Okay, okay.  I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t marketing by definition proactive? Well, I’m thinking about a slightly different twist. It involves anticipating future problems that a client may encounter and discussing them with them in advance before they ask somebody else.

A couple of days ago The BTI Consulting Group published the results of a survey pointing out how the time is right for cross-selling. The survey involved interviews with 330 “independent, individual interviews with CLO’s and general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations,” and 200 law firm leaders.  According to BTI, the top 3 reasons the interviewee’s have insomnia are actually cross-selling opportunities for law firms.

While they may have been too polite to say so, I am not. The reasons given – IMHO – relate to the absolutely, chaotic, political world we find ourselves in currently. Although the survey was completed two months prior to our national election last fall, the results are no less valid today. They are:

  1. The Potential Breakdown of the Regulatory World. Whatever changes are likely (additions or deletions) will have a profound impact on clients.  And heavens know the threat of change is greater than ever.  Starting discussions with clients in whatever could impact their business or industry in the regulatory arena will be marketing time well spent;
  2. Cybersecurity. This “was not even on the list of concerns prior to 2014.” By staying current on federal and state legislative and regulatory changes which impact security requirements will put you ahead of the pact;
  3. Managing Risk. Assessing the unknown is the most difficult task, whether for a firm or a client. Pulling together a risk management database to use “for each specific client by practice, industry, and type of company” will come in handy when discussing potential risks with specific clients.

It is suggested that partners start a dialogue with clients about possible changes, even if you don’t have all the answers.  I am not sure I agree that there a limited window for cross-selling, but there is no reason to delay. By raising the possibilities early on, the more likely clients will turn to you in time of need.

Why is it difficult? First, because many corporate clients do not want to put all their eggs on one basket.  For political, financial and/or relationship reasons they want to spread the work around.  Sure, a number of major corporations are reducing the number of outside law firms.  Often doing so to better manage administrative headaches. Rarely will they reduce the number of law firms to one.

Reasons within the law firm itself are just as likely to make cross-selling difficult to pull off. Since I have written on the topic numerous times in the past, I thought I would refer to just four of my posts.  Hopefully, they will shed light on why it is so difficult to cross-sell, and offer ideas on how to overcome the difficulties:

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…Continue Reading

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…Continue Reading

Semantics sometimes get in the way of some good advice. When you try to convince clients (subtly or otherwise) to engage your law firm for additional services not previously rendered, I think it is silly to argue about whether you are cross-selling or cross-marketing clients. I’ve known and admired Bob Denney for many years. He’s…Continue Reading

There are obstacles to cross-selling that explains why law firms are so bad at it. But with the right kind of leadership and incentives, the obstacles can be overcome. It isn’t easy though. When I was an in-house legal marketer, I actually saw cross-selling work – maybe 1% of the time. An article on Law360.com…Continue Reading

Cross-selling can work in law firms, but it isn’t easy.  It takes knowing, liking and trusting one another among  partners, and… a client’s concurrence, of course.

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.