Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Art of the Cross-Sell

I don't like people.  More specifically, I generally don't like to interact with people when I can accomplish the same thing online.  It is easier and preferred if I can order a product online or otherwise complete a task virtually.  If this is not an option I would prefer to handle things over the phone.  In our modern society, nearly all tasks and services can be completed via these two methods.  There are still some hold-outs however, but even those are not what they used to be.

I recently had to order a new ATM card.  Because the account is a joint account and the other person already has a card, I had to call my bank instead of just requesting a card online.  During the course of my conversation the person on the other end of the phone made two comments that were alarming.  The first comment was that while reviewing my account information, the rep may suggest products or services that may be of interest to me.  The second comment was a phone number for me to call to discuss options for renter's insurance.

As it turns out, the computer system was down so I couldn't order my card over the phone.  I actually had to go into a branch to complete this request.  While sitting with a real live person, and while he was clicking a few things to order my card, he asked me a question in a very nonchalant manner.  "Do you have any credit cards?"  I said that I did, and that I was happy with them.  He proceeded to tell me all of the virtues of this specific card, and what benefits I would receive because I was an account-holder at the bank.  When I politely declined he snapped out of it and said my debit card was on its way to my mailing address.

While driving back to the office I pondered the incredibly invasive experience I just had.  Two different employees of my bank tried to cross-sell me a handful of different products, all while looking at my personal financial information.  What's worse, the cross-sell was scripted and not really tailored to me or my situation.What was intended as a way for the bank to deepen our relationship ended up kind of creeping me out.

As advertisers we are taught how to cross-sell.  As an agency or vendor it's vital to the company to have this skill; it's easier to grow existing business than to win new accounts.  Several of my career highlights and successes are a result of cross-selling, but my methodology was significantly different than my experience at the bank.  Here are some helpful tips to make cross-selling effective without being creepy.

1 - Know Thy Audience: Don't offer me renter's insurance if I am a homeowner.  Try to make the product a good fit for the person you are selling to.

2 - Improvise: There are few things worse than scripted communications.  It's ok to write down a few notes to keep yourself organized, but it's not ok to read directly from the screen.  Personalize your message.  It shows that you have taken the time to know your customer.  It also shows that you aren't lazy.

3 - Be Natural: Try to make the sell a natural part of the conversation, or a progression of the relationship.  Don't fill silence with an up-sell.  Don't randomly interject with new offerings.  Wait for it to come up naturally.

4 - Know when No means No: Your cross-sell may be rejected.  This does not mean that it is a bad idea.  There are a number of reasons why it may not be a good time and/or fit for the customer.  In order to preserve the relationship you have already cultivated, know when to back down and know when to re-introduce the idea.

One of my former clients is a clothing retailer.  Our agency was already managing the paid search campaign and I was managing the comparison shopping campaign.  Because we had success with those offerings and because the client trusted our judgement, it was easy for us to suggest that we manage the local placement listings for their physical stores.  By making this a natural progression of our relationship, and by understanding how this offering addressed some of the client's overall business concerns, we were able to easily sell them this additional service.

We successfully sold this client on an additional offering that they never would have brought to us.  By knowing our audience and by listening to the client's needs we were able to tailor our pitch and guarantee favorable results.

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