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3 Simple Rules for Successful B2B Cross-Selling

4 min readJuly 22, 2013

I often get my morning coffee at Whole Foods market across the street from the office where I work. Very often, I walk out of there with more than just a coffee. The reason is that they offer a promotion that gives a discount on pastries when you purchase a coffee. I rarely intend to buy a croissant when walking in, but when I see it deliciously sitting there and I consider the discount, it often seems ridiculous not to buy one.

soft-phone-current-call-office-furnitureThis is a simple form of cross-selling, the practice of driving larger sales by getting customers to invest in related goods or services. And while cross-selling make perfect sense in B2C settings like Whole Foods Market or Amazon.com, can B2B sales reps bolster revenue using similar techniques? Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to get a customer to splurge for a croissant with their coffee than it is to convince a CEO to adopt extra marketing automation features during a high-ticket software deal.

As anyone who has worked in B2B and B2C outbound prospecting can tell you, B2B sales tend to require lots of strategy and careful planning in order to close deals. As such, B2B companies need to proceed with a bit of caution when cross-selling to customers or they risk losing out on sales.

Sure, B2B cross-selling can be high-risk, high-rewards game. But by following these three rules B2B sales reps can drive more ROI and hit quota faster than ever before.

Rule 1: Don’t Overwhelm Prospects with Cross-Selling Offers

Social scientist Sheena Iyengar, who penned The Art of Choosing, conducted a very interesting experiment on cross-selling in the mid-90s. At a supermarket that famously featured a deluge of food choices, she alternated between offering 24 choices of jam at a sampling station and six choices of jam. What she found was that when offering only six choices of jam, a significantly higher percentage of consumers added a jar of jam to their grocery baskets. In other words, human beings become paralyzed when presented with too many options.

While Iyengar’s experiment focused on consumers, the same rule applies in the B2B sphere. If you are going to engage in cross-selling  you should limit the amount of options that you offer to prospects.  Rather than employing a throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks mentality, focus on offering your customers only those opportunities that will be most beneficial to both of your respective organizations.

Rule 2: Always Offer Value

If you’re going to offer a limited number of cross-selling opportunities to customers, make sure you offer the additional products or services that add the most value. B2B sales is all about forming lasting partnerships with customers. That being said, you should establish credibility by offering opportunities that help them do their job, make their lives easier, or empower them to drive more revenue.

When looking at any new customer, the first thing I try to do is identify opportunities. When auditing a new prospect, it’s helpful to perform a white space analysis, in which you look for untapped opportunities in an account by identifying key pain points. For example, if I discover that a prospect is investing a lot of advertising dollars on radio ads but has no way to track which calls result from those ads, then I know that they could benefit from a call tracking system.

Another thing I find helpful is something I call a gray space analysis, in which I identify areas in which a competitor is offering functionality, but I believe that my company’s product can provide more value to the customer. For example, suppose that the company is using a call tracking solution to track how many calls result from radio ads, but that solution doesn’t integrate well with their Salesforce.com CRM, I’ll know that there is an opportunity to provide them with a superior call tracking solution.

Rule 3: Deliver Cross Selling Data in Context

When businesses offer a lot of products and promotions it can often be difficult for sales reps to keep track of which cross-selling opportunities to offer customers. Sales automation software can help reps by delivering cross-selling opportunities in the context of a call. We built a contextual talking points feature into our sales app so that the moment a prospect calls, reps can see a list of related products and available promotions. For example, imagine you sell office furniture and someone calls in after searching for “office desk” on Google.  You could quickly see that conference tables are on sale.