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The Holy Grail of Cross-Selling 2: The People Profile

19.07.2009

It is a generally-held belief that any fee-earning member of a professional service firm is capable of initiating or identifying a cross-selling opportunity. Whilst I believe this is in principle true, the reality is that it comes much more naturally to some people than to others and, for a successful cross-selling campaign to have positive results and generate enthusiasm, it is important that the firmís resources are put behind those most capable of delivering results.

So what is required to undertake this initiative?

Probably the most important thing is a change in the fee earnersí approach to clients. This is especially true with partners, and this change in mental approach involves a recognition that the client does not belong to any one individual, but is an asset of the firm, and that it is the responsibility of all members of the firm to look at identifying and serving the needs of their client, no matter what their size. This may well require the removal of some of the hidden barriers to co-operation, such as reward structures that focus on fee earners introducing clients to the firm, and bonuses for those who meet billing targets but do not encourage delegation and sharing of opportunities. This step can be quite a radical change for many firms, but the recognition that the economic imperative must override political niceties should allow managing partners to take action.

It is also my experience that during this stage of the assignment, the failings of a firmís database come to light. When you have only done one piece of work for a client, you usually only know the person who commissioned that piece of work, so being able to cross-sell services across a corporate organisation remains difficult when your relationships with those who have authority and responsibility is very limited to isolated individuals.

As part of each exercise, everyone with whom you have a relationship at a particular client should be noted, and their position and influence also noted, as well as their ability to provide you with work. Like all things, keep your database simple. At this stage you do not necessarily want to know the name of the spouse and their interests. You are only interested in the actual work people.

I am often also asked who should be involved in a cross-selling exercise and what their role should be. The point of cross-selling is that it should be as inclusive as possible. Everyone at the office has an opportunity to cross-sell, as the majority of cross-selling is done by listening to what the client says. There is no need to divide out roles within a cross-selling initiative. Fundamentally, what is required is someone to act as a driver of the whole operation round the office or firm, and usually because of their seniority someone to account manage the relationship with the client. This is usually a partner, and also usually the partner who has made the first sale into the organisation. I believe this role should be challenged, especially if that partner is a hoarder of work and not an inclusive person. It is not a given that the account manager on a cross-selling scheme should be a partner, nor the partner who has done the work. It should be the best person to do the job.

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