Cross-selling Effectively into the Crosswinds of Financial Services
It is said that oak trees grow strong in contrary winds. In the crosswinds of deregulation and re-regulation, financial institutions have gotten bigger, more complex, and more attuned to risk. As they turn up the pressure to drive revenue, cross-selling effectively takes on new levels of urgency and complexity. So, how does a client-facing professional stay grounded in these crosswinds while still advocating for his or her clients?
Let’s start with the issues.
As financial institutions continue to grow their fee-based businesses, they have pushed into an increasing number of product lines, and leaders are seeking to cross-sell production across these product lines. This makes it more difficult for the client-facing financial professional to stay current on a wider scope of client needs, keep pace with a broader range of capabilities, and to build trust, skill, and alignment with a new and changing group of partners.
What’s changed with clients and internal partners? Attractive clients are exercising their buying power and are increasing demand for customized services and pricing. At the same time, there is growing pressure to standardize as financial institutions seek to reduce risk and increase profit margins. Historically, client-facing professionals felt the advantage in these discussions, always able to invoke “the client” to push through an unusual structure or fee arrangement. However, the balance of power has shifted, as influence has grown among risk, legal, compliance, and finance professionals. This has created unusually high tension with what used to be considered “support” groups and makes it increasingly difficult to deliver on client demands. As a leader, have you noticed the rising intensity of these competing pressures as you get pulled into heated client and internal discussions?
Five Best Practices for Cross-selling Effectiveness
So with all these crosswinds swirling around you and your team, how can you, your team, and your business get stronger? Here are five best practices that we see among leaders of winning teams to hit cross-selling targets in the midst of all the competing pressures mentioned above:
- Team preparation: As your team increasingly works alongside partners from business units with whom they have little or no track record, this increases the importance of sharpening your team’s ability to lead or contribute to an effective pre-call meeting. This can include:
- Modeling, and reinforcing among your team, the importance of creating rapport with new partners;
- Checking in before significant client meetings or pitches to be sure that client knowledge is being effectively transferred among team members, that the team is setting clear and unified meeting objectives, and that roles and responsibilities for the meeting are being clearly carved out; and
- Requiring, and playing a role in, team practice sessions.
- Team execution: Conducting an effective one-on-one sales meeting is challenge enough; adding teammates, especially unfamiliar ones, makes it far tougher. Without effective team preparation, it is extremely tough for a selling or account team to convey or gain alignment during a meeting. Leaders at effective cross-selling organizations ensure their account or pitch teams have sorted and practiced the following:
- How the team’s leader will set the stage
- Sequencing and delivery of introductions
- Key questioning areas and who on the team will take the lead into each
- Flow of capabilities or solution discussion
- Who will close and what it sounds like
- Team follow-up: We find that crisp and thorough follow-up is more the exception than the rule. Team follow-through tends to be more disjointed among teams unfamiliar with one other. There can be such a wide range of perceptions and expectations — on both your team’s side of the table and the client’s. So, it is essential for teams to debrief as soon as possible after the client, prospect, or center of influence meeting to compare notes and agree on accountabilities. Leaders play a key role in insisting on and participating in formal post-mortems.
- Realign with internal partners: There has always been a healthy tension between revenue-producing and non-revenue groups. Today, many would use an adjective other than “healthy” to describe this tension. To facilitate more productive interactions with those whose charge it is to mitigate risk, consider asking your team to apply the same rigor to discussions with internal partners as they do with clients, employing best practices in engagement processes and skills. Helpful reminders include:
- Taking time to create and build authentic rapport with internal partners;
- Approaching significant discussions – such as those where an unusual structure, provision or a client requirement for non-standard reporting is being presented – by setting a clear objective and agenda;
- Practicing with others and testing, for feedback, key parts of the discussion;
- Doing less talking — and more questioning and listening — facilitates partnership, collaboration and agreement;
- Following through on agreements and next steps builds productive relationships among colleagues.
- Sharpen your value prop: Increasingly, there can be a gap between what the client is demanding and what your organization is willing or able to deliver. If this gap is large, well understood, and real, this opportunity may not be qualified. We find that there are many situations in which teams react to what gets voiced by the client as a demand, with less than a full understanding of the client’s interests. In these cases, there is a coaching opportunity for you and a chance for the team to do more discovery. This can result in a win when the team is able to persuasively link capabilities to the client’s needs in such a way that makes the solution feel custom-made for this client.
Use your team meetings, one-on-ones, and downtime between joint calls to leverage these five best practices. This will position you and your team to get stronger — like the oak tree in the face of contrary winds — and to boost cross-selling effectiveness with partners and clients.