Here are the key points from a presentation titled “Cross selling – the dream versus the reality” I made yesterday at The Law Society Law Management Section Annual Conference 2014. Thanks to all those folk who took the time to give me some positive feedback afterwards – it was much appreciated.  #LMSconf2014.

So is cross selling The Holy Grail of business development? Or Motherhood and Apple Pie?

Cross-selling is much talked about in professional practices. It’s kind of obvious that if you have invested time and effort in winning a client then it makes sense to promote other services to that client as the relationship develops.

But there are many assumptions and misunderstandings as to how it works. Most firms will admit to having a cross-selling initiative, but how many would say that they have been successful? There are, of course, some great success stories (see

From cross-selling to cross-buying

Cross-selling is inherently an internal perspective. The firm wants to sell more of its products and services to a client. Yet, like all sales initiatives, we need to start with the client and what they perceive and need. Empathy skills come to the fore here – as well as research and relationship investment.

And clients – whether they are private clients, OMB/SMEs or large corporates – will have different decision making and buying processes which will have an impact on the success of a cross-selling initiative. Smaller clients – where the main contact is with the owner – will see value in the time saved and convenience of a single point of contact for a variety of services whereas larger clients – where there are qualified professionals and procurement experts – will focus on “horses for courses”. So it’s important that you segment your market and focus your sales and relationship development activity.

Check that the service is consistently good

If you are to avoid putting established client relationships at risk – from different service expectations and/or inconsistent client experiences – you need to check that the service from different teams is up to scratch. Easier said than done.

And it’s not just about rational service elements as part of your quality programme. Emotions and perceptions play a huge part. I have heard clients report that they left a firm because receptionists didn’t recognise their voices on the phone, or because they felt that their partner “didn’t value the relationship”.

Start on the inside

Internal relationships are critical too. You are unlikely to put your client into the hands of a colleague who you barely know – and I have heard partners state that they simply don’t rate or trust their colleagues’ skills enough to put their clients in their hands. Build those internal relationships first.

So analyse the risks (a structured reasons for and against cross-referrals process) and mend internal rifts. And look at procedures both to smooth the transition to ensure that the client has a good experience. And ensure that if a partner risks passing over a client, that they will receive some sort of recognition or reward.

Digital information drivers

At the heart of good cross-selling programmes is good data. The database word strikes fear and loathing into most lawyers hearts. The CRM (Client Relationship Management) database needs to extend beyond supporting e-newsletter mailing campaigns. It needs to capture a range of internal indicators and external intelligence about the organisation (or family) and individuals – static and behavioural information. And don’t forget Data Protection, Privacy and Ecommerce laws. Advanced organisations are using behavioural economics and predictive analysis to show, for example “similar clients used these services at this point”.

But the information should set the benchmarks and help measure progress towards what you want to achieve with your cross-selling programme whether this is increased revenues and profits, reduced cost of sales, greater share of pocket, increased NPS (Net Promoter Score), higher cross-selling or referral indices within specific segments, online campaign effectiveness or enhanced client life time value.

Strategic direction

A desire to increase cross-selling needs to be converted into a coherent strategy. And one that meshes with the firm’s overall strategy and new business development programmes.

This means setting out a compelling vision, setting clear aims, assigning resources, ensuring the programme fits the external client environment and demonstrating confident leadership.

Some cross-selling programmes will focus on internal marketing and communications, some as part of a sector approach, others on online promotion through intelligent web interfaces, others through the focused use of social media and others through targeted effort on major client relationships.

Part of a Key Account Management (KAM) programme

It’s trickier to manage the rich knowledge arising from multiple contacts over many years from a key relationship. There’s tacit and implicit knowledge that can be trickier to capture and maintain. And when information from intensive client listening programmes, regular satisfaction reviews and strategic account planning programmes are incorporated the challenge grows.

But in many cases, the deeper and more collaborative relationships forged through genuine (as opposed to short term sales initiative) key account management programmes are the key to enabling effective cross-buying or even the co-development of new services.

Cultural change

Machiavelli commented: “It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things” and we must remember that promoting cross-selling often requires a concerted and sustained change management programme (There are several blogs concerning change management in the professions).

The behaviour of senior role models, service excellence and quality systems, compliance integration, individual fee-earning targets, policies regarding relationship management responsibilities, internal communication, information systems, recognition and reward systems, training and e-learning programmes and financial management systems must be aligned to support the cross-selling dream.

Social media

At the end of the session, delegates asked me to elaborate on the use of social media in relationship management. Here are few links that address this but there are many more in this blog: