Lawyers have begun spending more and more time and effort on marketing to obtain new clients. But new clients are not the only way to increase your business. Sometimes it is easier and more effective to spend your resources on increasing the business you already receive from existing and former clients. They are the ones who already see the value of your work and have invested money in your services.
Giving clients an exceptional experience and providing them with superior service certainly go a long way toward building loyalty with your clients and increasing the chance that those clients will either come back to you for new work or will refer others to you. But most lawyers can do even more to increase those referrals and to gain additional work by regularly communicating with current and former clients, up-selling, cross-selling.
Regular client communication
If you close your file at the end of a matter and never reach out to that client again, you are leaving money on the table. Even if you have done great work, there’s no guarantee that the client will refer others to you or that they will come back to you themselves the next time they encounter a legal problem.
Even if a former client would like to refer business to you, they may not have your contact information handy, or they may simply forget your name if enough time has passed. Alternatively, the client may not recognize that they have a legal problem that you can help them with.
They key to getting more work from existing and former clients is to make sure that you stay ‘top of mind’ by staying in touch, whether through an email newsletter, a phone call just to say hello, sending an article of interest, or periodically checking in personally to see whether there is anything you can help them with.
Make it a habit to set up Google Alerts for your clients’ names or the names of their businesses. Keep up with developments in your their’ industries or communities, and follow clients’ activities so that you can spot when a legal need may arise and offer to help, or simply offer congratulations when you observe a client’s accomplishments.
What is up-selling? Up-selling is offering a client an upgraded or premium level of service at an increased fee. For example, a client who initially requests a “simple will” might benefit from more advanced estate planning services or the incorporation of a trust into a will. An “up-sell” is not giving the client something they don’t need – it is simply offering them a higher level of service with a corresponding increase in the value to the client.
You have seen up-selling in day to day life, mostly in the context of product sales or in restaurants. If you have ever ordered wine in a restaurant and had the server or sommelier say, “If you like Malbec, I recommend the2007 Catena Zapata” (which is double the price of the wine you initially requested), if you have been asked if you’d like to ‘super-size’ your order, or if you’ve taken advantage of a ‘buy two get one free’ deal, you’ve experienced up-selling.
Up-selling works best when there are different levels of service that can be offered that will meet the client’s needs. To up-sell effectively requires that you demonstrate how the premium level of service benefits the client and why it commands a higher fee. Up-selling should never be used simply as a way to make more money off of the client. Instead, it simply provides the client with an additional option. The client may choose the basic level of service at a lower fee or a premium level of service which provides added value with a corresponding increase in the fee.
Most attorneys are familiar with the term cross-selling: selling additional, supplemental or complimentary services to existing clients. Classic examples of cross-selling include the ubiquitous, “Would you like fries with that?” and Amazon.com’s practice of showing you related products that others who made your purchase also ordered.
Most often, cross-selling is seen in firms that practice in more than one practice area. A client who comes to the firm for a personal injury matter may also have need of estate planning services or tax advice, for example.
Many firms do a poor job of cross-selling the firm’s other services to existing clients in part because they are not as familiar with the other practice areas in the firm or the individual lawyers who practice in those areas. In those firms, the lawyers operate in silos and identify with their individual practice group but not with the firm as a whole, and they are often unskilled at identifying the issues that might give rise to a legal need in another area of the firm’s services.
Cross-selling can be very effective at the conclusion of a client’s matter, when they are no longer focused on the specific problem or opportunity that brought them to you in the first place. At that time, the client has experienced your firm in action and is (hopefully) happy with your work. The key is to remain engaged with your client and their business and to listen to how they talk about their business. This will allow you to identify opportunities to help the client in other areas and educate them about the additional services your firm may be able to provide to further the client’s goals, either now or in the future.
Don’t try to up-sell or cross-sell in the beginning stages of the initial consultation. By doing so, you run the risk of overwhelming the client or giving them the impression that your main goal is to get the most money you can from them, without regard to their immediate problem or need. Cross-selling and up-selling are not opportunities for a “bait and switch.” Ethical up-selling and cross-selling are always done with the client’s best interests in mind; you are offering them services that you believe to be helpful or beneficial to the client and that will add value for them. Additional or premium services should not be offered until you have fully discussed the client’s initial concerns and requests. Only after the client’s needs have been explored should you talk about premium or additional services.
Remember: the up-sell or cross-sell should not only help you and your firm, but they should legitimately help and provide value to your client and be appropriate for their individual circumstance. Don’t fall into the trap of failing to educate your clients about the additional or premium services that you firm can provide, only to hear the client say later, “I had no idea you did that – I would have sent that work to you.”
If you can put these three tools into place effectively in your firm, you won’t have to rely on constantly getting brand-new clients in order to increase your revenue.