If I knew the easy answer to this question I would be a rich woman! Sadly, there is no big secret but the answer lies in the unique culture of professional firms.

All professional firms – at management level – seek to provide as many of their different services to their clients. This makes obvious business sense but fails to recognise the very significant human factors that work against the principal of cross-selling in a professional firm.

For example, many partners will have a ‘It’s my client’ perspective and be reluctant to share the relationship with their colleagues. Sometimes this is because they do not trust their colleagues to provide the same level of expertise and service that they do, sometimes because they simply do not want to risk jeopardising the relationship.

In many firms, the reward system is geared towards individual partners maximising their own clients and time recorded and fails to recognise the value in acting on behalf of the firm or in referring clients to other parts of the firm. Therefore, the ‘eat what you kill’ culture dominates and cross-selling is not a partner priority.

The ‘secret’ often lies in a full scale CRM (Client Relationship Management) programme. This will include:

  • strong support from the most senior people in a firm
  • detailed analyses of internal client and service data
  • external market and client research
  • measurable objectives of the return on investment expected
  • an intensive and ongoing internal training and communications campaign
  • all staff involvement in the development and implementation of client care standards
  • changes to the reward and appraisal systems
  • the design and implementation of a key client management programme
  • investment in computer systems and databases to provide an effective tool to support significantly different day-to-day behaviour of the professional and secretarial staff.

Often, the process of changing the attitudes and culture can take several years. As many experts have commented “The only way to eat the CRM elephant is in small bite sized pieces”!

A final word of warning is that not all clients are interested in or will benefit from cross-buying their services from one supplier – many, quite rightly, adopt a ‘horses for courses’ approach for specialist services and have strong relationships with advisers in different firms that they wish to preserve. At the end of the day, as marketers, we must concentrate on the needs of the clients!


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As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to address in the future, please let me know. You will also find a source of more and up to date information on a broad range of management and marketing issues in the professions by checking out the blog where I also post regular reviews of books that might be helpful.