Consider this typical scenario. Tom is a tax partner. He’s got a really good insight that is probably relevant to many of his firm’s clients. How should he go about telling his fellow partners and winning instructions?
The obvious answer is to start with a well-written, clear email pointing out the issue and what the client relationship partners should say or do with their clients. Maybe it’ll take an hour to draft the email, but then all his partners have got the message and leads are sure to be generated. As the meercat in the advertisement would say….’Simples!’
It may be simple, but the problem is that this approach invariably doesn’t work! Partners get so many e-mails that messages such as this are unlikely to penetrate the white noise generated by day-to-day work and other messages.
A better approach for Tom is to meet key partners on a 1-1 basis and tell them about the important legal or regulatory development. This takes much more time but the message can at least penetrate. Though again little action typically ensues.
What is Tom missing?
- For cross selling to work, Tom has to put much more work in to communicate the benefit to each client of seeking his tax advice. For example, will it save the client money or mitigate any commercial or regulatory risks?
- But not just this, Tom has to make clearer what the benefits are to each partner to take action. What’s in it for them? Such benefits might be demonstrating to the client that he or she is thinking of them, being proactive, providing added value etc. If the partner can see there is something in it for them, they are much more likely to take action.
- The conversation should make it clear as to exactly what steps Tom would like the partner to take. Most partners feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about legal issues outside their area of expertise. Tom should consider drafting an email for the partner to send to the client or use as a script on the phone.
- Tom would benefit from focusing at this stage on simply getting in front of the client
- Ideally Tom should meet the client with the client relationship partner. By doing this Tom will receive the halo effect from the goodwill inherent in the relationship with the client relationship partner.
Another useful tactic is to meet with heads of important practice areas first – in Tom’s case this is likely to include the Corporate/Commercial department. If Tom can win this key partner over, it might be possible to persuade them to attend a forthcoming partners meeting and have a 20 minute slot to talk about the issue openly. This underlines how important the issue is and has the potential to create some peer pressure. Tom can then follow up with each partner using the approach suggested above.
The conclusion from this is that for cross selling to work Tom needs to put much more work in tailoring his messages. This will require Tom to focus on a handful of key clients and to be persistent in following up with partners.