are you most concerned about?” Of course, whenever a salesperson introduces two or three relevant business issues or decision factors into the conversation, prospective customers who fancy themselves as knowledgeable will likely raise two, three or four additional areas of interest, thereby expanding the conversation, and in turn, the number of reasons to purchase more of your products and services.

Now, how about one of those hot apple pies?

Chalk Talks, Flip Charts, & White Boards, …‘Oh my!’

March 9, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

There are only so many ways to communicate value during the typical sales cycle. One is to simply verbalize whatever points you want to make. Relying on words alone, however, means you run the risk of having your messages get diluted, as customers remember only some fraction of what was said. That’s why it’s important to use visuals, as a picture is worth a thousand words.

flip chart1The most common visuals sellers use to deliver their value propositions are product brochures and PowerPoint slides—which ironically, aren’t the most productive ways to communicate value. Truth be told, the instant you put up a PowerPoint slide, the customer’s eyes go straight to the lower right corner of the image on the screen, and then work backward from the lower right to the upper left.

Why? Because skeptical customers have learned over the years that the meat of the messages being presented usually crescendoes toward the bottom of the slide. Meanwhile, most salespeople begin by reviewing points in the upper left of each slide, and then slowly (sometimes painstakingly) work their way down to the conclusions in the lower right.

Can you see the problem? The presentation audience spends much of their time focusing on something totally different than the salesperson is presenting.

If you really want to differentiate your solutions, then I suggest you set your company’s standard PowerPoint deck aside, grab a set of markers, and facilitate the discussion by drawing your own pictures.

Whenever I’m the customer, I can review sales propaganda on my own. What I really want is to get a sense for how competent a salesperson is, and whether I’m dealing with someone who can translate generic information into specific solutions that meet my needs.

To cite a practical example, have you ever headed off to the hardware store with a problem you didn’t know how to solve? When the first Mr. Fix-it person gives you a vague answer, what do you do? If you’re like me, you seek out a second opinion. Then, if the second person provides a verbose and convoluted explanation, it’s possible to feel more confused than helped. Finally, someone whips out a piece of paper and draws a simplistic diagram of the problem and the solution. Suddenly everything makes sense!

Even at informal meetings, sellers should always have a pen and paper on-hand to illustrate important concepts. In smaller, intimate settings, you can simply tear off a few flip chart pages and lay them flat on the conference table like placemats. This gives you an opportunity to lead the discussion (on paper) as opposed to delivering a formal stand-up presentation. Another idea is to hand the marker to the customer. Since people love to talk about themselves, you’d be amazed at how fast customers can fill up white board with important information—that is, if you’re willing to hand over the pen.

You might even use this concept to adjust the way you ask for appointments. Most sellers are just trying to get a meeting. Me, I would much rather get in front of the entire decision committee, and be allotted enough time to facilitate a discussion that marries their objectives to my solutions. Consequently, I don’t just ask for meetings. Instead, when it’s time to close for an appointment, I am more inclined to say, “Mr. Prospect, would it make sense to get the appropriate people together…in front of a white board…so we can map out your options, the impact to your business, and the associated costs?”

Asking to get in front of a white board (or a piece of paper) is extremely effective because it conveys a greater sense of value, gives you an opportunity to facilitate a more in-depth discussion, and ultimately, is perceived by decision makers to be a much better use of the customer’s time.

The ability to communicate value without having to rely on product brochures or PowerPoint slides that someone else in the marketing department created, is one of the best ways for sellers to demonstrate competence and show off their expertise to potential buyers. Since much of the sales process takes place outside the formal presentation environment anyway (i.e. on a notepad or bar napkin), the lesson is clear—learn to be a good chalk-talker and your credibility will soar. So will your sales results.

Keep Your Chin Up, and Your Head Down…

February 14, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

Do you like to play golf? I do. In fact, years ago I qualified to play on the University of Florida’s elite golf team, but quickly discovered that there’s a big difference between pretty good and elite. Thus, it rapidly became clear that I had better find some other way to make a living.

These days, I’m simply a weekend golfer who still enjoys the game, but I now live for those few perfectly-executed shots…whichgolferinfrequently occur among many other wayward swings that send my ball flying deep into the trees, into an adjacent lake, or ending up in a homeowner’s backyard.

Thus, I have learned not to expect perfection every time. Even the golf professionals you see on television experience many of the same ups and downs as us weekend golfers, albeit at a much higher level. For that matter, professionals in all walks of life have to deal with good days and bad days, which any seasoned sales professional can certainly attest.

Achieving the desired level of success in any endeavor requires an interesting combination of patience and hard work in order to focus on maximizing the number of “ups,” while minimizing your downside risk. While those might seem like opposing forces at first glance, let me give you just one example as it relates to golf (and ironically, sales).

This past weekend, I played 18 holes with a few of my golf buddies. As luck would have it, I opened the round with a double-bogey on the first hole, followed by two triple-bogeys—a terrible start to be sure. But, rather than getting totally frustrated like I sometimes do, I took a few deep breaths and tried to focus on what adjustments I could make in order to right the ship. Lo and behold, I was able to get up-and-down from the greenside bunker to save par on #4, followed by another ho-hum par on #5. I began to think that perhaps there was some light at the end of the tunnel. Then, as if the heavens opened up with good fortune, I birdied 3 out of the next 4 holes, putting me back in contention, and more importantly, in the money. I ended up finishing with one of my better 18-hole scores of the year, much to the chagrin of my buddies who were left reaching for their wallets.

My experience in sales has been filled with many of the same highs and lows as I tend to experience on the golf course. In fact, I can easily recall times where I was working a deal that was seemingly in-the-bag, only to discover that it suddenly got derailed at the eleventh hour. And I can cite numerous examples where my first disappointment of the day was followed by another, and then another. Believe me, I completely understand the feeling of wanting to cut bait and either head to the nearest pub to drown my sorrows, or find the closest bridge to jump off. As the saying goes, “You can’t win ‘em all.”

Fortunately, there’s another old saying that has buoyed golfers for centuries, all the way back to when the modern game of golf was born in Scotland in 1457AD. In short, if you want to be successful on the course, “Keep your chin up and your head down.”

While I’m not sure the early Scots recognized the significance of their initial wisdom, this idea of keeping your chin up and your head down applies to virtually every aspect of everyday life. Said differently, the blend of patience together with a relentless desire to work hard is an extremely powerful combination.

It’s one thing to try and work yourself into a stress-filled frenzy, at the mere possibility of disappointment or despair. It is quite another to have the patience to step back and think about what you can do differently to produce a more desirable outcome next time.

While I’m not sure the early Scots recognized the significance of their initial wisdom, this idea of keeping your chin up and your head down applies to virtually every aspect of everyday life. Said differently, the blend of patience together with a relentless desire to work hard is an extremely powerful combination.

It’s one thing to work yourself into a frenzy at the sheer possibility of disappointment or despair. It is quite another thing to have the patience and presence of mind to step back and think about what you might be able to do differently to produce a more desirable outcome next time.

Throughout my pilgrimage as a sales trainer and thought leader for the last 20 years, I see both sides of this coin almost every week. I meet people who crave perfection, to the point where some salespeople wallow in frustration every time something doesn’t go their way. Meanwhile, I meet other sellers who are more realistic in their expectations that they are likely to encounter a few bumps on the road to success. And generally, it’s the proactive salesperson(s) who seek to make the adjustments necessary to effectively navigate (and even prevent) the various hurdles that would otherwise hinder their success during the sales process.

The question is, which type of golfer (or sales professional) do you want to be—the one who gets frustrated and throws a fit every time the ball doesn’t find its way into the hole, or the patient one who can be proactive enough to use the lessons learned along the way to enhance your opportunity to succeed moving forward?

What lesson is that? Always keep your chin up, and your head down. Good things tend to happen when you are willing to put in the sweat equity to work hard, with a positive attitude. That’s generally when a significant  upside in results is just around the corner.

Is it Better for Salespeople to be Problem Solvers, or Solution Providers?

January 17, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

Especially during the ‘kickoff season’ of any new sales year, sales teams and marketing departments alike usually invest a tremendous amount of thought and energy into how best to position their solutions within their respective markets. That makes sense—after all, the more solutions you provide, the more money you and your company stand to make, right? problem solving

Or, perhaps it should be the other way around…

Providing valuable solutions is certainly a noble goal for individual salespeople, and for the entire sales organization. But, if you step back and think about it, customers in any value-oriented sale are much more focused on solving “their” problems than acquiring “your” solutions. How do we know this to be true?

Last time you bought a car (or a computer, cell phone, home, or faced any other value-based purchase decision), as you walked through the front doors of the automobile dealership, what was more important to you—addressing your goals, wants, needs, and desires, or getting ‘pitched’ by an eager sales representative?

Not surprisingly, the answer to this question is the same for every business, in every industry, and in every culture. Customers are much more interested in addressing their needs, than being “sold” on your solutions.

This is where a seemingly small difference in semantics translates into a significant increase in sales effectiveness and productivity. As it turns out, solving a customer’s problem…and providing a solution…is the same—in the sense that you can’t solve a problem without providing a solution, nor can you provide a solution without solving a problem.

Still, there is a huge difference between being a ‘problem solver’ and a ‘solution provider.’ The difference is perception. Customers these days are much more focused on addressing their goals, objectives, wants, needs, and desires, than they are willing to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch. Thus, adopting a ‘problem solver’ mindset can give sellers a significant advantage over the traditional ‘solution provider’ mentality in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

While everyone knows that success in selling is about building mutually beneficial business relationships, sellers who focus on solving the customer’s problems can expect to sell substantially more solutions. That’s because the mutual bonds being formed with potential buyers are the result of focusing on the problems they are trying to solve, rather than fixating on whatever solutions you might be wanting to sell.

Hit Your 2017 Sales Targets by the End of August…

January 3, 2017 by QBS Research, Inc.  
Filed under articles

Who says sellers should have to wait until the last few days of the year to “eek out” their annual sales objectives? What if you could reach your quota by the end of August, leaving plenty of time to then exceed expectations–even break the bank in terms of receiving larger bonuses and fatter commission checks? Who likes spending the holiday season chasing last-minute deals anyway?

Sound enticing? It’s not only possible to overshoot your 2017 sales goals, it is well within your control. And here’s why…the approach you take to dealing with customers will likely have a greater impact on your success than any other external factors in your business.

August Calendar

There is no magic wand or secret formula, however. If anything, traditional sales approaches may actually be your enemy moving into 2017, as it’s likely that most, if not all, of your competitors are following the same process models you do: where Step 1 is Identifying Opportunities, Step 2 is Qualify, Step 3 is Uncovering Needs, blah, blah, blah. There’s simply no upside to sounding the same as everyone else.

Yet, in most every company (in virtually all industries), some salespeople continue to outperform, even when they’re offering similar products and services to the same types of customers. What (exactly) are they doing to identify a broader range of needs, deliver more compelling messages, and gain a competitive advantage? The answer is actually quite simple. The “secret” to their success (or rather, their advantage) ultimately boils down to the fact that they are able to execute more effectively than the rest of the crowd.

You must assume that each of your competitors is also trying their best to identify new prospects, qualify, uncover needs, and so on. Thus, your results moving forward will ultimately be determined by your ability to accomplish those objectives more effectively than the rest of the masses. Of course, this might require upgrading your approach and adjusting some of the tactics that may have worked in the past, but no longer make sense in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

Bottom line: It’s important to recognize that the field on which the game of selling is now being played has changed. Instead of just identifying the steps of the sales process, top performers are figuring out that their ability to more effectively execute the steps of the sales process is more important than the process itself. That’s where technique and strategy come into play.

It is no longer enough for sellers to bury their heads and go through the motions of trying to identify new accounts, qualify, uncover needs etc. Instead, your success is more likely going to be determined by the softer skills—things like the ability to pique the customer’s interest to gain more mindshare from key decision makers in important target accounts. Or, broadening the customer’s needs, conveying more value than the competition, and creating a greater sense of urgency that will enable you to secure the commitments necessary to move forward with a decision to purchase your product or service.

The extent to which these “soft” interpersonal selling skills can be enhanced will have a direct impact on your bottom line results. They can give you what I like to call an “unfair” competitive advantage. So, why wait until the end of the year to scramble to make your numbers? Why not achieve your sales goals by the end of August, and then take it up a notch from there?

Doing this shifts the focus from simply thinking about the steps of the sales process “what” you’re trying to accomplish. Instead, your success in 2017 and beyond will be a direct correlation of “how” effectively you are able to execute within whatever process model your company currently has in place.

It’s going to be a very Happy New Year!

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