Let’s clear up some confusion between “collaboration” and “cross-selling”. One reason that smart professionals resist collaborating is that they are getting mixed messages. Firm leaders are often pushing partners to “cross-sell,” but partners have surely heard what CXOs uniformly report to me: Clients hate to be cross-sold. Specifically, they hate when their adviser who handles one domain “offers” introductions to other partners in the firm who can provide service in their own narrow domain – for instance, the tax expert who proposes his real estate colleague to do strictly real estate work. It’s the professional equivalent of “Do you want fries with that?” This sort of traditional cross-selling risks appearing more self-serving that value-add for the client. If you give the clients the impression that you are more interested in generating incremental revenues for your firm than actually solving the problem that keeps them up at night, their suspicions about you will seep into other aspects of your relationship: how closely they think they need to monitor the bills, for example.
Instead, what clients want is for their advisers to understand their issues deeply enough to offer sophisticated advice and to line up the right team to deliver it – no matter where in the firm the needed experts reside. This form of integrated client service that often crosses practice groups and other siloes is what we mean by collaboration. It demands that partners have a genuine curiosity about their client’s business, along with the confidence and capabilities to walk into a meeting with a one-question agenda: “What keeps you up at night?”. Partners are often astonished at how much their clients are willing to reveal, and these deep insights are the required foundation for adding value through collaboration.
What do you think? When *is* pure cross-selling viable and valued by clients? What angles are we missing? As I push forward with client interviews, what questions would you want answered on this topic?
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