From Hello to Go
Here’s an outline for closing a professional sale.
Hello: “This is John Page. Who is calling? What is your interest? Have we talked before? Do you have an attorney?”
“Tell me your basic problem.” “Sometimes I accept cases like that; when can you come to discuss it?” “I don’t feel free to discuss these matters by phone; client conflicts can arise.” “I can’t be sure who I’m talking to.” “I can email or fax you our preliminary questions.” “When I have that, we’ll make time for you and you wife to come in.”
The Script: For the client interview, I use my intake form, plus my client agreement, as a “script” for a comprehensive discussion. The appropriate relationship evolves naturally.
My modified LOMAS intake form is headed “Client Application.” There is a column for notes that subtly warns I will ask questions. Later, these spaces remind me to probe and listen. I use a one-page client agreement because I will read every word with the client.
The Interview: On meeting clients, use their application: “Here is a copy of your application.” “Always get a copy of anything you sign.” “My notes are the property of my firm.”
Take charge. Be friendly, not friends. Assume they want your services, will take directions. Seek their needs and expectations. Impart your requirements. Test, train, as you evaluate their case.
Climb the ALPS:
Ask—like voir dire, test by questions. Be direct. Don’t tiptoe. Don’t accept equivocations. Questions must be open-ended.
Listen—important information may be implied; may not surface until you press.
Probe—“What are you telling me?”
Score—“This is what you said you need.”
Ask: “Do you have questions about this form?” “Why didn’t you complete it?” “Expand on your problem.” “How did you decide the urgency, damages?” “What have you done up to now?” “Do you see problems that can’t be solved?”
Questions build confidence by showing your focus, knowledge, insight, control. Questions teach—your policies, procedures, fees—your requirements of a client.
Probe: “What do you expect today?” They report their hopes and what they will accept (buy) later. “What would stop you from going ahead today?” They tell you “hedges” blocking their decision. If a hedge can’t be overcome, adjourn until the decision factors are available.
Ask again: Question their understanding of the application they signed. Go to your agreement. “Our client agreement explains how we work.” “Look it over while I insert the details.” Discuss it as you write. Hand them the completed agreement.
Listen: Discuss every paragraph. Make them initial some “to show understanding.” Ask for questions. Answer hedges with the things they told you they wanted and would accept.
Probe again: If necessary, review their problem again. Ask what they don’t understand.
Score: Only when the hedges clear, point to the agreement. Say, “You will never regret this decision.” That answers their true fear. Don’t speak until they sign or speak. Don’t press. Dare to decline.
John P. Page is a solo, practicing in Tampa, Florida, where he accepts selected appellate cases, in addition to researching and writing for other attorneys in the areas that include criminal law, real estate, and probate contests. Contact him at email@example.com.