Cross Serving, Not Cross Selling

Firms often ask how they can improve their ability to “cross-sell or cross- serve” to existing clients. The first thing that firms need to do if they want to be effective at this, is to accept the idea that cross selling, or cross serving, (which has a slightly softer, more appealing tone) to a client does not mean that they are introducing a laundry list of possibilities to a client just to generate more revenue for the firm.

That attitude would be distasteful to most of us, as well as to our clients. Instead, it is much more realistic to agree that, as your client’s most trusted advisor, it is your obligation to provide them with the full range of services that they need in order to succeed. Given this, it is also your responsibility to make sure that you offer the right services to the right clients. That means you do not introduce every new expertise the firm develops to every client in the hopes of expanding services. Indeed, what is expected is that you will use your knowledge of the clients’ business and their industry, your insights into their business philosophy, and your awareness of their immediate financial situation as well as your knowledge of their future ambitions, to identify those specific services that your firm provides that will be best suited to help each client reach their goals.

When considering the concept of cross-selling, the word “appropriate” should be front and center in any discussion. Too often firms approach a client with suggestions that simply do not fit the client’s agenda. If the firm has a commitment to grow a particular niche specialty, it should be done carefully and thoughtfully with the client’s needs as the foundation for any cross-selling conversation.

This philosophy makes it infinitely easier to help CPAs get comfortable with the cross-selling concept. It is important to shed the image of the “salesman” and embrace instead the image of a business advisor who has the client’s best interests at heart. In this way you do not risk diminishing the credibility and trust you have built with your clients – and when new services are appropriate for them, they will be more likely to trust your judgment and your suggestions.

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Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, will lead a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

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