If you overhear your colleagues talk about cross-selling, you might want to get in on the conversation. Accountants across the nation are using this sales and marketing technique, creating win-win scenarios for firms and their clients. This technique offers a great advantage, because you can grow your accounting firm by cross-selling existing clients. Numerous opportunities exist to provide client accounting services (CAS) that grow your practice quickly through cross-selling.
What is Cross-Selling?
Cross-selling is a sales and marketing technique in which you offer your clients additional services that complement what you’re currently providing. For example, you might offer succession planning services to your client who has a small construction company and a big family, or you could offer human resources consulting services to your tax client who owns a bake shop and plans to hire full-time employees.
Effective cross-selling builds client relationships because you’re getting to know your clients and what they need and meeting those needs with new services. As you learn more about your clients professionally and personally, you’re likely to realize quickly which services deliver the greatest benefits. Your clients see you working for their greater good, including increasing their cash flow. Meanwhile, you’re increasing your own cash flow, revenue and business goodwill. Cross-selling’s not a one-time sales pitch, but a continual process that enhances your firm’s value to your clients and adds dollars to the bottom line.
What is Upselling?
Upselling is a sales and marketing technique in which sellers or their employees ask customers if they want something bigger or more expensive. You might call it the art of selling more. You’ve probably experienced upselling attempts at fast-food restaurants, when the clerk asks if you want to super-size your burger, drink and fries order instead of sticking with your regular size combo meal. Consider establishing an annual or semi-annual check-up with your clients. As you go over the accounting services you’re currently providing to them, it should be natural to notice areas in which you suggest other services that you offer. For instance, if you do taxes for a client that’s growing, you might suggest that regular audits would be a good idea.
Cross-Selling Compared to Upselling
Although both cross-selling and upselling sales techniques benefit buyers and sellers, there are differences. Upselling marketing strategies involves offering customers or clients a larger quantity or more expensive item or service, and the pitch often comes as they’re placing their orders. When you cross-sell client accounting services, you’re offering a new service, not a bigger or more expensive version of the same service. Remember the fast-food restaurant scenario? If the clerk asks if you want to add an apple pie to your order, that’s a cross-selling attempt.
There are other differences between cross-selling and upselling for you as an accounting professional. With cross-selling, you don’t expect to deliver the new service at the same time you offer it. Your client has time to consider your offer. Both cross-selling and upselling have one key factor in common, though: they depend on your growing relationship with your client and understanding their needs. For example, if you already provide tax accounting to a small business client, you might become aware that, due to growth, your client could also use tax planning services (upselling). Later, as your client takes on more employees, you could offer your payroll services (cross-selling).
Benefits of Cross-Selling for Your Clients and Your Firm
Cross-selling your services may streamline your clients’ operations, help them bring in new customers, and save them money during the year and at tax time. In delivering CAS, you enhance the results of your client’s existing services. For instance, if you do the taxes for the two owners of a small child daycare center, you notice that quarter after quarter, their revenue remains the same but their expenses increase continually. When you mention it, your clients tell you they’d like to expand and upgrade their facility to accommodate additional children, which would increase their income, but they need more funding.
You might offer business advisory services to help them reduce expenses, qualify for government loans, apply for grants, and seek private funding. They agree to retain your services. As a result of working with your clients in a new advisory capacity, they succeed in:
- Bringing their utility costs down by getting an energy audit and installing a smart thermostat
- Obtaining a government-backed loan to upgrade their physical space and equipment
- Winning a child care grant to increase salaries to their employees
You have given them more value through their expanded relationship with you and your firm, and everyone benefits from increased revenue.
Cross-selling benefits you and your firm, too. Selling more services, which generates more cash flow, revenue and profit, is an obvious benefit. You boost your profitability per client because it costs less to sell new services to an existing client than it does to market to and obtain a new client. The cross-selling marketing strategy helps ensure continuing business. At the same time, it opens the door for referrals as your clients spread the word about how your expertise helps them and the broad range of services you provide under one roof.
How to Cross-Sell
When you’re in tune with your clients’ thinking and mindful of ways you can help them by offering a range of financial accounting services, it’s easy to cross-sell. You might prepare for cross-selling with activities such as:
- Telling your clients about all the services you and your firm offer when the client relationship starts
- Giving clients written information about the features and benefits of your services
- Including feature and benefit information in your client communications, such as websites, newsletters, emails and hard-copy mailings
- Sending reminders of available additional services when you send clients items such tax forms or invoices
- Listening to your clients with an ear and mindset to connect your services to the needs they express
- Inferring what they might need based on your knowledge of their situation and your accountant-client relationship
It’s a good idea to tailor your communications to fit the business profile and personality of each client, so you’re sending the appropriate material to each person.
Cross-Selling in Action
Cross-selling can be a fruitful activity when you approach it with the mindset of improving the lives of your clients. Say you’re a CPA in partnership with another CPA who is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). One of your clients owns a clothing boutique, and you’ve been doing her taxes for a few years. As she stands to leave your office, she tells you she and her husband are expecting their first child, and you offer sincere congratulations. Then she says that with college costs skyrocketing, they probably need to start saving as soon as the baby arrives.
Your client just opened the door for you to cross-sell your firm’s financial planning services. You might respond with something like, “That’s a wise move. Do you remember that my business partner is a CPA and a Certified Financial Planner? We offer financial planning services for businesses and consumers, and we can help you. Would you like to make an appointment for you and your husband to sit down with us and discuss your options? Here are both of our cards, so you you can talk to your husband about it”.
Offering this additional service enables you to address your client’s expressed need, and the new service may reveal other needs and opportunities she doesn’t realize she has. You’re not pressuring her, and you’re giving her valuable information. At the same time, you’re generating more business for your firm directly with your client, and setting the stage for future business when she tells others about how good you are with accounting and financial planning services.
Cross-selling existing clients can grow your accounting practice sales quickly when you do it right. Collaborate with clients, stay on track, and grow your firm with QuickBooks Online Accountant. Sign up for free.