General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

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Practice Area Newsletter
American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

SUMMER 2010

Vol. 6, No. 4

PRACTICE MANAGEMENT

 

Converting Prospects Into Clients

By Kevin Chern

If you peruse any legal industry websites, newsletters, or magazines, you read a lot about how to market your law firm. By this point, you know most of your marketing and advertising options. If you are online, you market your law firm with your website, blog, and social media. You may have even hired an search engine optimization expert or a marketing team to boost your presence on search engines. On top of your online presence, you can be found on paper, in the phonebook, and perhaps on billboards and park benches. If you are doing your marketing right, you should be getting a lot of phone calls and emails from prospective clients.

A phone call or an email, however, does not mean you automatically get a new client. After putting together a good marketing plan and convincing consumers to make the first call, it is the attorney’s job to convert prospects into clients. In today’s legal market, however, converting prospects into clients can be difficult when consumers can choose from hundreds of thousands of available attorneys. Instead of relying solely on your shining personality, it is a good idea to create a client conversion plan that incorporates strategy, human contact, and technology to close the sale with prospective clients. Here are a few rules to follow to increase your odds of converting prospects into clients:

Make Sure a Real Person Answers the Phone When Prospective Clients Call

Consumers call law firms to find solutions and answers to their legal questions, not to listen to voicemail messages. Not only does voicemail stop the intake process, it encourages potential clients to call other law firms until they get a real person on the phone. Accessibility of the attorney is a reflection of the service that will be provided. While you are in the office, dedicate a phone line to new business calls and have an attorney pick up those calls. This will show potential clients that you value their business and care about each clients’ unique matter. If no one in your office can answer the phone, consider hiring a virtual receptionist to answer the phone and set appointments. Many potential clients work during the day and may need to call your office after hours. Although potential clients may not be able to speak directly to an attorney late at night, a virtual receptionist will greet callers with a friendly voice, ask questions to get the intake process rolling, and set up a more convenient time for you to speak directly to that person.

Ask Questions That Encourage Consumers to Make Conclusions About What They Need

Although potential clients may call your office to get answers, the attorney should be the one asking questions during the first call. By asking the right questions, you can identify why a person is calling you and what will motivate that person to come to your office or hire you. Instead of asking someone whether or not they want to hire you, help potential clients voice their concerns and build up their desire to take action. Ask questions that induce action: What is motivating you to call today? Do you want to affect change in your life? What do you want to achieve through this process? After hearing themselves vocalize their issues, consumers will be more likely to move forward and find solutions to their legal issues.

Find Ways to Relate to the Consumer and Avoid Technical Talk on the First Call

Show consumers that you are more than a suit huffing and puffing through mountains of paperwork in a messy office. Just like your client, you care about your family, pop culture, the winner of last night’s game, and so forth. Listen to potential clients and draw commonality between yourself and them. A consumer is more likely to like you, meet with you, and retain you if they relate to you.

Eliminate Obstacles and Excuses

Two of the hardest parts of client conversion are getting consumers to come in to your law office and convincing clients they are ready to pay for a lawyer. Create a sense of urgency by scheduling appointments within 48 hours of the initial call, and create a desire for reciprocation by moving your own schedule around for the potential client. Better yet, bring the appointment to your client by setting up a virtual law office platform to supplement your brick and mortar office. A virtual law office (VLO) allows you to upload and download documents securely, complete legal forms online, and connect with your clients from any Internet connection. On top of that, a virtual law office gives clients a convenient way to make payments and track costs because it allows clients to pay by credit card, review invoices, and track billing and case status as the attorney completes tasks and updates the VLO case file.

Don’t Write Consumers Off Just Because They Didn’t Initially Retain Your Legal Services

About 50 percent of people who contact you will show up for their appointment, and 85 percent of the people who show up should hire you, but that does not mean that all of these people will hire you right away. Make the most of your marketing efforts by following the “8–10 touches rule.” If a potential client misses the first appointment, give them a follow-up call to schedule a new meeting. If they miss the second meeting, try again. If they never make it to the first appointment, send an email and follow up letters with your contact info and a reminder about some of the motivations and desired outcomes the potential client expressed to you when he or she first contacted your law firm. After that, put prospects and leads in a 30-day cycle and touch base once each month by making a quick phone call, sending a card in the mail, or emailing them. Instead of focusing on a sales pitch, show contacts you have their best interests in mind by sending them a news clipping that might interest them, a link to your most recent blog post, a notice about free events at your law firm, or holiday postcards. To make follow-ups easy, set an alert on your calendar or create a follow-up plan with your staff or virtual receptionist. If you make an effort to stay in contact with your leads, you will build more lifelong client relationships as well as a valuable resource for referrals and new business contacts.

Kevin Chern is president of Total Attorneys, a leading provider of marketing and practice management services to small law firms, serving thousands of law firms nationwide. Previously he was managing partner of the country’s largest consumer bankruptcy law firm. Under his direction, a staff of 180 employees in 19 states served approximately 450 new clients each week. He is also an author and a contributing writer to several legal blogs. For more info, visit Kevin on the web at www.totalattorneys.com.

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