Cross-Selling in the Staffing Sector

99511893Who is responsible for cross-selling in a staffing company — should it be left up to the individual salespeople? I don’t think so. Cross-selling as energetic, uncoordinated pursuits by salespeople is what Sun Tzu might call tactics without strategy or “the noise before defeat.”

Several years ago I wrote a minibook called Cross-Sell Up-Sell: Helping Customers Think Bigger, and presented ideas on the topic at Staffing Industry Executive Forum, ASA’s conference and the Strategic Account Management Association. My co-author and I interviewed salespeople, sales leaders and customers with the aim of uncovering why such a popular idea (cross-selling) was so often executed poorly. The No. 1 reason? Surprise: the No. 1 reason was not compensation — it was fear.

Fear by sales leadership to articulate and defend a unique cross-selling strategy for their business. Fear by individual salespeople that they would risk and lose existing business by introducing new products. Finally, “eggs in one basket” fear by customers: economists have trained our customers and us to believe that diversification is always good — we have to dismantle that harmful preconception.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Sales Force Compensation Survey Executive Summary

In the years since writing Cross-Sell Up-Sell, I continue to ask sales teams what works and what doesn’t in the area of cross-selling. And opinions continue to vary. Within the Staffing Industry, there are currently three best practices separating quality cross-selling missions from the rest (a/k/a “the control group”).

1. A formal, monetized strategy for cross-selling. Ask your sales leader for a copy of his or her cross-selling strategy and see what you get. If it doesn’t have a revenue, EBITDA or market cap target, don’t read any further. As the industry prepares its 2014 budgets, quality sales leaders will (1) consider the Total Available Market in key customers, (2) measure the value of the white space within existing customers and (3) identify entry points into the white space and set timelines around the introduction of the “next” service (not “all services”). This is easy to do and looks like a checkerboard when first drafted: build quarterly reviews of execution into your sales meetings.

2. Messages putting customer win-points first. Instead of just adding products to the customer’s grocery cart when they’re distracted, cross-selling should be articulated and defended as a 1+1=3 proposition for each customer. For example, how does Customer X specifically benefit from adding Direct Hire (from you) to their long-term contract engagement services (from you)? This is a fun role-playing exercise to schedule within your next sales meeting. Tee it up and then listen for selling points that go beyond the individual products/services and speak to the connection between those products/services.

3. Moving the discussion up to Discovery, from the later stages of proposal (or worse, closing). Whether talking with a new prospect or an existing customer, ask them to describe their best supplier relationships – NOT OF STAFFING, but of any type. If you’re thinking “we already ask that” then test it by asking yourself, “Who did this customer name as their supplier/partner of the year last year?” Most salespeople don’t know the answer to that question, let alone the criteria. Personally I’d rather be viewed on the plane of service competition with Disney and UPS rather than just against other staffing companies.

The fact is everybody likes to talk about cross-selling, unfortunately most of that talk takes the form of complaints or lip service. For 2014, write a plan, teach the 1+1=3 concept and develop a few key discovery questions…and congrats, you’ve left the control group!

MORE: Networking essentials for every salesperson

Frank Troppe

Frank Troppe
Frank Troppe analyzes trends in sales strategy and field operations. He is the author of three books and 40 articles on Branch Operations.

Frank Troppe

Share This Post


Related Articles

Powered by ·