After 25-plus years in marketing lawyers, it continues to amaze me that some lawyers do not understand why cross-selling so often doesn’t work.  The thinking seems to go, “I’m good at… (fill in the blank), we’re partners, and they should just refer ‘their’ clients to me so I’ll have more work.”

The question is “why should they?”

The answer as to why they don’t is pretty simple.  They may not know what you really do, or trust your capabilities to not damage their client relationship.  Pretty simple, huh?  Because that is the real world.  There may be more to it, not the least of which may be the client doesn’t want to put more eggs in your firm’s basket, or they like a lawyer in another firm who does the same work, or they get more value from another firm, etc. etc.

My friend Merrilyn Astin Tarlton on Attorney at Work has a post suggesting possible reasons why your partner won’t cross-sell you. The reasons she points out might include the fact that the other lawyer: may not liking your act (behavior with other clients); your ability; it’s might not be best for the client; someone else is better; and just because you are partners doesn’t justify putting the client at risk.

On the bright side, Tarlton offers some sound advice on how you might get your partners to cross-sell you:

  • Educate them.  Let your partners know what you do, the challenges in your field, and share stories about favorable outcomes (without bragging of course);
  • Publicize your wins.  The bigger the firm, the more important it is to let everyone know about your victories via department head meetings, firm newsletter, website, and the like;
  • Hold internal lunch and learn sessions. Cover the two bullets above;
  • Do your client homework.  Learn more about other partners’ clients – that is, about issues relating to their industry, how you could help the client, and make the partner a hero in the process.

Cross-selling can work.  But, it ain’t easy and requires work.  And your partners don’t owe you.  You need to make sure they know, like and trust you.  Gosh, that sounds like what it takes for any client to hire you in the first place.