Why Cross-selling Doesn't Work, But Could

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 entitled "5 Killers Of Cross-Selling Success" pretty much sums up the main reasons practice doesn't work most of the time, (but also implies how those barriers can be broken down). The killers include:

  • Lack of trust (that the other partner will treat the client well, or treat them too well thereby supplanting their own relationship with that client contact);
  • Compensation system (that encourages lawyers to market only to clients that they will receive credit for and be rewarded for bringing in);
  • Communication failure (in determining a client's other legal needs, and not educating clients about the firm's other practice areas);
  • Expectations (by firm management are unclear regarding cross-selling being a priority, not to mention that the compensation system sends the opposite message); and
  • External factors (such as the clients themselves, may not have a need for the additional service(s) being sold, or more importantly, want to spread work around to other firms).

However, a cross-selling program can work. First, there needs to be an increase in communication between partners as to their respective practices and expectations regarding the client relationship. Secondly, management should make its expectations clear on the subject, with a compensation system that rewards all involved. Finally, one needs to ensure that clients welcome learning about and might want/need the additional services the firm offers.

Read more from Tom Kane on the Legal Marketing Blog.