One of the smartest moves you can make as an attorney is to cross-market.
While the concept may seem easy to digest, many attorneys struggle with implementation when meeting with existing clients. The idea here is to deliver additional services to a client beyond the one service you are currently providing.
Here’s a scenario for you:
- You have a banking client and have been working on a litigation matter with her for over the past two years.
- Your relationship is solid, and you’ve been doing great work.
- This client has legal work far beyond the matter you are working on, however, none of this work is being given to you.
Why is that? The reasons may include:
- The client doesn’t know that your firm handles other types of legal work.
- He or she wasn’t asked questions about the bank’s business as a whole.
- The client has never met any of your partners who are highly skilled in these other areas.
- You never felt comfortable asking the client for additional work.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand the value of cross-marketing and how it benefits everyone involved. One of the single greatest opportunities you have is the ability to bring in work and not have to actually do the work. While there are some potential downsides to this, with the right partners in place it can be a home run for you in building your book.
The main benefit to your client would be twofold.
First, you would be the quarterback for your client in handling their broader legal needs. It’s always best to have one person leading the charge. Second, your client’s external communication would improve. Dealing with one person and one firm leads to better coordination of legal services.
What I hear on a regular basis as a business development coach for attorneys is that there is a lack of process and effective language to execute on the cross-marketing opportunities that do exist. My goal for this column is to provide you a tactical approach to cross marketing in a non-salesy way. There are three steps to accomplish this task.
Set yourself up for success
Prior to meeting with an existing client, call her to set the stage for your meeting. Let her know that in addition to catching up on the matter at hand, you would like to discuss her business as a whole and make sure that she is limiting her legal risk.
You could say, “Lately, I’ve been speaking with a number of my clients who have businesses similar to yours. Like you, they are all happy with my litigation work, however, there were other areas within their business where they weren’t being properly protected from a legal vantage point. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to run through a proactive legal checklist with you when we get together.”
The idea here is to set up the conversation ahead of time to ensure you are not springing this on your client in the meeting. You bring up the subject as “other client’s issues” so you are not specifically saying that your client has these problems and therefore not insinuating directly that she has specific legal issues or needs.
This approach is also permission-based, so you are confirming buy-in from your client on this specific discussion prior to the meeting happening.
Develop your six pillars and survey questions for your client
While there are a variety of practice areas that your firm may represent, it’s important to think about the top six legal pillars that are most likely to carry weight with your business clients. The six that we see on a regular basis include:
- Labor & Employment
- Intellectual Property
- Estate Planning & Succession Planning
- Real Estate & Construction
- Litigation & Dispute Resolution
- Business & Finance
It is important to think about each client’s business and to develop your own list of six pillars as the foundation for questioning. Once you have six pillars selected, work to develop one to two primary questions around each pillar. This will engage your client into dialogue around that particular area of his or her business.
Feel free to start with some general “softball” questions like, “How’s your business coming along?” or “What are some of the business issues that you dealt with this past year?”
Once you have a better lay of the land, feel free to get more specific to the six pillars.
If you know that your client has a number of real estate holdings, for example, you might say “I know you have real estate all over the Midwest, tell me how that’s coming along?” or “I know you’ve been expanding your real estate holdings over the past three years. Tell me about your future plans over the next three years?”
Once your client has given you more information about his or her real estate need or issue, ask a deeper question to open up the subject further. You could say, “It sounds like your growth is exponential. Describe some of the issues that occur with this type of growth?” or “Who is handling this for you, and how is that coming along?”
The key here is to get your client talking about other areas of his or her business. Based on your initial questions and the follow-up ones, you may be able to uncover a business or legal problem that you could help him or her with. Try to use open-ended questions to avoid a yes-or-no response.
If you are truly interested in obtaining more business from cross-marketing, take the time to write down your six main pillars and the questions that you would want to ask. This survey could be the best tool you’ve ever used to develop new business. Statistically, it’s much easier to obtain additional work from an existing client rather than finding new business.
Once you’ve reviewed your survey with your client, it’s important to secure a next step. For example, let’s say you found out that she wasn’t 100 percent happy with her existing real estate attorney. You would want to set up a meeting with the best real estate attorney in your office.
Be sure this is someone you like and trust. Having skillful and trustworthy partners to introduce to your client can make the world of difference in effectively cross-marketing your clients.
If you’re going to share your coveted client with one of your peers, be sure he is not going to steal your client down the road.
To assist with this, be sure to set yourself up as the quarterback for all your client’s legal needs. This will help ensure her relationship will remain strongest with you.
One of most important tactics to remember when meeting a client for cross-marketing is to never leave a meeting without a specific next step. Discuss the details with your client and include a date and time to speak or meet again. Try to avoid saying things like, “Let’s touch base in a few weeks to discuss this further”. This is very bad form. She is busy, and you are certainly busy. Not setting up a specific next step is asking for trouble in driving this new business forward.
Almost everyone has a calendar directly on their phone. Ask your client to schedule a follow-up meeting right there on the spot. It’s not unusual to do that anymore.
The impact that cross-marketing can have on your practice is incredible. The key to success here are to set up the meeting with no surprises. In addition, be prepared to ask questions around a variety of practice areas. Follow up right away to ensure the opportunity doesn’t disappear before your eyes.
A safe idea is to try an initial run with a client that you are very close with. Explain that you have their best interests at heart and want to make sure he or she is well-protected in his or her business.
Once you see how easy it is to bring in new business through cross-marketing, you will make this a priority in your business development activities moving forward.