But while cross-selling is effective, it’s just one way to leverage your long-term relationships. There are other ways. Getting more from clients is about creating opportunities to earn more as much as it is about finding them.
The best way to earn more from clients is by facilitating conversations that help them articulate their needs. Asking the right questions with the help of the the 4 Cs – Context, Challenges, Consequences and Conclusion – is a good place to start.
The best way to create opportunities to earn more from clients is to get them to articulate their needs in their own words.
Rather than tell your client what you do, what they might need and how you can help, start by asking them to tell you about their business and what’s going on. How are things going? What are day-to-day operations like? Asking open-ended questions that build context invites your client to do most of the talking and, in the process, reveal the challenges they’re facing.
Sharpen your listening skills and take note of these challenges. Then ask: how are these affecting your business? What do these challenges look like?
Say your client has expressed that day-to-day operations are a bit chaotic because they’re short on staff. They’ve identified resourcing as a key challenge, but this doesn’t tell you much about how it’s affecting business. It also doesn’t get them to think critically about the issue either. This is why you need to ask how resourcing is impacting operations.
Ask questions like: how is the staff shortage affecting sales? Do you have the resources to manage future opportunities that are in the pipeline? Has your team expressed concerns about resourcing?
Asking pointed questions about key challenges will encourage your client to think critically about their issues. This will make it easier for them to articulate how these challenges are affecting their business.
You’ve got your client thinking about the impacts of their challenges. Now you can get them to articulate the consequences of not addressing them.
Ask them: what are the short and long-term implications of this challenge? How are you addressing it? What are the financial, legal or operational impacts of letting this challenge go unaddressed? What will the future bring if these challenges remain unaddressed?
Your objective here is to get your client to contemplate and express how this challenge makes them feel. You want them to clearly state what the impacts of this challenge are and, in the process, to reveal their fears and anxieties.
Now that your client has identified their challenges and thought about possible implications, you need to get them to work out what they need to fix it.
The best approach here is to be direct. Asking them what they need to do to address the challenge gets them to reveal to themselves – and to you – their direct needs and how you can help.
‘The fool tells me his reason; the wise man persuades me with my own.’ – Aristotle
Whether you’re upselling, cross-selling or just exploring your options, getting your client to express their problems and needs to you in their own words is more effective than simply pitching your services. This is why following the 4 Cs and engaging in an open conversation is a good way to create opportunities to earn more from clients.
A final word of caution
Do not confuse the 4 Cs with the classic sales approach of leading a customer by the nose with loaded questions. This is about having a genuine conversation that gives your client space to explore their challenges and anxieties with you, a trusted advisor.
And as well as building trust, this approach enables you to think critically about how you can best serve your clients.
Perhaps, in the process of discovering a client’s needs, you realise that you are not in the best position to help. This is an opportunity to be honest and say: ‘I don’t think I can help, but I know someone who can.’ You’re still being helpful and maintaining a good long-term relationship with your client.