Cross-selling - Part 1
This week’s post reproduces my column “On Business Development” from the July-August issue of Law Firm Inc. Cross-selling is an important and controversial topic, and I shall post several followup items in coming weeks.
Remember the KISS strategy? (“Keep It Simple, Stupid!”) Well, it still works like a charm at some law firms. As the director of business development at Goulston & Storrs—a 190-lawyer firm with offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., London, and New York—Beth Marie Cuzzone has found that business development programs work best when they are built around concepts that lawyers already know, accept, and understand. If you use the language they expect, and if you understand the way lawyers work, you’ll succeed, she says.
One simple example is translating salesspeak into legalspeak, the terminology used with lawyers. Sales pros often assess progress by measuring “sales cycle stages” such as prospecting, qualifying, and assessing needs.Lawyers don’t use language like that.So at Goulston & Storrs, Excel spreadsheets track prospects under similar headings, but each stage has a title that feels more comfortable to lawyers: approach; prioritize; contact and conversation; possible legal solution; and client conversion.
It’s a courtesy, if you will, that lawyers seem to appreciate. It’s all part of the “less is more” approach that the team at Goulston & Storrs applies day to day. “Cross-selling is the low hanging fruit for every law firm,” Cuzzone explains. “Six years ago, our recipe for cross-selling started very simply, by getting all the partners together in a room and handing out a sheet of paper.” That sheet of paper had three columns: client name, what do we do for them now, and what other legal needs do they have? Lawyers were asked to fill in the information for three current clients they enjoyed working with, and where Goulston & Storrs had the potential to expand its work.
Almost every lawyer filled out the sheet. Then Cuzzone typed up the results in an Excel spreadsheet and sent it to all the partners. For some, that was all they needed. They started following up with each other as soon as they saw the list. “I didn’t know you were handling that work,” one might say to a colleague. “Could you get me an introduction?” Other lawyers needed help, support, and diplomatic prodding to assure follow-up. Cuzzone walked the halls to pull lawyers with the greatest business potential into conversations about what might come next. Her goal was to make it as easy as possible to grow existing client relationships at Goulston. Sometimes she acted as an internal sales coach, even scripting the lawyers’ conversations and roleplaying calls to clients. This simple and inexpensive approach led to a significant number of new engagements, and ultimately to an expansion of her department.
Recently, Goulston has started using the LexisNexis InterAction CRM (customer relationship management software) to track clients. But when it comes to tracking top opportunities, they are sticking with an Excel spreadsheet, because “it’s simple and quick, with no fuss,” says Cuzzone. Less is more.