The benefit of cross-selling – or selling more products to existing customers – is clear: greater wallet share with your existing customers. It’s more profitable to sell more to existing customers than to acquire new customers.
The goal is for distributors to educate customers on the breadth and depth of product the distributor carries.
Cross-selling not only includes selling complementary products (solder with a soldering iron, for example), but also offering products that could be less expensive or even more expensive based on customer need and application. Upselling to a greater volume to get a better price, or creating a market basket of products, are also ways to grow wallet share.
In addition to field sales reps, a proactive inside sales team can be especially adept at growing accounts with cross-selling strategies.
Cross-selling is really the lowest-hanging fruit for any inside or field sales rep, to look at what a customer is buying and then identify what else they should be buying based on that. But while most distributors say cross-selling is a critical part of their growth strategies, why don’t many distributors succeed at it?
There are a lot of obstacles in the way:
Sales reps stick with what they know.
It’s hard to get inside or outside sales reps to think outside of their normal process. They typically stick with what they know best in terms of products or product lines they are most comfortable with. They can also get into a rut with a long-term customer, no longer asking questions to uncover opportunities to sell additional products or categories. Because even small distributors have several thousand SKUs, identifying the best cross-selling opportunities requires a more analytical approach and takes time to figure out the right technology.
Customers segment you.
Customers tend to buy the same products over and over again from a specific distributor. If the salesperson doesn’t know to bring it up, the customer won’t because they’re happy getting one product from Distributor A and another from Distributor B, and they just don’t know all of the products the distributor carries. They don’t have an urgent need to consolidate, even if it would benefit them in the long run.
It’s hard getting the right information to the rep.
The biggest challenge is that there’s just no good way to push critical cross-selling opportunities to a rep. They just have to know. For example, if someone buys a soldering iron, they need to offer solder. While simple in principle, when you’re asking someone to remember to do something on a call, even experienced reps are not always going to remember.
With new reps, it’s worse. They are just getting familiar with the product and probably won’t know what goes with what – even the basics. Some distributors have used cheat sheets at the category level to try to fix this, focused on the most-purchased items, such as offering solder when you sell a soldering iron. Even then, a rep must remember to review that sheet.
How AI Can Support a Cross-Selling Strategy
The good news is that technology has emerged that makes this simple both online and offline. Solutions based on Artificial Intelligence such as proton.ai push to reps what products should be purchased by any given customer. It not only helps distributors increase wallet share by showing related products, but opens new conversations so that reps can dive deeper into a customer’s needs.
Identification of products that need to be re-ordered by a customer are also provided by the technology. This is difficult for a rep to do because order history is usually set up in an ERP system to be chronological, making it hard for reps to see order patterns.
And because they can’t see order patterns, they can’t always see when a customer has stopped ordering a specific product, especially if they are ordering a variety of products. Proton.ai uses the order history (along with thousands of other data) to identify order pattern changes and push them to the sales rep to address.
Reach out to me today to learn more about the benefits of AI in supporting a successful cross-selling application at firstname.lastname@example.org.