Cross-Selling Services: Companies Should Serve Well, Then Sell

Companies that want to sell more products and services through their staff, should pay better attention to basic customer service if they want to succeed.

A new survey by The Forum Corp. indicates that, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, consumers are open to sales pitches from customer service representatives -- but only if the rep first solves the customer's problem and is sensitive to the customer's needs.

The survey of 1,624 respondents world-wide found that:

  • 88 percent of customers value service reps who suggest alternative products or services that better meet their needs
  • 73 percent are interested in learning about new products or services the company is promoting
  • but many resist customer sales reps with annoying behaviors, especially selling from scripts, pushing products that aren't useful to the consumer, and/or continuing to sell after the consumer has indicated they are not interested.

"The message is: Serve well, then sell," said Tom Atkinson, director of research for The Forum Corp., a global workplace learning company.

Cross-selling occurs when a client representative, attempts to sell other products and services to a client during a transaction. The survey found that clients are most likely to buy when the customer representative exhibits the following three behaviors:

  • focusing on the client’s needs versus pushing a product or service
  • solving the cleint’s problem before talking about additional products and services
  • describing how the products or services would benefit the client.

At the same time, clients are least likely to buy when the customer representative engages in irritating behaviors, the top three of which are:

  • continuing to sell after the client has said no
  • following a script
  • pushing products or services that are not useful to the client.

Lastly, the survey identified three behaviors that service representatives don't do that client’s wish they did:

  • speaking clearly and slowly
  • respecting the clients time and right to say "no"
  • giving the client advice that helps him or her save money or better meet his or her needs.

"Excellent service can mean excellent sales," added Atkinson. "Companies that deliver mediocre service fail to generate additional sales and damage relationships with their existing customers. By contrast, companies with excellent service satisfy customers with their current purchases and open the door to future purchases."

The random Web survey's sample was weighted toward older and more affluent consumers who have more spending power than others. The average age was 43 and the average annual family income was $56,000. Slightly more women (53 percent)
than men responded.

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