Jim Peduto

McKinsey & Company's "Capturing Cross-Selling Synergies in M&A" white paper discusses a fascinating paradox. Firms increasingly rely on cross-selling to generate post-transaction revenue while frequently falling short of fully realizing their cross-selling opportunity.

This article builds on the report by presenting a methodology to assess a salesforce's capacity and capability to cross-sell successfully. It applies to both mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and organic growth.

The Ability To Cross-Sell

Analysis of data comprising over 1.9 million salespeople, curated by Objective Management Group, reveals the reason so many firms fail at cross-selling. Fewer than one in five salespeople presently have the skill set to execute a cross-selling strategy. Specifically, only 17 percent of all salespeople are either currently capable or likely to successfully cross-sell (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Applying this data to a salesforce of 50 and rounding up values, you can expect these various tiers of skill:

Capable: Three are likely to successfully cross-sell.

Likely: Six should be able to cross-sell with minimal development.

Potential: Seventeen cannot presently cross-sell, but have the potential after development and coaching.

Questionable: Even with a substantial investment, the remaining 25 are likely to take over 24 months to develop a robust cross-selling competency.

Capacity And Capability Building Methodology

Assess the Salesforce, Systems, and Processes: Use a salesforce evaluation to identify which sellers can cross-sell, the magnitude of the gaps, what type of training is required and the expected return on investment. This allows ownership to set realistic expectations for growth by understanding who is capable of improvement, how much they can improve, and the training and coaching required to achieve growth objectives.

Stratify Salespeople and Develop Curriculum: The salesforce analysis will provide the data to stratify the salesforce into the four groups identified in Figure 1. The evaluation findings should be used to create a custom development curriculum to address the unique needs of each group.

Salesperson and Sales Leadership Development: In addition to salesperson development, the salesforce analysis includes leadership and management recommendations. The key to successful sales development is training managers to coach to the content in the context of the sales process. Managers that coach effectively and spend enough time doing so have salespeople who are 49 percent more effective than those reporting to managers with weak coaching skills who spend minimal time coaching.

Sales Process: The sales process must be customized and optimized to include cross-selling because training must introduce your formal sales process.

While our experience is consistent with McKinsey's finding that most firms fail to capture cross-selling synergies fully, there is a better way. By applying modern analytics, firms can substantially increase the synergistic opportunities that cross-selling offer — but are too rarely realized

Jim Peduto is the managing partner and the co-founder of the Knowledgeworx, LLC and is certified in Sales Force Effectiveness. Knowledgeworx is dedicated to working with business owners and CEOs who want to grow revenue and increase profitability. He can be reached at jim@knowledegeworx.com.