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How To 'Cross-Sell' And 'Sell Up' Over The Telephone
by: Jeff Downs

Call centres are a land of missed opportunities. Every call whether inbound or outbound is an opportunity to make a sale or to build a pipeline for a future sale. At the very least there is scope for selling a bigger quantity (selling up) or to sell additional products / services (cross-selling). Here's a 10 point plan which, if implemented will vastly improve call centre productivity.

1. Prepare for each call

·Adjust your mindset. Helping your customer to buy more products and services that are beneficial to them is first class customer service
·Decide in advance what customer commitment you would like by the end of the call. Is it an order or is it commitment to the next stepping stone?- e.g. to take another follow-up call next week or an introduction to the real decision makers or influencers
·Prepare your opening and the questions which need to be asked to define needs and wants for your propositions (see below).

2. Know your sales propositions

To take a simple, neutral example, if your product is a coffee cup that keeps the coffee warm 4 times longer that an ordinary cup. Define the potential WIFM ('what's in it for me?') for the customer. It could be that the user loves hot coffee and won't drink it cold. This means that every time they have to take a call or are interrupted they have to re-visit the vending machine. This might take them 5 minutes which on an average day could cost them 20 minutes total. (1hr 40mins per week). What else could they be doing with their time? What's the opportunity cost and what's the direct cost in terms of salary? Once these costs are quantified they represent the real value of your proposition.

3. Define the questions to be asked

Have a list of questions to ask that lead to defining needs and wants for your propositions. Customer needs are logically based. For example, I need a car to get me from A to B and almost any car will get me there. I want a BMW because I enjoy the kudos and prestige. Needs are the tip of the iceberg and are very easy to identify (by you, and your competitors too!). Wants are much harder to access and the seller needs to develop the trust of the customer which is built on personal credibility and trust coupled with the ability to ask intelligent, incisive questions; and of course, harnessing the skills to actively listen to the answers in order to summarise the customer's needs and wants accurately and concisely.

4. Motivate the customer to answer your questions.

Many 'chat-show' hosts are not particularly good at questioning and yet their guests are open, and usually effusive with the information they give. Why? Because they are motivated to do so because they are usually there to promote a book, film or suchlike. To facilitate a similar environment when making or receiving calls we must: a) take control of the call and b) motivate the customer to answer our questions. For example: "Mr Brown, in order for me to make sure that I tell you about the products and services that are most relevant to you, may I first of all ask you some questions to define your potential requirements?" Or, "Mr Brown, to enable us to ensure that we are an effective provider for ABC Limited it is essential that we have an up to date picture of your situation and requirements, so would you mind if first of all I ask you a few questions?"

5. Summarise customer needs and wants

Before presenting your idea, product or service, summarise the customer's needs and wants using the following structure:
·Thank the customer for giving you the information
·Ask them if it would be helpful to summarise the key points to check your understanding of their requirements
·Feedback the key points from your notes if appropriate (the customer will probably correct any misunderstandings en route)
·Check that you have a reasonable and accurate understanding and ask them if they have anything to add.

6. Present relevant propositions

Based on the accepted summary, only present the ideas / products / services that are relevant to the customer. Link the advantages of your propositions to the customer's needs and wants. Avoid the 'pitching' of irrelevant propositions. Emphasise the benefits - the 'pay-offs' in relation to their needs and wants. As you present, test the customer's commitment, e.g. "how's it sounding so far Mr Brown?"

7. Have relevant proofs to hand

Through the above process you will generate a good match between the customer's requirements and your offering. To gain the customer's commitment you need to develop their belief that your solution will work. Your claims need substantiation or evidence to overcome any customer doubt or scepticism. Good examples of proofs are: customer references; case study materials; charts; brochures; product information sheets; press releases etc.

8. Expect objections and prepare for them

Objections are a sign of genuine customer interest. Without them, sales are rarely made! It's imperative that we unearth any objections as the one to fear most is the one we don't know about! Most objections raise their heads regularly and can be anticipated. Get together with your colleagues and develop 'best of breed' answers.

9. Develop an information base

Unless you are dealing with a 'one-off' contact / sale, develop an information base on the company / individual. Whether on a sophisticated CRM system or on 'shoebox' record cards, keep details of all previous conversations, in particular their needs and wants. Develop a check list of the background information you would like to collect for each customer. Use this as an aide memoire for the questions to be asked in conjunction with the ones required to define needs and wants for your offering.

10. Follow-up and keep the initiative

Every "no" gets you closer to a "yes." Based on your conversion ratios and average sales value work out how much each "no" is worth. It can be quite motivational! A "no" today is not necessarily a "no" forever. Gain the customer's commitment to the next stage even if it's only to take a follow-up call in 6 months. Never rely on the customer to come back to you (usually they don't). Keep control of the sale and keep the momentum going. If all else fails, qualify the customer out and get on with something else. This in itself is a win.

In summary, our experience is that you will 'sell-up' and 'cross-sell' more effectively by following these practical guidelines. Furthermore, evidence strongly indicates that customers will more readily buy into your company's added-value across-the-board if you successfully integrate the guidelines into your sales approach.

Jeff conceived and jointly-founded Quantum ( in 1992. Prior to Quantum, over a 20-year career, Jeff built a wealth of experience across a number of companies and industries - moving from sales into sales management, general management and on to become a Divisional Director. With a well deserved reputation as a high quality consultant and senior management advisor he has been a central figure in Quantum's growth.


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