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Solving The Cross-Selling Conundrum

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Solving The Cross-Selling Conundrum by Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.


Dear Bev,

Our advisory firm is tied to another professional services firm. The team there has deep and long-standing relationships with clients. We can offer those clients high-caliber wealth management services. However, we receive no referrals or offers to meet clients, and we get nothing if we push too hard. How do we engage differently to unlock the opportunities sitting right across the hall?

Stephen C.

Dear Stephen,

I address this question quite a bit from those with multi-faceted products and relationships who are trying to grow their wealth management business. I find the same problem over and over again is at the root of the lack of success: the way you are probably approaching your associates on the other side of the hall.

It is obvious to you why cross-selling makes sense; you need to grow, wealth management is good for the business and clients could benefit from working with you. Unfortunately, this misses a key part of the equation – your associates. What’s in it for them to make the introduction? Often there is a downside (e.g. you might not work well with their client, their client might get offended somehow, etc.) but not a lot of obvious upside. Whenever a firm is trying to bring about a change in people’s behavior, there are four key areas to consider: rewards, reinforcement, tools and training.

Rewards (the carrot) and their opposite result (the stick) have to be in place. If I am your colleague and I am rewarded for doing my job, I’m not going to readily abandon what I’m paid to do in order to help you. There has to be a clear incentive for me to engage or a “punishment” if I do not engage.

Reinforcement is the management of the process. How often does anyone ask your colleagues about their results in cross-selling? Is it an important business initiative? If you just say, “Do it,” but no one follows up or puts emphasis on it on a regular basis, cross-selling becomes a thing that is talked about but not emphasized.

Tools are the ways you can engage with your colleagues. Is there a shared CRM? Do you have a planning tool to sit together and discuss clients? Are there easy-to-access ways to schedule meetings and follow up? What’s in place besides just conversations between you and your colleagues?

Training is the education you give your colleagues on how to make an introduction. It’s not about giving them deep knowledge about your services; it’s about helping them to identify who might have the need, what the need could be and how to engage in dialogue to get you an introduction or a meeting. This education should be part of the reinforcement process, too.

Most importantly, don’t assume that just because this effort is important that people care about it. They care about their clients, so find ways to make it about the clients and not about your results and you’ll likely get a better response.

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