Sales Skills

Cross-Selling — It’s All in the Approach

“First they stick you with the undercoating, rust-proofing, dealer prep… Suddenly, you’re on your back like a turtle.” George Costanza, Seinfeld

Who likes to feel “cross-sold”? Not many of us! Whether it’s a waitress at your neighborhood restaurant making you listen to descriptions of 6 different featured (pricey) cocktails when all you want is your usual beer, or your bank teller trying to entice you to open a new personal checking account by offering a free coffee maker, it often feels as if the focus is on the salesperson’s best interest, not yours.

Yet you may have also had those experiences when you want to be cross-sold, when you happily consolidate all of your investment accounts to one broker, or when you take the car dealership up on the offer to change the spark plugs and rotate the tires, even if you came in for only an oil change.  What’s the difference?

The key to effective cross-selling is making sure what you’re offering is truly in the best interest of the consumer. Here’s how:

  1. Know your customer. If you’ve established a meaningful relationship, you know his or her personality and preferences. Is he more likely to respond to an emotional appeal or a logical one? Does she like having many service providers, or is she more likely to establish a relationship with a single trusted advisor?
  2. Business handshakeKnow your customer’s business. Understanding an organization’s strengths, opportunities, and risk issues thoroughly puts you in a unique position to strategically suggest revisions or additions to the program already in force. Whether you are taking business from an incumbent broker or redesigning the program for a current customer, having a thorough understanding of the customer’s business will definitely help.
  3. Give, give, give. If every conversation you initiate has a “sales” component to it, the customer will recognize it. Be sure to have just as many calls that don’t relate to sales as those that do. Service plans, stewardship reviews, sharing relevant news and updates throughout the year, claim status reports, and appreciation events help demonstrate that you have the client’s best interests at heart, rather than viewing him or her as a cross-sell target.
  4. Plant the seeds early. During the initial interactions, make sure your prospect understands and appreciates the full breadth of your organization’s expertise. Agencies that include a team of benefits and P&C representatives on the initial prospect meet have an easier time rounding accounts down the road because they are positioned to do so from the start.  From the customer’s perspective, it is expanding the depth of service from a trusted advisor, rather than being “sold.”
  5. Just ask. Of course, as much as you don’t want to come across as “salesy”, there are appropriate times to make sure a customer knows about additional capabilities. When you’ve established trust and respect with your customer and know the organization well, broaden the spectrum of your offerings through an evaluation of the policies beyond the scope of your current engagement. We’d all love it if our clients were aware of every service we provided and thought of us first, but that’s not always the reality.  Periodically ask, to make sure you are top of mind when the need arises.


I have been with the same credit card provider for at least 10 years. I have never carried a balance and I always pay on time. Yet invariably when I call the company with a question once or twice a year, I receive an offer to transfer my balances from other high-interest cards. The customer service representative is always shocked when I say I don’t have any balances to transfer, which makes me want to scream, “Are you kidding me? Have you even looked at my account?” If they paid even the slightest bit of attention, they would understand this doesn’t apply to me.

Is your cross-sell approach like the scripted credit card customer service rep? Or are you consultative and diagnostic? The answer holds great insight into your cross-selling success.