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Partnerships 101: What is Cross-Selling?

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Ask a friend in the partnerships world, “What’s cross-selling?” and you might find yourself doing the business jargon shuffle. You know, that thing where two people are afraid to assume what some jargon means so they dance around it, hoping the other person will clarify. 

The meaning of cross-selling is different depending on who you ask — and that’s okay. 

To help you better understand what cross-selling is (and isn’t) and how partnerships fits into the picture, we are covering: 

What is cross-selling

There are two primary types of cross-selling:

  1. The selling of a product or service into an additional department or branch within an existing account. If the sales department at company X already uses your product and you are trying to sell that same product to the marketing department, that is cross-selling. 
  2. The selling of complementary products to an existing customer account.

While similar, cross-selling is not the same as

Here are some examples to help you spot the differences:

Cross-selling: You sell your product to your customer’s IT department after their marketing team has already been using it. You do this by leveraging your existing relationships within the company. 

Not cross-selling: You ask your partner company’s sales team for a warm intro to their existing customer and end up selling that customer your product. (This is co-selling)

Cross-selling: You get your customer’s London office to purchase your product after their U.S. office has already been using it.

Not cross-selling: You convince an existing customer to upgrade from a standard to a premium version of your product. (This is upselling.)

Cross-selling: A customer who is already using your CRM tool purchases your complimentary analytics reporting tool.

The difference in each of these examples: Cross-selling occurs within a single company.

How partnerships can help you cross-sell

Much of what a sales team its own can be better with partnerships. As is true with co-marketing and co-selling, working with a partner can lead to access to more data, more resources, and more headcount to target new customers. 

Here are some ways partnerships can help influence cross-selling:

Co-selling + Cross-selling

While co-selling and cross-selling aren’t the same things, there is overlap between the two: Not all co-selling motions are cross-selling motions but most cross-selling motions that involve partners are co-selling motions. 

Again, remember the difference: cross-selling is within a single org. Co-selling requires the help of a partner.

Co-selling is when two sales teams from two partner companies join forces and resources to convert prospective and/or existing customers.

When partners co-sell to new branches or departments at existing customer companies, that is a cross-sell/co-sell crossover (we know, it’s a lot of “c’s”.) For example 

Scenario: Your customer’s marketing team is using your product. You want to sell into their sales department. You map accounts with your partners to determine if your customer is also a customer of each of your partners. The resulting overlaps reveal the tech stacks of your existing account’s sales team. 

The cross-sell: If you have integrations with the sales team’s tools, awesome. 

If you don’t have integrations with the sales team’s tools, you chat with your partner about developing an integration so that you can win the deal with your customer’s sales team. You then co-sell your integration with your partner and get an “in” with the sales team and your partner increases their product stickiness through a new integration in their customer’s tech stack.

Scenario: You’re an email service provider that offers template building, personalization, and SMS messaging. Your e-commerce customer is already using the template building and personalization tools you offer, and now you’d like to sell the SMS messaging tool to them. The SMS tool is a separate, complementary product that your customer has not purchased. 

The cross-sell: You know that your customer uses a particular shipping software to track shipments for buyers (because you’ve mapped accounts with your shipping partner and determined that your customer is their customer, too!). Your two tools work well together, and you decide to engage the customer together to sell your SMS product. 

Cross-selling and agency partners

Agency partners who work on implementing your product for customers can be great assets when cross-selling. They can

  • Serve as on-the-ground eyes and ears. Agency partners can build strong relationships with customers and can glean insight into the wants and needs of your customers. Is the marketing team’s use of your product sparking the interest of their sales team? Agency partners can help you spot opportunities for cross-selling. 
  • Provide data and anecdotal information that showcases the success of your product. Agency partners have a front-row look at the topline impacts your product has on customers. These testimonials and stats can be compelling tools during a cross-sell.

Scenario: One of your agencies is implementing your product for your customer — the North American branch of an enterprise organization. The agency learns that the APAC (Asia-Pacific region) branch of the enterprise organization may have a need for your product as well. 

The cross-sell: The agency develops a one-sheet outlining the impact your product has had on the North American branch. They then send it to their North American contact at the leadership level to pass along to the Head of Revenue in the APAC region.

Cross-selling best practices

Keep in mind: just as one partner program differs vastly from the next, the way in which organizations cross-sell with partners can look different as well.

“It’s like the term ‘business development’ — it means so many different things at different organizations,” says Kevin Raheja, Sr. Director of Corporate Development & Strategic Partnerships at Hubilo, a virtual events platform. Raheja previously worked at ActiveCampaign, Typeform, and HubSpot, where he helped each company’s sales teams sell their products into customers’ various departments and business units.

“It’s supporting the account manager’s responsibility of growing their accounts by leveraging relationships and influence that partners already have that you might not,” says Jared Fuller, Co-Founder, and CEO of PartnerHacker

That being said, here are three best practices for cross-selling with partners that could be helpful, regardless of partner program structure.

#1: Account map with your partners to understand your target prospect’s tech stacks

Knowing your target prospects’ tech stacks helps you find places where you can integrate into their already existing workflows. 

“The first question that you should be asking is, ‘Okay, what are the tools and what is the tech stack of those departments that you want to get into, and does our product, or do we have an app ecosystem, that’s going to support that expansion,’ and that will make a better case for you when you get those internal referrals,” says Raheja. 

Here’s where partnerships can give you an edge on co-selling. By mapping accounts with your partners, you can identify if your prospect is using your partner’s product in a department you have yet to tap into. 

To get started…

  • Check out account mapping on Crossbeam. Invite your partners to map accounts with you on Crossbeam and unearth any overlaps you have. This will allow you to see:
  • The partners that exist in the target opportunity’s tech stack (tip: focus on partners that solve use cases for the particular department or team). To do so, map your target opportunity (within the customer account) to your partners’ customers.
  • The partners that have open opportunities with the target account. In this case, the next steps could include developing a joint solution pitch. To surface these overlaps, map your target opportunity’s account to your partners’ open opportunities. 
  • The partners that have existing cross-selling or upselling opportunities for their existing account. First, map your target account to your partners’ customers. Narrow down the resulting list to include only the existing overlaps. Then, map accounts between the “accounts that overlapped with your partner’s customers” and your partner’s open opportunities. Your partner will need to be sharing opportunity-level data to see the number and type of open opportunities they have with a single, existing account. 
  • Read up on the ways account mapping can help you at various stages of the customer lifecycle. The more insight you have at all stages of the customer lifecycle, the easier it will be to find opportunities to assist cross-selling motions. 

#2: Integrate partnership data and resources into your non-partnerships teams

Partner data is powerful in the hands of partnership professionals. But as we learned from Barbara Treviño, Senior Partner Operations Manager at Seismic, partner data and resources in the hands of additional teams is even more powerful. 

For example, if your internal account manager who’s responsible for the day-to-day management of an existing account has access to partner data, that account manager will be the first to know of possible cross-selling and upselling opportunities across other business units or branches. If you have strong communication between your sales and partnership teams, a salesperson might know to reach out to their partnerships counterparts for insight into a prospect’s tech stach. 

Integrate partnership data and resources into your non-partnership teams by…

#3: Ask for referrals (and offer referrals in return) 

Referrals can be one of the most resource and time-effective ways to drive business opportunities from your partnerships. Partners can be the most powerful influencers and know their customer’s company’s pain points to steer colleagues toward the use cases that are most attractive to them. They can be your eyes and ears to what to focus on when you cross-sell into a new department.

Like many things in partnerships, there’s a certain unspoken art to referrals. Referrals require rapport and a reciprocal relationship rather than a “what’s in it for me” mindset. There should be good faith that if one party sends a referral, the other will repay the favor at a later point. 

In order to ensure the best possible referrals to help you cross-sell, focus on strengthening your referral process by…

  • Prioritizing your partner’s needs. When scaling his partner program, Partnership Lead at Oyster Bruno Cunha offered up referrals with no articulated expectation of getting any back. This made partners want to work with him and within four months the close rate of partner-influenced leads was higher than the other channels and partnership-influenced revenue reached six percent of total revenue. 
  • Staying knowledgeable about your partner’s products. Lead by example and become an expert on your partner’s products so you know when a referral makes sense for them.
  • Creating collateral to empower your partners to make on-the-spot referrals to their clients. Consider making:
    • A one-sheet explaining your value proposition and the products you offer as well as outlining the results you’ve driven so far for your target opportunity company 
    • A case study that highlights your effectiveness with previous customers. 
    • A slide deck that your partner can share with prospects that give an overview of your product and value proposition. 
  • Using Crossbeam to streamline your referral process

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