Cross-Selling for Lawyers: How To Effectively Cross-sell Your Partners And Their Practices

As an Executive Coach I am frequently asked by lawyers, “Marc, how can I most effectively cross-sell other services to my clients?” Also, my clients ask, “how can I encourage my partners to cross-sell my services to their clients?”

Every law firm I know tries to promote cross-selling between and among their lawyers. However, in my experience no law firm has done this as well as it could. One reason for this is that these firms fail to understand and appreciate the cultural foundations that would encourage and support cross-selling. Another reason is that many lawyers don’t know how to cross-sell other lawyers’ services to their clients. This article addresses both of these reasons and provides practical solutions, which, if implemented, will increase cross-selling within your law firm.

Let me make two initial observations. Cross-selling among law firm partners and their practices can be an effective strategy to deepen client relationships, and increase revenues and origination credits. In addition, by cross-selling, you will increase your influence with grateful partners who benefit from your efforts, hopefully encouraging them to cross-sell to their clients what you have to offer.

This article is divided into two parts. First, I discuss ten general principles that, if followed, will increase cross-selling within your law firm. Second, I suggest a very concrete way in which to open up your clients to the legal services provided by your colleagues.

Part One – Building a Culture of Cross-Selling

Here are some key considerations and approaches for lawyers to cross-sell within their law firm:

  1. Understand each partner’s practice areas: Develop a comprehensive understanding of the expertise and services provided by each partner in the firm. This knowledge will allow you to identify potential cross-selling opportunities where the services of one partner can complement or support another partner’s practice.
  1. Foster a culture of collaboration: Encourage a collaborative environment within the firm where partners actively share information, expertise, and client opportunities. This can be facilitated through regular meetings, knowledge-sharing sessions, and informal interactions that promote cross-pollination of ideas.
  1. Identify client needs and challenges: Gain a deep understanding of your clients’ businesses, industries, and legal needs. By understanding their challenges and goals, you can identify areas where other partners’ services may be valuable to your clients. This requires effective communication and active listening to identify potential cross-selling opportunities. In part 2 of this article I suggest a concrete way to achieve this.
  1. Educate partners about each other’s practices: Conduct internal training sessions or seminars where partners have the opportunity to present their practice areas to their colleagues. This helps create awareness and understanding of the services offered by each partner, facilitating cross-selling efforts.
  1. Communicate regularly: Regularly communicate with partners about ongoing projects, clients, and potential opportunities. By keeping each other informed, partners can proactively identify potential cross-selling opportunities and collaborate on joint client pitches or proposals.
  1. Joint client meetings and pitches: Whenever appropriate, involve partners from different practice areas in client meetings. This demonstrates the breadth and depth of expertise within the firm and allows partners to collectively address clients’ needs. Joint pitches can be more effective in showcasing the firm’s capabilities and building client confidence.
  1. Cross-referral arrangements: Establish formal cross-referral arrangements within the firm. This can involve setting up a referral fee structure or incentivizing partners to refer clients to one another. Clear guidelines and procedures should be in place to ensure transparency and fairness.
  1. Develop marketing collateral: Create marketing materials, such as brochures or online content, that highlight the full range of services offered by the firm and individual partners. These materials can be shared with clients and used during networking events or business development activities.
  1. Leverage technology and client management systems: Implement client relationship management (CRM) systems that track client interactions, preferences, and opportunities. These systems can provide insights and reminders to lawyers about potential cross-selling opportunities, ensuring that important relationships and opportunities are not overlooked.
  1. Measure and reward cross-selling efforts: Establish metrics to track cross-selling activities and results. Recognize and reward partners who actively engage in cross-selling, either through financial incentives, performance evaluations, or other forms of recognition.

Part 2 – Opening Your Client to the Cross-Sell

As noted earlier, many lawyers simply don’t know how to cross-sell services to their clients. They don’t know what to say and are often afraid that the client will resent their assertiveness in asking for additional business.

Here is a technique that my coaching clients have found successful. I practiced used this during my legal career.

Assume you are sitting with Carol Turner, the CEO of a medium-sized company. You are a tax lawyer and have been performing various tax-related law services for Carol and her company. A conversation with Carol, the purpose of which is to see where you can cross-sell, might go like this:

You: Carol, thanks for telling me how your company is doing. I find it really interesting and I want you to know I feel honored and privileged to be able to help you.

[Note: telling a client you are “honored and privileged” to represent their company truly endears you to that client!]

Carol: You’re welcome. We enjoy working with you and your firm.

You: Carol, what is it that keeps you up at night about your business?

Carol: Well, I am worried about one of our key salespeople. I think he is getting ready to move to a competitor and he has been snooping around our database. I think he’s looking for information to take with him when he leaves.

You: That would be bad, Carol. I have an idea. My partner Jane has handled a number of similar matters for others business clients of the firm. Would you like me to introduce you to Jane to discuss your concerns?

Carol: Sure, set that up please.

You will see that in the above dialogue, you looked for the cross-selling “hook”  by asking Carol about her greatest concern so that you can determine which of your colleagues she might be interested in meeting.  By asking the key question – “what keeps you up at night?” – you are able to identify what the client’s need is, thereby giving you the immediate opportunity to begin cross-selling by offering to introduce the client to the firm lawyer whose expertise she needs.  This technique is a highly effective way to begin to cross-sell to the client.

Remember, effective cross-selling requires building trust, providing value, and maintaining strong client relationships. By leveraging the expertise within your law firm and fostering a collaborative culture, you can enhance client satisfaction, increase revenue, spread your own influence within the firm, and strengthen your firm’s overall competitiveness.

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If you are interested in coaching from Marc, please contact him by phone or email.