Quick, name the most frequently asked questions among professional services firm leaders these days? Here, I’ll give one to you with a few details changed to protect the guilty:

We have 15 different lines of business but our clients buy, on average, services from 1.7 lines. If we just moved that number to three or four lines per client, it would make a huge difference in our growth numbers.

Yes, we would all love it if our clients bought every service we have on the website (or glossy brochure if you have that kind of firm). And yes, most of our clients would actually benefit from our excellent services. So, assuming our services are high quality, our clients need them, and they know someone from our firm, why doesn’t the cross-selling connection happen more often?

I think it’s probably a more complicated answer than it may appear on the surface, but one thing I hear when I ask firm leaders about this challenge goes like this: Our practitioners are specialists in a certain kind of technical work. They don’t naturally interact with people who buy those other services.

This automatically makes me wonder if our wonderfully talented people are showing up to client sites with a technical specialist mindset instead of a problem-solver mindset. In other words, are they just looking for more nails to hammer instead of stepping back for a minute and asking themselves, “What is my client trying to build?” And of course, the next natural question, “How could my friends and colleagues (i.e. my firm) help them build that besides hammering in these nails?”

Try New House instead of Nails

Yes, I know individual metrics (tracking only my hours/revenue/credit) and organizational politics get in the way here too. But if we really say that we’re professionals, bound and determined to do right by our clients (partly because we know that doing right by them will eventually be a credit to us), wouldn’t asking these simple questions of ourselves provoke at least occasional improvement in our clients’ cross-buying habits?