Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they transfer those qualities by recommending you.
Maybe your partner doesn’t know enough about you or your practice, especially in a large firm. And, there may be selfish reasons he is protecting the relationship with the client. In my 30 years in this business, I can assure you that a “bit” of that goes on. So, you must work on enhancing your relationships with your partners, and making sure she knows enough about your practice and is comfortable that you won’t displace/hurt her client relationship.
According to Mike O’Horo, in a recent article on Attorney at Work, “cross-selling problems are self-created.” He argues, among other points, that lawyers focus on the product they’re trying to sell versus whether the client has a need for such services. The important point is that any attempt to cross sell should be client-centric (i.e., benefit the client), rather than product-centric (i.e., what service can benefit me and the firm). The client must understand that they have a need for such additional services and agree that your firm, rather than another, is the best choice for them.
Cross-selling can often fail based on a client’s unfavorable reaction to the idea. They may prefer to spread the work around, or they are not convinced the cross-sellee is the right lawyer for the job. For cross-selling to work, the client must recognize the need for the services, and have faith that the cross-sellor has confidence that the cross-sellee will do a good job.
So, it may not be entirely your fault that your partners don’t cross-sell your services, but, if you don’t grow those internal relationships, you may never find out why they don’t.