Why law firms don’t cross sell…and what to do about it

Think about the last time you sat in front of a client. Did you make the most of that opportunity to promote at least one related service to them? If the answer is no you’re not alone.

In 14 years of legal marketing I have only met one Partner who did not want his firm to be better at cross selling. Most firms recognise that this is a key channel to growing a practice and increasing client ‘stickiness’.

I call this the loyalty ladder. If a client has used you once they are on the bottom rung and may or may not return to you based on a wide range of factors. If a client has instructed your practice numerous times, dealing with multiple people and departments the chances are you are their firm and it will take a great deal of effort or a significant client service issue for them to look elsewhere.

It’s estimated that it costs 5-15 times more to attract a new client than it does to retain one. Cross selling is a low cost, highly effectively form of marketing. If it’s so valuable why do most Partners tell me their firms aren’t great at it?

The sales stigma

The reason that one Partner didn’t want his firm to be better at cross selling was that he simply didn’t like the idea of selling to clients. “I’m a Solicitor, not a salesman Paul.”

Lack of Measurement

The effectiveness of cross selling (or lack of) is more difficult to measure than winning new clients. If it doesn’t get measured it doesn’t get done. Simple.

Lack of Incentives

What’s in it for me? We can tell staff they should be cross selling but if we’re not measuring it and not providing an incentive, financial or otherwise, do we really think that will be top of their agenda?


Your staff and Partners will have been through hundreds of hours of training on their specialist areas of law, but have you ever given them the tools to effectively cross sell your services? Confidence here though can work both ways, are your staff confident in their colleagues to deliver the service or will cross selling risk them losing their client?


Quite simply does everyone know enough about the areas of law you offer? They don’t need to be experts, but a commercial property solicitor telling his client about a recent change in employment law before making a referral will be far stronger than simply saying you ‘do employment’. A conveyancer telling a client about the new residential nil rate band (RNRB) before referring them to the private client department will have a far better success rate.

It’s not all bad news though as some simple steps can make a big difference. The starting point is to ensure that cross selling is a strategic part of your plans and an agenda item at each Partners' meeting. You must create a system to measure the activity and incentivise staff, but before you tell everyone what to do make sure you invest in training so they know how to do it. It won’t be a one off either, you’ll need to regularly review the process and ensure that recognition is given to those who are performing whilst taking appropriate action where people are struggling.

Finally, coming back to the sales stigma, I still believe this to be the greatest barrier and when training firms I suggest that we stop calling it cross selling altogether.

Cross selling should be considered a form of proactive client care and actually part of your professional duty. It’s unlikely to go as far as a claim but if you’re buying a property for a wealthy client shouldn’t you be telling them about the RNRB? Or if you are dealing with an injury claim for someone on benefits surely you should be advising them to set up a PI trust?

When we starting think about cross selling as a benefit to all parties, the barriers come down and the instructions go up.