In an earlier post I posited that anyone who wants to cross selling his services in a professional services firm had best treat his colleagues like any other market. Selling them is the first step in selling to their clients. You must meet with your colleagues, learn about their needs and their clients’ needs, help them understand how you can help meet these needs and then provide fantastic service to them, so demonstrating how attentive you will be to their clients. In this context, returning a colleagues phone call promptly is every bit as important as returning one from a prospective client.
This, I think sound advice, but it isn’t a one-way street. All members of a firm have responsibility for finding opportunities at their accounts for their colleagues. Firm management must find ways to make everyone accountable for cross selling. There are many tools for this, most noticeably compensating people for helping their colleagues win work. But, in our experience, some of the simplest ways are often overlooked.
Take, for example, teaching the firm’s partners about the capabilities of practices they might introduce to their clients. Typically, this is done by giving the practice head a podium to describe what his team can do. In the worst cases, this is done over hours at an off-site meeting, with one presentation following another in mind-numbing monotony, and the listeners soon find their minds wandering.
Here are two alternatives to make the process more effective:
- Structure the session as an interview, rather than a presentation. Announce to the participants that they won’t learn anything about the featured practice, unless they ask about it. Then, don’t allow the person seeking to cross sell his service to say anything, except in response to his colleagues questions. If his colleagues aren’t interested or intelligent enough to ask good questions about the service, he is probably wasting his time anyway. This puts the responsibility on the listeners to extract the information they need, keeping them engaged in the conversation. You may want to provide a few sample questions to get the interview started.
- Try speed dating. Start your monthly firm or office meeting by paring up partners from different practices to have a half-hour conversation about how they can help each other sell their services. At the next meeting shuffle the pares, so that everyone spends time with someone new at each meeting. Among other things, trust is more easily built in one-on-one conversations than in a presentation.
Cross selling, like selling professional services, requires lots of little acts like these on the way to landing the big assignment.