04 July 2021
International Legal Sector

The top four reasons why cross-selling is so hard


Claire Rason explains the top four reasons why cross-selling isn’t always as successful as the statistics suggest it should be, along with some ideas to overcome them. 


1. A lack of understanding about what selling is

The biggest myth that gets in the way of cross-selling it that selling is somehow “pushing something that someone doesn’t want.” Visions of used car and door-to-door salespeople still abound when professionals think of “sales”. Indeed, many professionals still shy away from the term “sales” feeling more comfortable with the phrase “business development.”  Whilst some firms have started to recognise the need to bring in experienced sellers, this is still the exception, so much so that when it happens it makes news. 

This myth gets in the way of cross-selling. Selling is the art of converting opportunities that arise, either as a result of marketing efforts, or perhaps that have arisen by chance. Selling should be seen as the art of demonstrating value on an individual level. If done well, the buyer is persuaded by the value and the “sale” will occur. If the focus is shifted from the seller to the buyer, cross-selling is much more likely to be successful.


2. Need to problem solve

Finding out the client’s challenges. That sounds easy enough, right? 

Professionals are used to having the answers. Often the need to offer an answer or solution immediately gets in the way of cross-selling. Opportunities aren’t discussed because they fall outside the scope of a professional’s area of work and so they don’t ask questions because they don’t feel they know enough about the other areas of their firm to answer. Some professional services firms try to correct this problem by teaching professionals all they need to know about the other areas of the business. This often leads to professionals feeling even more underqualified and resisting these conversations yet further.

Clients aren’t looking for answers necessarily. Understanding that is the key to getting past this particular challenge.


Cross-selling 2Source: Freepik


3. The wrong person is doing the selling

This reason is the by-product of 1 and 2. The lack of understanding around what selling is and the need to offer answers means that cross-selling is seen as something that someone else has to do. If a law firm has a property team and the firm has decided to cross-sell employment, the efforts to “cross-sell” tend to focus on when to ask to introduce the relevant employment partner. If “successful”, the employment partner then sets up a meeting to discuss all that they can do. This rarely works. The person who holds the relationship needs to be thinking about opportunities beyond their area of work. What challenges does the client have that could be met by other areas of the business? It is the desire to add value and solve these challenges that should lead to other areas being brought in, not an internal need to push a particular practice line.


4. Silos

Most professional services firms still work in silos. They have no idea of what the other areas of the business are doing, nor what clients they are servicing. Of course, the bigger firms will employ teams and technology to break down the walls that exist between groups. Others will use a sector focus to help shift the attention from product/service lines to clients. However, many are still guilty of siloed behaviours. An article written by a colleague in a different group shared by a professional in a different part of the business helps raise awareness of what the business does in a simple and effective way. Nevertheless, how many professionals are guilty of only sharing articles that they can talk to? When planning an event, how often do professionals think about the needs of clients in other parts of the business, or is the focus their clients and their issues? 

Virtual working has made it easier for silos to exist. Those watercooler moments with members of different teams have gone. It is harder to get a sense of who is busy and on what. Making sure that your firm has opportunities to meet virtually with other teams is important here. Internal communications are also a key part of breaking down silos – whether that be increasing awareness of new clients one, work done for existing clients or increasing awareness of issues that are coming up in certain parts of the business. 

Cross-selling isn’t easy. Yes, the statistics show that it is easier to sell to an existing rather than a new client, but that doesn’t make it easy

This article is adapted from one that appeared on Client Talk’s blog. To read the full article click.

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