Cross-selling is a compelling subject for most law firms and the ability to promote it internally and incorporate it as a real value within the corporate culture will undoubtedly be one of the major factors in the survival and growth of many firms in coming years.
Many lawyers and law firm marketing professionals know that selling services to a potential new client is up to four times more costly than selling new services to an existing client. What’s more, cross-selling that is well executed – in other words, that tries to identify new client needs and meet them with the right services (and not the indiscriminate marketing of new services) – not only increases billings from those important clients but also broadens client loyalty, reduces dependency on one-partner relationships and increases solidarity and cooperation within the firm.
Cross-selling in other sectors is totally natural. No one is surprised, for example, that Zara (Spain's home-grown clothing retailing phenomenon, now an international leader) owes much of its success to selling footwear, fashion accessories, perfumes and cosmetics in addition to clothes. However, there are many factors that curb law firms' cross-selling efforts, especially among lawyers who are primarily responsible for the client relationship, e.g., fear of losing control of the client, lack of knowledge of the services offered by other practice areas, fear of "bothering" the client or simply lack of time.
To successfully consider any cross-selling initiative, you must know the client and its business, its challenges and opportunities very well. You must also have the trust of in-house counsel and key executives. It's also essential to know all of the existing and new legal services and value adds your firm can offer – not only those related to your own practice area. Once these criteria are met, identifying the client's potential needs and proposing suitable services to meet these needs becomes much more natural.
It should seem obvious but it's vitally important to remember that only legal services that really fit the client's business and anticipated needs should be introduced. Any attempt to promote a service that is not relevant or that does not provide added value for the client will not impress.
SEVEN WAYS TO PROMOTE CROSS-SELLING IN YOUR FIRM
1. Regularly invite lawyers from other practice areas in the firm to introduce their new services or value-adds (client seminars, publications, etc.) to your practice group.
2. Identify a list of key legal services of each practice area. Selling specific services or "solutions" to current client problems is much easier than marketing a practice generally, especially if you are not a specialist in that area.
3. If you regularly conduct client interviews, either annually or after every major matter, add a few probing questions about other business challenges and opportunities the company is currently facing to identify possible needs that your colleagues in other practice areas might be able to help with.
4. Use every chance you get to listen actively to your clients!
5. Consider introducing training programs related to cross-selling skills. Initially, these will help overcome lawyers' initial reticence or discomfort with the concept. As time goes on, you will be able to tailor them to more effectively meet your firm's specific needs or emerging opportunities. Start with partners but do not forget juniors: they are the future of every firm and often learn and adapt to new ways of doing things more quickly.
6. Track cross-selling activities and results and communicate them! Promoting awareness of successes across the firm is a powerful motivator.
7. Recognize the efforts being made. Although sometimes politically challenging to implement, a special bonus or other compensation reward is always appreciated. If that is not feasible, consider other kinds of recognition, such as an internal award for "Best Cross-Seller of the Year."