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.

It may not seem fair that lawyers must be both salespeople and producers of the legal product, but that is the nature of professional services.  More lawyers today buy into the need to contribute to their own survival.  Of course, they are the ones motivated to develop business.  Those who aren’t need only to have a conversation with partners who have been let go.

Over the years I have helped prepare hundreds of marketing plans.  Too many have ended up on the proverbial shelf not to see the light of day.  There are several reasons for this, mainly a lack of commitment by the lawyers.  Some of the main reasons for that include:

  • Individual lawyers didn’t buy in to the overall firm or practice group plans;
  • Plans may been dictated from on high, with little input from the lawyers affected;
  • Lawyers just aren’t interested in developing business (that was the case in the earlier days of law firm marketing, and unfortunately too many still feel that way);
  • Since the firm will do the marketing, they don’t believe they have to, so why plan;
  • May even give lipservice to the plan, and then ignore it; and
  • Attitude – “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson;”and so on.

I’m referring to marketing plans that are more institutional in nature.   They include goals and objectives, vision and mission statements, and focus such things as websites, publicity, advertising, newsletters, etc. Things that individual lawyers hope to avoid or hide from, or leave to other lawyers. Yes, some include lawyer assignments, but we lawyers area clever bunch at finding ways to avoid duties we do not want to do.

If you are still with me, let me emphatically say I am very big on individual lawyer business development (sales) plans.  These are specific, actionable, agreed upon plans focused on what each individual lawyer will undertake personally.  There is no hiding here.

Okay, okay, you can’t really forget about marketing plans.  But, you best give a high priority to individual business development plans that will get the lawyers to commit to bringing in business; rather than assume that the firm or other lawyers will keep their plate full.

The goals and objectives of the firm and practice groups should already be in place.  And yes, the individual plans must fit into the overall plan of where the firm and practice group wants to go.  But, if you don’t focus on requiring individual, actionable business development plans, I wish you luck in getting the lawyers to contribute to the success of the firm.

 

P.S.  Ran across an interesting twist relating to marketing plans in a post by John Hayes on B2C blog.  He starts out by saying he too is opposed to marketing plans, but he doesn’t mean it either.  He encourages more of a real world approach to planning.