Cross-Selling: The Ever-Persistent Wet Dream Strategy
Let me be emphatic â€“ Cross-selling does NOT work! Nevertheless, last week I happened upon another of these articles entitled â€˜This is your Secret Weapon for Cross Selling.â€ And I was particularly struck when reading the last Thomson Reuters Law Firm Business Leaders Report, which asked: "What steps is your firm most likely to take to improve performance and strategy?" (with 24 choices).
The resounding #1choice â€“ by 87% of firm leaders â€“ INCREASE Cross Selling!
Time for a confession. Many decades back I developed the first video-based training program to teach lawyers client relations and business development skills, ultimately used by over 300 firms globally. The program was called Rainmaking® and one of the 14 modules covered Cross-Selling. But in researching the results we discovered that while it helped lawyers acquire the conversational skill (what do I say and especially if my client poses an objection) there were all kinds of non-skill related impediments, like:
- What do I do if you screw up my relationship or the client likes you more?
- How do I protect my clients if we part company and I leave the firm?
- How do I adequately describe what you do and what value you deliver?
- What financial compensation is in this for me?
- And with very few exceptions, most clients donâ€™t like hearing sales pitches from their lawyers about anything, particularly unrequested services. As one GC expressed it, â€œMy lawyer comes in, asks how their firm is doing and then wants to immediately introduce me to some other partner and tell me about their newest service offering.â€
Perhaps the most prominent reason cross selling doesn't work is the lack of true client focus. When you approach the issue motivated by self-interest, you're unlikely to have many productive conversations. Don't you think they can detect what's really driving your interest in the subject?
Meanwhile, this same Thomson Reuters Law Firm Business Leaders Report asked: Where is your anticipated growth going to come from in 2022 â€“ and then listed traditional 23 Practice Areas. They did NOT think in terms of INDUSTRIES! As one Big4 Partner said to me, â€œAccountants focus on industries which is client centered. Lawyers focus on practices, which is self-centered." In a proper industry group you have various practice disciplines all working together.
So my advice for cracking the code on cross-selling â€“ Pursue an industry group focused approach which allows:
- you to just naturally explore deep discussions into the clientâ€™s broader and larger challenges to view the clientâ€™s situation more holistically; and learn about the critical issues, the people involved, and how decisions get made; and allows
- the client to see how your various areas of expertise connect to one another with little explanation; and match how that client is thinking about their business issues.
Now is that so hard?