Successful cross-selling requires a long-term commitment, a multi-dimensional strategic initiative and alignment of your firm’s investment offerings with client needs.
Current clients and consultants where you have clients in common are the optimal target markets for multi-strategy investment firms to grow assets under management in a time-, resource- and cost-efficient way. Many institutional investors prefer working with a limited number of managers. Investment firms that have done a good job for clients in one area can take advantage of the “halo” effect to introduce other strategies.
“Know what your clients want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”
~ Kevin Stirtz
Successful cross-sell campaigns are a collaborative effort between clients, and an investment firm’s management, investment, sales, client service and consultant relations professionals. Your firm will need to set realistic goals – overall, as well as by professional and investment strategy. To qualify likely cross-sell candidates, you must do your homework, which starts with analyzing your clients’ existing plans in terms of:
- Investment objectives
- Current asset allocation
- Current managers and strategies
- Managers on watch list and any replacement searches
- Risk profile
- Anticipated changes
- What size allocations are appropriate
- Consultant involvement
- Any issues with current relationship
For each qualified cross-sell candidate, you need to outline a strategic plan with objectives, implementation strategy and time frame well defined.
“The client experience is the next competitive battleground.”
~ Jerry Gregoire
While an investment firm may achieve some cross-sells within the first year of launching the initiative, significant results require at least a three-year commitment and preferably one that is re-evaluated continually in perpetuity. At the three-year point, the client relationship expansion initiative typically becomes an integrated dimension of client service and of the firm’s business plan. Important components of an ongoing client and consultant cross-sell initiative are:
- Ongoing dialogues with clients and consultants to elicit needs, and define ways your firm can help clients address a broader set of objectives
- Prompt follow-up with relevant and valuable information to move the process forward
- Engagement of and collaboration with internal resources to evaluate opportunities, challenges and potential solutions
- Consistent written communications enlightening clients and consultants of your different offerings and benefits to an investment plan
- Timely, relevant updates on the firm (e.g., new strategy launches, including early adopters, and role in and benefits for an investment program)
“Success is when opportunity and preparation meet.”
~ Bobby Unser
One of our clients organized an effective “Cross-Sell Competition” to set the foundation for a strong launch of the firm’s cross-sell initiative. At a quarterly sales meeting, they divided their sales, client service and consultant relations professionals into three teams. Each team was assigned a specific investment strategy that had been identified by management as a strategy with strong potential for cross-selling success. Each team was given 30 minutes to outline a cross-sell plan for the designated strategy. All the professionals reconvened as a group, and a spokesperson from each team presented the cross-sell plan for their assigned strategy. The presentations were followed by 15-minute debrief discussions where audience members provided further suggestions and asked questions. At the conclusion of all three, a panel of judges evaluated the three cross-sell plans against the following criteria:
- Comprehensiveness of plan – Up to 25 points
- Likelihood of success – Up to 25 points
- Effective presentation of the plan – Up to 25 points
- Responses to audience questions – Up to 25 points
The team with the most points earned an award. In addition, there were financial incentives for any cross sells made during the following 12 months. The firm’s cross-sells quadrupled from 9 the prior year to 36 during the 12 months following the competition.
Documentation, tracking and accountability are essential to maximizing outcomes of cross-sell campaigns. For example:
Cross-Sell Goals – Overall
Cross-Sell Targets and Strategy – Sales/Client Services Professional
Tracking overall progress is also valuable in assessing what is working and what are the challenges. Discussing progress, and eliciting ideas and recommendations from the broader group at least quarterly generally enhance success.
“If you’re not serving the client, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
~ Jan Carlza
Excelling at client service requires teamwork rather than relying on the efforts of just one person. Defining the proper incentives to align and motivate resources firm wide to contribute to successful client experiences, including involvement in appropriate cross-sells to clients, is key. You need to avoid developing silos of talent where professionals protect their interests over those of the clients.
After confirming with a client both the level of interest and time frame, the client service professional can set up an introduction to the portfolio manager or product specialist for the selected strategy. Optimal times for presenting additional strategies to clients are during client on-site visits to your office, update meetings on the existing portfolio, or meetings when the sales professional and portfolio manager for the selected strategy are going to be in a client’s town for another meeting. Generally, it is most effective to present alternative opportunities during a period of strong performance, and at the end of a client meeting after covering portfolio updates.
Key messages and benefits about the proposed strategy must be clear. In addition, you must be prepared with concise, direct, positive responses to likely questions and objections encompassing the following:
- The firm
- Strategy investment team and other investment mandates they manage
- Investment process encompassing idea generation, portfolio construction, sell disciplines and risk management
- Portfolio composition
The benefits of a well-orchestrated, consistently implemented cross-sell initiative are many:
- Deeper client relationships
- Better understanding and fulfillment of broader client needs
- Enhanced client relationship tenure
- Leverage of client service and sales resources
- Increased potential for growth in assets under management
Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.
Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.