Encouraging solicitors to sell – Aligning cross-selling with professional conduct rules

Posted on: December 4, 2017
solicitors to sell

At a recent change management training session – where the topic of changing attitudes and corporate culture was discussed at length – we talked about the challenge of encouraging solicitors to sell. And in overcoming their resistance to selling and cross-selling.

When it comes to persuasion, it’s important to align a new belief or behaviour to an existing belief or value. I explained that often I will refer to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Code of Conduct.

The following is an extract from SRA Code of Conduct 2011:

The Code forms part of the Handbook, in which the 10 mandatory Principles are all-pervasive. They apply to all those we regulate and underpin all aspects of practice. They define the fundamental ethical and professional standards that we expect of all firms and individuals (including owners who may not be lawyers) when providing legal services. You should always have regard to the Principles and use them as your starting point when faced with an ethical dilemma.

Where two or more Principles come into conflict the one which takes precedence is the one which best serves the public interest in the particular circumstances, especially the public interest in the proper administration of justice. Compliance with the Principles is also subject to any overriding legal obligations.

You must:

  1. uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice;
  2. act with integrity;
  3. not allow your independence to be compromised;
  4. act in the best interests of each client;
  5. provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
  6. behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services;
  7. comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
  8. run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles;
  9. run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity; and
  10. protect client money and assets.

Rule 4 requires solicitors to act in the best interests of their clients. Some solicitors – if they have an incorrect view of selling where they see it as “pushing” unwanted services onto clients – may argue that this is the reason why they DON’T attempt to cross-sell.

The definition of marketing is “To anticipate and meet client needs profitably”. There’s no implication that we should “push” services onto clients – that would be a rather naïve and unprofessional approach to marketing and selling. And it would certainly not be in the client’s best interests and may even disrupt the client relationship.

However, if we consider solutions-based or consultative styles of selling – where the aim is to explore the client’s business, role and needs through the careful use of structured questions and active listening – then we reframe selling as a way to help clients solve their problems. There is no way that we can be “pushy” if we are only responding to issues that the client has raised or that we have helped them identify.

So back to cross-selling. If a client appears to have a need requiring different legal expertise to that provided by the solicitor who is acting for them, then it would be in the best interests of the client for the solicitor to describe that service and introduce him or her to the relevant lawyer. But only after they have identified a potential issue or need, explored it thoroughly with the client and is convinced that the firm is able to meet that need with the same level of expertise and service as the current solicitor is providing now.

So where there are inconsistent service standards (see the other blogs on client care and client service (e.g. http://www.kimtasso.com/seven-insights-into-client-care-and-service-excellence/ or http://www.kimtasso.com/client-service-insights-empathy-measurement-reverse-thinking/) or the other legal specialists in the firm are not the best solution for the client then they really will need to refer them to someone else!

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