Why Your Sales Teams Can’t Cross-sell

September 17, 2018

A CEB Gartner study completely contradicts what has been conventional wisdom in SaaS, that strong customer service is a critical part of a sales team’s ability to not just retain clients but grow and accelerate account revenue.

The study titled “Driving Account Growth through Smarter Account Management” found that while better than expected customer service helps retain a sales account, it doesn’t actually impact the degree to which the account grows.

Indeed, 88% of account managers that were surveyed believe providing above and beyond service is the surest way to drive growth.

The wider research, however, found absolutely no connection between the level of service provided to a customer and the likelihood that the customer will buy additional products or services.

In fact, existing sales channels have taken on responsibility for cross-selling newly acquired business products and sales leaders report a 2.3x increase in the size of their sales teams’ portfolio.

With more products to sell into an account base, one might think there would be more opportunities to expand sales within the account, but that has not been the case. A paltry 28% of sales leaders report that their existing account channels regularly meet their growth targets.

The Vice President of a Life Sciences Company echoed this sentiment, “The potential for cross-sell and portfolio expansion with our clients has never been higher, but we just can’t seem to execute.”

As the head of marketing for a B2B Sales Recruiting company, the report confirms what we have been hearing from our clients and their rapidly changing recruiting needs.  

Here are 4 keys to help your team cross-sell:

  • TEACH YOUR CUSTOMER SOMETHING NEW: The CEB Gartner report concluded that “customer improvement” increases the likelihood of revenue growth by 45%. Customer improvement is essentially a quasi-business consultant role.  It is the ability to lay out a clear vision of how purchasing additional products or services will improve their business model in the aggregate.  This means that sales leaders and reps must learn their client’s business model inside and out; they must understand their competitor’s business models; and understand key points of differentiation across the market landscape. They must show the client something new that – despite their due diligence — they were unable to realize on their own.
  • KNOW YOUR BUYER’S GOALS AND PAIN POINTS: To cross-sell and up-sell, it is critical to understand the person you are selling to. To do this, build detailed customer profiles for all company accounts. These should identify the buyer’s role within their organization as well as their goals and pain points.  By appealing to what will make your buyer look successful in addition to helping his company succeed will increase the chances of more sales.  By arming your sales reps with this knowledge, they will be able to identify which products or services to cross-sell or upsell that are most relevant to each customer’s unique interests.
  • PRIORITIZE YOUR TARGETS: To know your client better than they know themselves, more time and effort will be required. It is therefore necessary to prioritize your stable of customers and know who to focus on. Those that are poised for growth, are highly profitable and appear to want a long-term relationship should be top priority.  Conversely, less time should be spent on customers that are the least profitable yet demand a tremendous amount of time and effort. By working with stakeholders across your organization, this recalibration will lead to more sales and profits.
  • HIRE THE NEW TALENT: Principal Executive Advisor at CEB Granter Brent Adamson said, “Sales leaders and CEOs often attribute that failure to grow to a talent problem. Account managers just aren’t cut out to sell. First, while they’re specifically tasked to drive growth, they’re simultaneously tasked to prevent loss and the latter always takes precedence.” The truth is it has become more complex than simply finding big-game “hunters” or nurturing “farmers.”  Successful SaaS sales reps – those that both retain and grow accounts – are a hybrid of both. They are business consultants, customer service specialists and big game hunters rolled into one.  Based on your specific customer, hire a candidate that can put themselves in the customer’s shoes and become a trusted advisor that can pinpoint the right solutions.  To find this person, it is critical to have a scientific and rigorous recruiting process in place.

If the Gartner study showed us one thing, it is that change is not only constant, but it moves faster than a freight train. Business leaders and sales teams must be agile enough to adapt in time. Those who are not focusing on the latest trends will have a hard time keeping pace within their respective industries.

Head of Marketing

Keith Johnstone is the Head of Marketing at <a href="">Peak Sales Recruiting</a>, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. Keith leads all marketing activities and has successfully grown revenue and lead volume every quarter. He plays a key role in driving Peak Sales Recruiting which leads the industry with a success rate 50% higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Taser and others.