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Does Cross Selling Make You Cross? Learn How to Overcome Lawyer Reluctance and Win New Work

Does Cross Selling Make You Cross? Learn How to Overcome Lawyer Reluctance and Win New Work

Experienced business developers know that it costs five times more to sell a new service to a new client than it costs to sell an additional service to an existing client.

After all, if you are doing your job right, your existing clients already know, like and trust you. With these three elements already in place, the sales cycle is much shorter.

In spite of this fact, most lawyers and law firms concentrate their business development efforts and dollars on new client development. This is a big mistake.

Cross-selling is the intentional and strategic effort to broaden the types of legal services a law firm provides to an existing client.

In addition to lower costs and shorter sales cycles, other benefits of cross-selling include protection of clients from “free agent” lawyers (because clients who work with more than one lawyer at a firm are less likely to leave when one of the lawyers leaves); increased competitiveness (as clients continue the trend of using fewer law firms for more of their work); a more collaborative firm culture (law firms deteriorate when lawyers and practice groups work in isolated silos); and improved morale.

Unfortunately, the mere mention of selling or cross-selling is enough to make most lawyers run for the nearest exit.

There are six primary objections raised by lawyers to cross-selling – lack of time, lack of awareness, fear, loathing, distrust of colleagues and lack of compensation for their efforts.

Challenges: Lack of time

When it comes to developing new business, most lawyers protest that they barely have time to market their own practices.

It can be very difficult to engage such a lawyer in a program aimed at developing business for a colleague or colleagues down the hall.

Any effort to create a cross-selling initiative must be highly focused and must involve a lot of hands-on management by a firm’s marketing department. It is the role of marketing to reduce the time constraint on lawyers as much as possible.

Do your research to identify a core group of existing clients with potential additional needs, and to identify what those needs might be. Provide dossiers on these clients. Get input and buy-in from the attorneys who already work with the target clients. Then assemble a small team of attorneys who could meet additional needs.

Start with a small number of small groups composed of willing participants. One-to-one matchmaking between the relationship lawyer and a colleague who provides potentially complementary services often works just fine.

Launching a firm-wide cross-selling program comes with some negatives. A large cross-selling initiative can raise expectations and spread marketing support too thin. Not everyone will buy in. Firm-wide programs allow skeptics to surface and undermine your efforts. Instead, start small and publicize your successes. Before long, lawyers will see the benefits and willingly join your program.

Challenges: Lack of awareness

Law firms tend to operate in a “silo” environment, with little communication among practice areas. Surprisingly often, lawyers in one area are not aware of what their colleagues in other areas do — and how they could add value to a client.

The larger and more geographically diverse the law firm, the greater the lack of awareness among its lawyers.

Marketing should facilitate on-going cross-selling sessions between practice groups or even small groups of interested attorneys. Everyone should do his or her homework before each session” said Holmes. “The more you prepare, the better the results.

Participants should be ready to succinctly describe the legal services they provide – and for whom. You must be able to describe your ‘product’ in order to sell it. This is another area in which marketing can help you prepare.

Each session should conclude with a list of follow-up action items. Take careful notes so that participants know who is responsible for what by the time the next meeting takes place, and then hold them to it.

Lack of awareness also extends to “who knows whom” within the firm. Before any meeting, marketing should mine the firm’s CRM system and also social media sites like LinkedIn to uncover unexpected connections.

Challenges: Fear and loathing

The general concept of sales is scary even to trained members of professional sales teams; it is even scarier to untrained lawyers.

Plus, lawyers have more specific fears. There is the fear of failure if you make a pitch and lose. There is the fear that you will no longer ‘own’ the client relationship and your business will cease to be as portable. There is the fear that you will lose credibility with the client if the new lawyer does not live up to expectations.

In addition to fear, many lawyers dislike the idea of selling. Now legal marketers and consultants …