When lawyers “cross-serve” clients they deepen relationships and increase fees

In a recent post on Adam Smith Esq, Janet Stanton explains the importance of strategic client management to law firms, particularly in current perilous economic times.

Strategic client management, Stanton explains, is “the intentional servicing of your clients to nurture longer-term, more profitable relationships.”

Clients are looking for business solutions from their lawyers

Strategic client management, Stanton writes, “is intended to institutionalize key clients by being more intentional in all aspects of client service…well beyond the expert practice of law.”  Strategic client management is important because it treats clients “as the assets they are” – where other firms will step in where a firm fails in managing those client relationships.  Importantly, as Stanton explains: “…clients are looking for…business solutions that go beyond expert legal opinions.” [emphasis added]

[I write about how lawyers can take a business solutions approach to prospective clients in a previous post: Lawyer Business Development: Proactively Align with Client Business Strategies to Win New Work]

More than anything else, clients want a solutions focused law firm

Importantly, as Stanton details (citing data from AdvanceLaw), clients rank a “solutions focus” provision of service from their law firm as more important than “quality of work”, “legal expertise” and “responsiveness” – as well as “cost efficiency” and “low hourly rates”. Stanton explains that as “revenue from current clients is more profitable than that from new clients” – strategic client management is therefore vitally important to a firm’s bottom line.

Increasing business from current clients at the core of strategic client management

“At the core of strategic client management is increasing business from current clients”. Importantly, as Stanton notes: “Firms need to make intentional efforts to expand client relationships” – “This generally does not happen on its own”.

Stanton prefers the term “cross-serving” as a preferrable to “cross-selling”:  “Cross-serving”, as Stanton explains, starts with a deep understanding of the client’s business and their priorities – and how those priorities meaningfully intersect with what your firm can provide”.  I agree and believe good cross selling is characterized by intentional actions which are carefully thought out and designed to genuinely help the client.

Stanton correctly explains that this type of more thoughtful effort takes more time and effort – but that it is worth doing as it will result in “building longer-term, more profitable relationships”.

Cross-selling initiatives should create a win-win

I agree with Stanton’s assessment of the need to conduct cross-selling initiatives by ensuring that the client was being approached with something of value. Successful cross-selling also requires successful experience of all aspects of the cross-selling process.  From value identification, to securing a discussion, to properly conducting meetings, to precision follow up.  

One of the most important things I’ve learned about cross-selling – is how to balance the interests of the client with the interests of the firm.  And ensure the entire cross-selling process is a win-win for both.  It’s a balancing act – as neither the firm – nor the client – should ever be wasting time on something which isn’t win-win.  And knowing what is – and what is not win-win – before any meeting is requested – is perhaps the most important element in successful “cross-serving”.

Looking forward

As law firm management consultancy Altman Weill explains: “Done well, [cross selling] can generate significantly more revenue and deepen relationships with important clients. On the surface, it seems like   it should be easy to do…[however], you’ll find it’s actually a very complicated process, with many moving parts that must mesh properly to be effective.”

I’ve worked with hundreds of lawyers from around the word to sell their complex services to discerning audiences – including numerous successful cross-selling initiatives.  I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how I might help you create a custom cross-selling initiative.  To arrange a discussion – please complete the form below and I’ll respond promptly.

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