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Want Fries With That? Why More Lawyers Should Cross-Sell.

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 22, 2016 12:58 PM

You're no fast food cashier, but attorneys could learn a thing or two from McDonald's. The world's largest burger joint brings in billions of extra dollars a year, simply by asking "would you like fries with that?" It's the classic example of upselling.

Now, you don't offer fries with your practice, but that doesn't mean you can't upsell and cross-sell. And it's a great way to increase your business without having to take on new clients. Soon, you'll be asking "would you like a revocable living trust with that?"

What's the Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling?

There's a slight difference between upselling and cross-selling, and it's not just the hyphen. Upselling occurs when you offer a customer the opportunity to use additional services in order to improve their current purchase. It's the fries on the side, or the case for your iPhone. In the legal sphere, upselling could include offering trust formation services for a client looking to create a will, for example.

It's the kind of thing many lawyers do instinctively, in order to better serve their clients.

Cross-selling is a slightly different beast. When you're cross-selling, you're not offering additional services for the same or similar matter. Rather, you're offering a whole new set of legal services. So, a customer comes to you for a divorce and is convinced to redo his estate plan as well, or a business uses you to defend against a personal injury claim, and then stays with you for its workers' comp issues.

The key to identifying cross-selling opportunities is to engage clients, to learn about their life, their business, and their needs.

"But wait," you say. "I'm specialized." Fair point. But you can still cross-sell services, if you're not a generalist. In such cases, cross-selling usually means transferring clients over to other lawyers in the firm in order to handle more of their legal needs.

How to Encourage Cross-selling

Because of that handover, cross-selling can be difficult where attorneys tend to hoard clients. There are two ways to get around these hurdles, though, and improve business throughout the firm.

First, attorneys need to be aware of each other's work and clients. Regular communication can allow a firm's estate planning specialist to know, for example, when her personal injury-focused partner might have someone who needs more services. These conversations can be formalized, as regular meetings where attorneys discuss cross-selling opportunities and other potential areas of growth.

Second, if you really want to improve cross-selling, it should be brought into your firm's compensation system. Internal referrals are valuable, and should be treated as such. And internal clients are often much easier to develop. After all, the best client is one you already have.

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