A personal approach to cross-selling

In my blog posts about referrer management and cross-selling, I usually tackle the subject from a firm-wide perspective – goals, strategy, planning, change management, systems, information, rewards and measurement. But many lawyers, accountants and surveyors – especially those at the early stages of their career – ask me what they can do personally to support effective cross-selling. So here are some thoughts on a personal approach to cross-selling.

In business relationships, we understand the power of reciprocity. It is one of the main methods of persuasion (see http://kimtasso.com/book-review-small-big-small-changes-spark-big-influence-steve-j-martin-noah-j-goldstein-robert-b-cialdini-persuasion-science/).

Psychologists also tell us that to maximise the reciprociy effect “what you give first is unexpected relative to the norm” – this is what underpins the idea of “Giver’s Gain” (see http://kimtasso.com/faq/how-can-i-increase-the-strength-of-my-relationship-with-referrers-and-intermediaries/). So I start by looking at how a fee-earner can identify cross-selling opportunities for his or her colleagues – to invoke the reciprocity effect.

Outbound cross-selling – Identifying opportunities for others

There are many things that you can do to identify cross-selling opportunities for others:

  • Focus on the clients’ needs – A good professional (Trusted Advisor) will focus on his or her client’s needs (see, for example, http://kimtasso.com/encouraging-solicitors-sell-aligning-cross-selling-professional-conduct-rules/) . When you are curious and interested in a client’s life or business, you will learn about his or her needs beyond their current issues. This helps you identify where your colleagues may be able to help.
  • Educate yourself on the firm’s services and clients – You need to develop your knowledge about the other services provided by your firm and the clients to which they are delivered. This is your product knowledge. You also need to understand how your firm is different and what particular value it delivers to clients – and this may vary across departments. A good starting point is to learn about the firm’s major clients. Often this information on your firm’s internet. Become a great Ambassador for your firm by being a walking, talking and enthusiastic advertisement.
  • Prioritise which services you can promote – In larger firms, it can be challenging to learn about everything. Some firms have over 10 different divisions or disciplines with each providing perhaps 30 or more different service lines. So prioritise what you learn about. Perhaps identify the top three most commonly used “door opener” services provided by each team. Or concentrate on those departments that are “net givers” of referrals. Or look at those services that are most likely to be required by your type of clients.
  • Learn stories about key services – Stories are easier to remember than facts and figures. They are also more interesting for clients to hear. So learn stories from your colleagues in other departments. Many firms will prepare case studies and testimonials about the work they have done with clients. If these have been approved for public use then there is no risk of breaking confidentiality. http://kimtasso.com/selling-legal-services-storytelling/
  • Share your colleagues’ content in your social media – You can scan the social media feeds in LinkedIn and Twitter of your firm and your colleagues. Like, comment upon and share them to your own feeds. This effectively promotes them to your network of clients, contacts and referrers. And if you connect to your colleagues on LinkedIn, then your clients and contacts can easily see who else is at your firm or in your department.
  • Participate in internal communications – Trust is important. And trust is built through interaction – preferably face-to-face. So seize opportunities to meet with and establish relationships with your colleagues in other departments. If they organise events for their clients, ask if you can attend. Monitor the wealth of emails and internal alerts that no doubt circulate in your firm about the achievements other teams. Try and retain the key points so that you can bring them into relevant conversations with clients.
  • Develop your commercial and selling skills – If your commercial understanding and selling skills are good, you will have the right sort of conversations with clients that enable you to identify their issues and needs. Active listening and questioning skills are critical for professional selling – particularly to identify the decision-making unit (DMU) for other services. You should also research your clients in areas beyond your focus with them. When suitable issues are identified, it becomes easy to suggest that they talk to one of your colleagues. There are many blog posts about selling skills (see, for example: http://kimtasso.com/publications/selling-skills-for-the-professions/ or http://kimtasso.com/fabulous-first-meetings-16-selling-insights/)
  • Join a sector group – Many firms operate on a matrix basis with professionals providing different services working together in sector groups. Sometimes services might be tailored to the particular needs of clients in that market. By developing your knowledge and credibility within a sector it becomes easier for you to have commercial conversations with clients in that sector. Your understanding of what others do in the sector will help you identify cross-selling opportunities.
  • Introduce your colleagues to your clients – You can do this informally at networking events or you can arrange to take your colleagues along to meetings or social events with your clients. It is important to brief everyone well before such encounters – to seed productive conversations – and to identify mutual areas of personal or business interest.

Inbound cross-selling – Encouraging others to identify opportunities for you

There are many things that you can do to help others in your firm to remain aware of what you do. This reminds and encourages them to mention your services to their clients when appropriate. It helps if you address cross-selling as part of your overall marketing and business development plan and develop objectives so that your expectations are managed and you can measure progress.

  • Establish relationships – People rarely refer people who they don’t know. Cross-selling is risky, so work hard at developing trust (see http://kimtasso.com/trust-better-business-relationships/). Proximity helps so make it your job to get out and meet your colleagues in other departments and offices. Show an interest in what they do and offer information about your services that might be relevant. It helps if you work as part of a team with a colleague in your department – people want to be able to select different personalities to match the chemistry of their client.
  • Communicate regularly – Keeping front of mind is important so communicate regularly and preferably on a face-to-face basis. Attend others’ departmentl meetings or shadow a particular team in a different discipline. Think of things from their perspective and provide case studies and stories that relate to their markets and clients.
  • Target effectively – Rather than expecting everyone to be aware of your services and to promote them to their clients, adopt a more targeted approach. Analyse the clients of other departments and identify those that are most likely to need your services. Then contact the relevant professionl with a specific request to make a tailored approach to his or her client.
  • Provide materials – No doubt there will be all manner of information on your web site. But try packaging it in a way to support cross-selling. For example, produce a diagnostic set of questions that others can ask their clients on a particular issue. List the 10 most frequent questions that clients ask (using client phrases rather than technical terms).  Perhaps also provide some outline responses so that your colleagues can at least manage a preliminary conversation. Identify the triggers that signal a need for your services. You might also provide tailored materials that may be sent to other people’s clients in emails.
  • Provide training – Many firms organise internal breakfast or lunch time sessions as part of their CPD programmes. And many firms also encourage departments to show case their services to others by presenting short face-to-face or video sessions. Make these sessions focused and fun.
  • Provide content for their social media feeds – Most people will prepare content such as articles, blogs and alerts. Identify those that have broad appeal and send links to others in the firm, perhaps with example email copy or draft social media posts that they can simply cut and paste to use for appropriate clients. Some firms use systems like Passle to help with the distribution of social media content http://kimtasso.com/expert-rock-star-using-passle-content-creation-distribution/
  • Collaborate on seminars and events – Other departments will organise a variety of seminars and events for their clients. Offer to provide speaking slots or to join them during breaks. Perhaps even identify topics where a variety of different teams can collaborate.
  • Organise an internal campaign – Where firms have sophisticated internal marketing programmes, they might schedule campaigns throughout the year that focus everyone’s attention on particular services. Prepare an example campaign for your service – integrate materials, communications, events and even competitions.
  • Investigate your firm’s KAM programmes – Many firms will have a Key Account Management (KAM) programme that focuses attention on the firm’s most important clients. There will often be profiles and plans of those key clients so that you can identify who is most likely to need your services. You will also learn who is on the client team that can talk to you about the cross-selling opportunities.
  • Always say “Thank you” for referrals – As with externally-sourced referrals, you should also thank people who refer clients to you. Keep them posted on how things progress and advise them when the matter or project completes. This gives them a reason to get back in touch with the client themselves.

Referrer management and cross-selling training for fee-earners: http://www.mblseminars.com/Outline/Developing-More-Work-from-Referrers-_-Intermediaries/5770/

Referrer management and cross-selling training for marketing and business development professionals: http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training.aspx