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Six Steps to Effectively Cross Sell in Law Firms

One of the greatest myths in law firm marketing is that your partners will be eager to cross-sell you just because they're your "partners." The fact is that they aren't.

Whether because of inertia, fear of competition, concern that you will have a negative impact on their relationship with the client, or lack of incentives, your partners probably cross-sell less often than you might like.

When viewed from the client's perspective (as all marketing should be), there are several reasons why cross-selling does not work as well as you might like, but that is a discussion for another time. (If you can't wait, David Maister compellingly addresses the problems in the chapter on "Why Cross-Selling Hasn't Worked" in his book True Professionalism.)

But before you can handle potential obstacles you may face in convincing a client to hire you, you must first convince your partners to cross-sell you. In order for that to happen, they need to:

  • Know you (while it doesn't hurt if they like you, that's not a requirement);
  • Know what you do and what you are capable of doing for their clients;
  • Trust that you will treat their clients well; and,
  • Feel that there is something in it for them.


Here's a road map for successfully convincing your partners to cross-sell you:

  • Start by identifying several (fewer than 5) partners who present good opportunities for you. Evaluate these partners based on the focus of their practices; their client base; and, most important, how willing they are to cross-sell. Some people are inclined to cross- sell; others aren't. Life is too short to try to convert those who are strongly disinclined to cross- sell (whether you or others) into effective cross- sellers.
  • Develop a relationship with each of these people. You need to get to know each other on a personal level-- through chats in the hall, lunch, or working together on a client matter or committee.
  • Educate them about what you do. You might assume that because they are your partners, they know what you do. Years of working with law firms has convinced me they don't. You need to educate them about your expertise and experience.
  • Educate them that you do it well. Let's face it. Not all of your partners are equally talented, equally smart, equally client-oriented, and equally diligent. To convince your partners that they can entrust their clients to you, share your successes with them and let them know how delighted your clients are with the service you provide.
  • Make your expectations clear. Don't assume that they know to whom you want to be cross-sold and for what services. Explain the game plan to them: "I think there is an opportunity for your client 'X' to hire us to do 'Y' type of work, which I do. Can we sit down and develop a plan for how we might go about doing that?"
  • Finally, don't forget to determine what's in it for them. Ultimately, most people are motivated by self- interest. To encourage them to act on your behalf, you want to make clear that this has benefits for them. Those benefits can vary depending on the situation: maybe it will strengthen the client relationship, maybe it will be viewed positively by the firm's leadership, maybe you have agreed in advance to share the billing credit if the matter comes in.


If you want to be cross-sold, you must treat marketing to your partners with as much focus and commitment as marketing to potential clients. These six steps are the place to start that marketing campaign.

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