Why Cross Selling Fails in Most Companies

May 10, 2021 | Income, Strategy

Why does cross selling fail in most companies, and why should you care?

The main reason to care is that your current clients are your best clients, meaning they will buy services at higher margins than a brand new client would.

You may think you are too busy to care right now, however your clients care.

Clients don’t like to be ignored, otherwise their hearts start drifting, their eyes start wandering and they end up using a competitor to help them with their unmet needs.

In fact, many landscape companies have competitors working on their properties right under their noses, because they are not paying enough attention to their client base.

Your current clients are your best clients, meaning they will buy services at higher margins than a brand new client would. Discover why cross selling fails in so many companies, and how to leverage it in yours. Share on X


The $100,000 question is “Why do your clients have unmet needs? And what can you do about it?”

Here is what I have found…

Limited First Impressions

When a client buys from you initially, their first impression of what you sell cements into their brain. And that’s how they continue to think of you: suppliers of service X.

But when they want to buy service Y or Z they may not think of you, and they will literally search out your competition not knowing you also provide these services. To overcome this, You must let them know up front that you also sell services Y and Z, even if they only purchase service X. This is the salesperson’s responsibility, supported by a good sales process and marketing efforts (I share an example at the bottom).

Limited Internal Marketing

Many contractors feel too busy to send internal marketing to clients; they are so busy selling new clients they just don’t have time… Sound familiar?

It’s an unfortunate tradeoff, chasing the new clients with big budgets, instead of chasing a better reputation and better margins serving your existing clients.

To remind your clients that you also offer services Y, Z and more, they need to hear repeatedly about those services. This is called drip marketing, and it works for existing clients as well as prospects.

Even if you told your clients about everything you offer up front, they need to be reminded until they actually buy those other services from you. My dear friend and landscape client Paul Reder (Michigan) does an excellent job of constantly marketing to his existing clients via his newsletters and also through digital, TV and billboards.

Technicians Aren’t Salespeople

You cannot expect your tech’s and foremen to make these cross-sales per se, but they can be part of the process. Set up a ‘Find a need, plant a seed’ program to keep their eyes open.

No one has responsibility or the time in their schedule. In order to make cross sales, your salespeople (and department heads) must be given a quota and the time to call on clients (or visit, etc.) otherwise it never happens. If you ignore it, so will your people.


Your salespeople, account managers and project managers need training to cross sell and up sell. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t just set your goal and move on.

Incentives Change Habits

It may help to set up a situational incentive to reward the change in behaviour you need to happen. If you want a salesperson to develop a new habit, put your money where your mouth is. Situational incentives are temporary and can be changed year to year.

To change habits, keep score. If you want to cross sell a new service _____ (fill in the blank, a service agreement, an irrigation agreement, etc) keep track by client, on the wall if possible. What gets measured and discussed, gets managed and impacted.

Russell Landscape Does A Great Job Onboarding New Clients

Russell Landscape of Georgia (who we visited 3 years ago for one of my events) does a fantastic job of making a formal introduction of all their key services with their new client (Property Manager).

They set up a walk through with multiple managers from Russell:

  • The assigned account manager
  • The managers of horticulture, floriculture, irrigation
  • The sales manager

This attention wows the client and expands their understanding of Russell’s services.

Plus, the client’s property looks that much nicer that much quicker!

Everyone is wowed (new client, neighbours of the client) and this leads to more buzz and referrals, stronger retention, more sales, and stronger margins.

Your Challenge

Stop treating your new clients better than your existing clients.

Cross selling is needed whether you do maintenance or install, residential or commercial.

The key is to:

  • Plan for it
  • Train for it
  • Set up your sales process so it reinforces it
  • Incentivize it where new habits are needed
  • Onboard new clients with cross selling in mind

All my best maintenance clients have learned the financial and relational value of cross selling, and all my best design-build clients have learned to convert install clients into full service. It’s easy enough if you make it part of your plan.

When you see how much of this is in your control, you will become a convert as well.