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Why delete the word "client" from your vocabulary?

Because, in the business development context, you treat prospects better than you treat clients. You show them more respect. You don't evince an entitlement mentality as you unconsciously do with clients.  

Always Suspects and Prospects

In business development, "Client" is a self-destructive word that you should avoid. Instead, forever regard clients as "suspects" and "prospects." And that's a good thing because we show suspects and prospects more respect.

If only subconsciously, lawyers attach an unstated, proprietary "my" or "our" prefix to "client." This ownership quality conveys a degree of entitlement, once again subconscious. A territorial mentality erects a wrong barrier to cross-selling. 

Cross-selling barriers

When it comes to cross-selling, colleagues respect the client-ownership boundaries; they don't make sales calls on others' clients. This goes beyond the basic courtesy of informing a colleague, into the dangerous territory of seeking her permission, as if she actually owned the client.

Since you have to go through a colleague, you expect each other to arrange audiences with clients so you can try to induce them to buy additional services. We presume that the client relationship includes the right to poorly informed sales approaches, as if obtaining "warm" access was the only barrier to a pitch meeting. (A brief digression: you should never pitch anyone, about anything. There's no market for pitches.)

Conversely, nobody would have such expectations of someone who's not yet a client. We'd expect a relative stranger to challenge the usefulness and value of that meeting, and we'd make a serious attempt to anticipate and satisfy the unstated "what's in it for me" question. Here, you'd ask a colleague or friend to facilitate an introduction, but you wouldn't expect it. You'd recognize that you have to justify and earn it.

Last week, in our Rainmaking in a Buyer's Market newsletter, I posted Cross-Selling: Lawyers' Self-Created Three-Headed Sales Monster.  It stimulated a lot of feedback. On the International Business Development Blog group on LinkedIn, John Grimley posted a comment with an important enough point to repost here. He offered this cautionary advice to would-be cross-sellers.

"I would suggest that no one ever cross-sell unless they would also approach that client with the same opportunity were the client not a client. The only reason to approach a prospective client is if you are aware of an instant, valuable commercial opportunity (or danger) that would be of value to that client - and that would produce revenue for your law practice when acting for that client in the opportunity you've brought to him or her.

I would be that strict about when to cross-sell. I do believe cross-selling is often another excuse for law firms not establishing genuine business development units (that analyze markets) and only approach potential clients on the basis of bringing opportunities or dangers to that clients based on rigorous analysis of what would be of genuine importance to that client."

Eliminating the word "client" from your vocabulary is the first enabling step to a mindset change that will eliminate counter-productive entitlement expectations and behaviors from your cross-selling efforts.

Mike O'Horo

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