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Cross selling: the rainmaker’s not-so-secret weapon - Part three (Law Society Gazette/In business blog)

Click here to see the article on the Law Society Gazette web site.

A little while ago, I was attending an event with a matrimonial lawyer, and we bumped into one of her clients who had been divorced the previous year – the director of a chain of children’s nurseries. Making small talk, I commented that employment issues must be a headache. She commented that this was indeed the case, so I quickly whisked her across the room to meet the employment partner. At the close of that matter, would it have been so hard to spend a few moments thinking about who else in the firm that client might have been interested to meet?

In my experience the best cross-sellers, and often the best rainmakers, are corporate partners. The nature of a corporate transaction means that they have excellent working relationships with colleagues in other departments such as employment, property, IP & IT, tax and so on. Through working together closely on a deal, they develop an understanding of the other departments that enables them to spot opportunities on their behalf. They can trust the colleagues who have delivered on the deal and are then comfortable to refer other clients to them.

Let’s face it, we are all protective of our own clients, and there is nothing more frustrating than referring an opportunity to a colleague or associate and then finding that it has not been followed up promptly or enthusiastically. Worse still is referring a client to a colleague who obtains the instruction and then provides poor service. It is natural that we only wish to refer our own clients to fellow professionals that we trust and, sadly, on occasion that may be someone other than a fellow colleague.

Like anything else in business, good relationships are the key to business development. You need to invest time and effort in building a relationship of trust and mutual understanding with your colleagues if you are going to successfully exploit any cross-selling opportunities.

The topic of cross-selling is often raised in marketing meetings, usually in ways such as: 'How can we get the other departments to refer more work to us?', and 'If only John would introduce us to his clients in XYZ industry...'

Note that the questions relate to how much work the firm could receive. How interesting would it be if a firm turned this around, looked at the departmental client list and identified who they might introduce each client to?

Successful rainmakers are not afraid to 'give first to get later'. This is explained brilliantly by John Timperley, the former director of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in his book Network your Way to Success. If you have not read it yet, put it on your Christmas list now.

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