From 1968 to 2003, Peter Falk played a detective on American television called Lieutenant Columbo. Columbo was a scruffy but polite and well-spoken chap, and like most law enforcement characters on TV, he always seemed to catch the guilty party.

Columbo and CPQHowever, the manner in which Columbo would catch his prey was quite unique. Just when the offender thought they had gotten away with a crime by answering all of Columbo’s questions without giving the game away, and as Columbo would be ambling off, he would turn around and say “excuse me, just one more thing?” And with that question, Columbo would invariably elicit an incriminating answer.

This simple strategy can be applied to your sales process, with substantial upside to sales outcomes. How many of your sales team are order-takers? They answer the customer’s request for a product or service and sell them exactly that. Yet, little did they know that the same customer just bought some other complementary products or services that your salesperson could have offered the customer. Another cross-sell opportunity gone. What percentage of your deals feature cross-sells?

I'm reminded of a customer who sells devices such as iPads into educational institutions. How happy the day is when a customer rings up with approved budget to ask for a quote for 500 iPads! The salesperson gladly sends the order form for the customer to sign immediately. However, this leaves sales management tearing their hair out! Here was an opportunity to apply the Columbo theory of cross-selling: “Excuse me, Mr. Customer, just one more question: Will the students be taking the iPads home with them or leaving them at the school?”

The customer says, “The students will take them home.” The salesperson replies, “Great! I’ll add in 500 protective cases as well to minimize damage and repairs.” Alternatively, the customer says, “the students will leave them at the school.” The salesperson replies “Great! I'll add in 500 docking stations so the devices are always charged and ready in the morning.” You can probably think of similar scenarios that play out in your business on a regular basis.

Salespeople need to remember to offer such things in real time, as the deal happens. So what is the solution? There is more than one. The obvious one is to improve sales knowledge. Training is vitally important, and companies are investing in tools to help their salespeople to become greater experts on their products. That doesn’t necessarily they will have the deep knowledge of which products are associated with other products they need to ensure they know the questions to ask to land upselling opportunities. The “A” players will remember to ask these questions. The “B” and “C” players will likely not, despite repeated training.

A more effective solution is guided selling with a configure price quote (CPQ) solution. Enterprise CPQ tools differentiate themselves from CRM or ERP-based quote tools in their capability to deliver guided selling with a consumer-level experience for salespeople whilst processing vast volumes of product, pricing, approvals and business rules in real time. Think Amazon for B2B selling: an intuitive, easy to use, customer-focused selling tool.

CPQ can deliver the Columbo cross-selling technique every time without the need to rely on the salesperson actively remembering their training after six months and the correct cross-sell question for each of the 5,000 products or services in your catalog. CPQ prompts them to do so every on every deal. In my example, every time the salesperson selects 500 iPads, they're prompted to ask the purpose of the iPad and the salesperson cannot complete the quote until they have answered the needs-based question, driving greater cross-sell rates.

So that’s it. Oh, and one more thing: For a real life example of increasing average order value, check out this case study for Xirrus who increased cross-sell of premium support into 90 percent of deals. Check out this on-line CPQ ROI calculator to determine what the potential is for your business.