How to Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms

Is your firm a vulture or a wise owl? We all know the desired image but sadly the need for many firms to replace lost fee-income by selling additional services is potentially damaging the relationships with their most important clients.


  1. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 1
    Show that you have knowledge of the opportunities and challenges facing your client firm in upcoming years. Don't just ask for your clients to make general appointments for a "discussion". Get out there and spend time with your clients and ask to view the range of their professional services (gratis) so that you have an excellent idea of what they are facing. Don't leave the client with the impression that any discussion meeting is based on your agenda, which is clearly to sell your client something!
  2. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 2
    Realize that your clients are wise to how much easier it would be for you to make money from them by adding on additional services. In other words, be ready to answer the question: "What's in all of this for the client?" to avoid the uncomfortable silences.
  3. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 3
    Achieve success in introducing new services to existing clients by having your client's best interest at heart. Try this very simple mantra: ‘If your services do not offer a compelling advantage to your clients over and above their current advisors then don't waste their time in attempting to sell it!'.
  4. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 4
    Ask yourself these questions:
    • Does your firm aim to cross-sell simply to increase its fee income and profit?
    • Are different parts of your firm bombarding clients with promotional material telling them about all your services? (Irrespective of whether your solution is more compelling than their current provider.)
    • Are your formal plans mainly focused on what you wish to achieve and your increased financial performance?
    • Are your partners and fee-earners under pressure to go out and tell as many clients as possible about their service lines?
  5. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 5
    If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes' then you may wish to stop and think about your current approach and the impact it is having on your clients.
    • Are you a professional advisor or salesperson?
  6. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 6
    Consider how you can you cross-sell without being seen as pushy and self interested. This is possible only when you have achieved the status of being a valued and trusted advisor and when you realise what truly professional selling is and isn't.
  7. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 7
    Build the motivation to buy. Many definitions of selling use the words "persuading" and "convincing". The most successful firms understand that sophisticated and intelligent clients do not wish to be sold to in such a way. They understand that the greatest success comes when the energy to consider and buy additional services comes from the client.
    • The word motivation is key. The most successful firms at cross-selling will have the deepest possible understanding of how a client is thinking.
    • You must understand what is important to your clients and will know when and how to communicate additional services that the client will willingly wish to explore with you.
    • You must be motivated to explore because you trust that there is real value in the service and that it will help their business protect itself from challenges or help them to seize opportunities in the future.
  8. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 8
    Understand not only the client organisation in depth but also understand each individual you are in contact with. The iceberg principle illustrates the difference between the ‘surface level' information that a client will easily share and the ‘beneath the surface' information that often determines how they will respond to you and how their decisions are influenced.
  9. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 9
    Don't cross-sell until you have earned the right! The key here is genuine interest. When the client knows that you and your firm's actions and advice always have the client's best interest at heart they will become very open and receptive to your approaches in helping them with additional services. Moving too quickly can prematurely end a potentially beautiful and lifelong relationship.
  10. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 10
    Be careful! Whilst a client has developed sufficient trust to reward you with an initial instruction you may not have had sufficient time to embed that trust to the point where the client's expectations of you and your firm have been exceeded. You need to invest an appropriate amount of time and energy to earn the right as quickly as possible to be seen as their valued advisor. Done correctly this should not take long and will allow you some early cross selling wins.
  11. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 11
    Think like a client - the only way to cross-sell. You need to have earned the valued advisor status. You need to have the client's best interest at heart. You need to only consider introducing services where you believe there is a potentially compelling return for the client. You need to have a deep understanding of your client's iceberg and what's really important to them.
  12. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 12
    Make a really informed decision as to which additional service to introduce. The starting point is to stop being you and start being a client. This is sometimes difficult but it is a key mindset shift if you want to have the best chance of identifying which service to introduce, when to introduce it, and how. For example, help your client avoid the trap of trying to sell everything. Carefully select the best services based on a deep understanding of the client's world and where they are as confident as they can be that the client will be motivated to meet with them.
  13. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 13
    Let's say you have identified a compelling service offer for a specific client based around the thought process used in the university example above. The client however has no knowledge of your capability in this specific area. So what do you do?
    • If you have no reputation for the service you would like to introduce avoid diving in and asking a client for a meeting to tell them all about it. The answer is to take it slowly. Don't dive in and ask for a meeting to tell the client how good you are. You need to earn the right. You need to build the motivation in the client's mind for them to want to meet with you to explore.
  14. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 14
    Build a high value promotional campaign. Every touch point is of significant value to the client and gives immediate and usable insight into how they can approach a number of key future opportunities and threats.
  15. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 15
    Motivate your firm to do more. Identify some of the barriers that exist. They include:
    • Lack of communication
    • Lack of knowledge of what others do
    • Lack of trust in other's capabilities
    • Fear of loss of control
    • Not knowing how to cross-sell
    • Financial considerations/penalties
    • Lack of a real understanding of the clients business
    • The client's current image of your firm
  16. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 16
    Recognize it's not a perfect world but if you really want to be better here are examples of what some of the most successful firms have done to reduce the barriers:
    • Where possible, avoided multi-sites
    • Remove physical office barriers
    • Create common meeting/lunch areas
    • Organise market/client facing teams
    • Organise more internal mixed communication opportunities
    • Promote role models
    • Invest in educating people across the firm
    • Carry out more secondments
    • Develop dynamic intranets (that motivate people to visit)
    • Invest in intelligent knowledge management systems
    • Demand continuous cross-firm learning
    • Ensure senior people act as role models
    • Eliminate negative role models!
    • Introduce remuneration and reward packages that drive appropriate behaviour
    • Demand equally high standards across all service lines
    • Ensure consistency of client experience across all service lines
    • Demonstrate credibility, competence and compatibility consistently!
    • Ask fee-earners about how they view cross-selling
    • Encourage people to do what is right for the client
    • Develop the process, skills and behaviours of cross-selling
    • Invest significant amounts of non-chargeable time in gaining the deepest possible understanding of the client and their world
    • Build a ‘thinking information' file on the client's world
    • Widen the contact surface with the client
    • Change your marketing approach from telling to adding huge value
    • Stop trying to sell everything to everyone!
  17. Image titled Cross Sell in Professional Services Firms Step 17
    Consider these simple actions:
    • Identify those key clients where you have truly earned ‘valued advisor' status
    • Bring a team together and simulate a senior management meeting thinking like a client based on the PESTEL analysis explained below
    • Identify one or two key services where you have a compelling offer (over and above any incumbent)
    • Build an appropriate high value campaign to earn the right to meaningful dialogue with the client (where they are highly motivated to meet)
    • Consider barriers in your firm and take actions to eliminate them
    • Consider again the actions currently being taken by your firm. Are your clients seeing you as vultures or wise owls?
    • And remember, stop cross-selling and start building the motivation to buy!


  • The PESTEL model is: Political • Economic • Sociological • Technology • Environmental • Legislative. You need to consider all of these factors when considering the client's needs.

Article Info

Categories: Sales