There is no right or wrong time for undertaking this exercise, and there is no right or wrong time period for expecting results to come in, as this is all client-dependent. However, it never harms to set down timescales, to set down service expectations and, most of all, it never hurts to set income targets. Our experience in, for example, assisting an office with an office budget, has shown that lines in the sand provide targets for people to aim at and measure their own performance. This gives them something to focus on, and an incentive to try and achieve it.
The Managing Partner, coupled with whoever is handling the marketing for the office, should set down a broad process for undertaking this exercise.
The first step is to identify the clear service expectations. For example, if the office has just carried out a piece of Residential Conveyancing work for a client, it is not unrealistic to expect that there may well be the further requirement for (new) Wills. It is also not unreasonable to expect your team to ask a couple of simple questions - for example, ‘are you married?’ – potentially highlighting a need for mirror Wills. ‘What other family do you have?’ - might identify further opportunities.
By undertaking this exercise, you can establish a set of expectations that you would realistically expect your service teams to have explored with the client. In my experience, it is often best to incorporate these as part of the initial client interview. It enables cross-selling to start from the very beginning of the relationship and forms a fundamental part of the client set-up process allowing fee earners to fully understand potential client needs.
This exercise can be broken down across an office, across a department, or even across teams that operate in the subsidiaries or divisions that the larger clients operate. The easiest way of doing this is to download from the firm’s practice management system the fee income across the firm for the last two years.
Incorporate this into an Excel spreadsheet and segment it by clients and then by work types. What you are very clearly looking for are those instances where there has been either a single or, in certain cases, only two work type sales to a client.
This means that there should in theory be opportunities for selling other services. For example, a limited company that owns property probably also has employees. If it has employees, it will have the need for all aspects of employment advice. It may have tenants so there may be leases or dilapidation litigation. All companies have a director. Do they have a will?
In cross-selling, usually it is simply a case of asking questions, identifying which opportunities exist and then within the client organisation, finding the right person to talk to. Again asking the question “Who would deal with this?” is usually the most direct and successful route.
I have seen that the key thing in achieving success is having undertaken the work type analysis to set up a co-ordinated tracking process. If the analysis was simply sent out to department heads and they were told to get on with it, it would appear too onerous a task - disappearing into an In Tray, never to re-appear. It is therefore in my view critical that there is one person who drives it and that person breaks down the opportunities into bite-sized segments.
For each potential opportunity an “account manager” should be appointed and a target of new sales set. I have reported earlier why I believe a line in the sand should be drawn which sets out the expectations of the management team when embarking on such exercises.
If these things are consistently done, then the ‘Holy Grail’ of cross-selling can become achievable for any firm . . .