Creating a Cross-Sell/Upsell Program

Almost everyone is looking to offset some of the costs of customer service by using the opportunity to cross-sell or upsell customers. This type of program requires a well-conceived plan and skillful execution to avoid the common pitfalls.

There are several key drivers to bridging the gap from customer service to sales skills. They include appropriate offers, effective scripting, productive training and practical measurements.

Develop appropriate offers. Make offers compelling. Use a deadline or special discount. The customer service representative and the customer should both feel there is a good reason the offer should be accepted while they are on the phone.

Next, ensure the offer is appropriate to the customer. Look at purchase history. Let’s take examples from different industries. When selling life insurance to a customer with a $500,000 policy, make an upsell offer of an additional $100,000 by discussing changes in the family and adjusting for cost of living increases. For office supplies, try cross-selling sheet protectors to buyers of binders because they’re likely to need them.

The offer also should take the value of the customer into account. For instance, banks might reduce operating costs by making an offer to convert smaller customers to online services. For more valuable customers, a CD or other investment opportunity could be offered. Retailers could make an offer for a special discount if the customer visits the store within seven days. This offer could even be tied to specific merchandise. A newspaper or magazine might offer to test a larger ad at a discounted price to increase regular advertisers’ ad size in future issues.

It’s also important that the offers are designed to be manageable in the contact center. Don’t have too many offers or offers that are too complex for the rep to decipher in the time allotted. Provide an “if-then” chart with no more than six variables to keep the process simple for the typical phone rep.

Resolve the customer service issue. The customer’s issue must be resolved to his satisfaction before the selling process can begin. We often have found that CSRs in some programs have been instructed to try to sell every customer. This is neither practical nor advisable. The customer with an unresolved problem will only be antagonized by the sales effort, and the program just won’t make sense to the rep.

Begin with a strong transition. Assuming the customer’s problem has been resolved to his satisfaction, the CSR can transition to the sales effort. This transition is critical in the sales process. When left to the rep, the transition may be weak and is likely to consist of an “um” or “uh.” Write a strong transition into the sales effort. Better yet, provide several so the CSR can choose one. Here are examples of strong transitions:

o “While I have you on the phone …”

o “I have a special offer today …”

o “Mr(s). ____, before you go, I wanted to tell you about …”

o “Mr(s). ____, I have a special offer to tell you about …”

o “As our way of thanking you for being a valued customer, I’ve been authorized to offer you …”

Offer with a strong benefit. After a strong transition, explain the offer clearly to the customer. Give one strong benefit that is common to many people. Avoid the temptation to give a laundry list of benefits. This has been tested and is not as productive as one strong benefit. Make sure it is a benefit and not a feature. For example, if you were offering first-class seat upgrades, don’t just tell them that they’ll get a leather seat with lots of legroom. The script should focus on the benefit by telling them they’ll arrive relaxed because they’ll be sitting in a comfortable seat with plenty of room to cross their legs.

Convincing closing question. Finish with a convincing closing question that includes all of the key elements. These elements include explaining why the offer is risk-free, the cost of the product or service, the reason to order now and exactly what you want them to do. For instance, “Order the widget today with our special 10 percent discount and, if you like it, pay only $19.95 or return it within 14 days and owe us nothing, OK?”

Responses to common objections. CSRs often feel uncomfortable with the cross-sell because they don’t know how to respond to the customer’s objections. Provide scripted responses to the common objections they will encounter. In addition to product/service-specific responses, you’ll typically need to script responses to the following objections: too expensive; use competitor; not now; send literature; don’t need; can I cancel/return.

Excellent training. Training is a critical element of the cross-sell or upsell program. Start by selling the CSRs on the product or service you want to offer. Ensure they understand why someone would want to buy it, who would buy it and why they should buy it now. If the reps are not part of the product’s target audience, try to relate it to someone they know. For example, if the product is of interest to children, ask them to tell you why their children, nieces or nephews might be interested in it.

Training should focus on transitions and closing. These are critical skills that the typical CSR does not use often. Have them practice transitions to be very smooth. This is the most important part of selling because smooth transitions build confidence with the customer. Work on closing as this is often the hardest part for inbound reps.

Have the CSRs rewrite the scripts in their own words to personalize the presentation. Most CSRs are uncomfortable with full-blown scripts, and this will help them sound more natural. Finish training with a substantial amount of time for serious role-playing. This will help them be more comfortable once they are back on the phones.

Enlist the contact center. In real estate, it’s location, location, location. To attain success in the contact center, it’s people, people, people. The CSRs and the management team must believe in the sales effort. Start with management at the call center and ensure they understand what you’re doing and why. Your program will be even more effective if you involve both management and the CSRs in developing the program and offers. Plan incentives for the reps and their supervisors to increase their interest in the program. Incentives can be monetary if your budget permits but don’t neglect motivational games.

Whether you are upselling or cross-selling, take the time to think through why customers will be interested in buying while they are on the phone. Then, find a way to make it real to your reps and their management.

Measure success. The final step in creating a cross-sell or upsell program is to set up the right metrics to measure success. Start by measuring sales, offers, calls and talk time by CSR. The key metrics include sales/calls, sales/offers and offers/calls. Sales/calls is the easiest metric because it usually can be computed without manual tallies and will give an overall sense of the success of the program.

To manage the program, sales/offers also should be tracked. This is important because it is a true conversion rate. It should be tracked by CSR to provide a sense of the sales skills of the CSR and by offer to provide a sense of the strength of the offer. The downside to this measurement is that most centers will need to track offers manually.

Finally, it’s important to measure offers/calls by CSR. This helps identify reps who are not making cross-sell attempts. You’ll be able to work directly with those reps to improve results quickly.

By taking the time to developing offers that make sense, scripting and training to help the CSRs and meaningful measurements, almost any contact center will be able to create a successful cross-sell program that will realize a significant return on your investment in additional sales.

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