Stephen Fairley 2013-09-19 00:28:45
Asked & Answered: Practical Wisdom for Attorneys on Referrals, Systems, Price Shopping and Much More Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in small law firms. Over 8,000 attorneys have benefited from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Stephen is a best-selling author of 10 books and a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert. He has appeared in the American Bar Association’s Journal, Harvard Management Update, Inc and Entrepreneur. To receive your free copy of his book “Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make” visit www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call 888-588-5891. How can I get more referrals? How do I deal with people shopping me on price? What kind of systems should my law firm have? How can I find time to market and grow my business while managing clients, staff and running the firm? These are questions every law firm owner has asked at one time or another. At every Rainmaker Retreat – our two-day law firm marketing intensive – I answer dozens of questions that are top-of-mind for attorneys who have come from across the nation. I’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions I hear from them at our seminars. Why am I not getting more referrals? Why are they not better qualified? There are four primary reasons attorneys don’t get more and better referrals: 1. Lack of client education. It’s your responsibility to properly educate clients and referral sources about what you do, who you can help, and what makes a good referral for you. Take 10 minutes and write down everything you know about your perfect client. Then practice describing who that person or company is to a colleague you trust will give you honest feedback. 2. Lack of client communication. Telling people once who your perfect client is not sufficient! You must remind them at least 4-6 times every year. The best way to do this is by sending them a monthly newsletter. You never know when a potential referral might come in to their office so it is up to you to stay at the top of their mind. 3. Lack of request. Do not assume people know you want more referrals. You need to ask directly for them. Here’s a way many of our clients have used: anytime a client or referral source says “thank you” respond with, “One of the best ways you can say ‘thank you’ is by sending us a referral and here is what a good referral looks like…” 4. Lack of reciprocation. To receive referrals on a regular basis you must be willing to give them out. Actively look for ways to send referrals to the professionals you most want referrals from. What’s a good way to ask clients to give a testimonial? It depends on your practice area, but timing can be very important. For example, if you are a personal injury attorney, you might want to ask for the testimonial when your client comes in to pick up their settlement check. This is when the client will be the happiest. The case has been closed and they are getting a check. If you’re an estate planning attorney ask when the client comes in to finalize their estate plan. If you’re a commercial litigation attorney ask right aft er you get a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against your client. If you practice in other areas of the law, find a good time when your client is pleased with your work. That’s the optimal time to ask! You also need to make it easy for people to give you a testimonial. Let your client know why a testimonial is important for you. Make it part of your process, like an exit interview. Guide the prospect with questions so you can get strong testimonials. Position the testimonials as “before” and “aft er” scenarios—this is what my life was like before I hired this attorney, here is what they did for me, and here is what it’s like now. These are powerful! Also, if you squirm at just the thought of asking for a testimonial, then don’t be the one to ask. Have your administrative assistant or paralegal do the asking as part of your closing-the-case process. By the way, written testimonials are good, but video testimonials are way better and more believable to consumers. What are a few major systems I should have in my law firm in regards to managing the client’s experience? There are seven major systems we have identified every law firm must have. Here are the top three: 1. New Client Intake System: What are the steps to get a new client processed and signed? What documents do clients need to sign, bring in, initial? What happens next? Start by analyzing your new client intake system. Look for consistency, efficiency, speed and emphasize serving the client. Make your intake system easy to follow, step-by-step and written down. You want a new team member to be able to pick up your checklist of procedures and be able to follow them. 2. Follow-up System: What are the protocols for following up with leads to get them into an appointment? How many times do you call, email, send a letter? What happens if they don’t show up? If a prospect doesn’t hire you how frequently and persistently do you follow-up aft er the consult? In our experience most law firms let far too many leads slip through the cracks and only convert 5-15 percent of their leads into paying clients. We have found if you fix your follow-up you can fix your cash flow! Here are a few tips: (a) Use a combination of emails, text messages (if they have opted-in), phone calls and direct mail to improve your conversion rates; (b) Follow up way more often and more frequently than you are comfortable with; and (c) Never ever make an attorney responsible for follow up. While they may have good intentions, they will never do it consistently. 3. Marketing System: What specific things are you going to do to better market and grow your law firm? Divide it up into online and offline marketing strategies. Online includes your website, blogging, social media and press releases. Offline strategies can include: a monthly newsletter, seminars, networking, lunch with potential referral sources, etc. Be sure to diversify your marketing efforts so you are not completely reliant on word-of-mouth, which is notoriously unreliable. How should I deal with pricing objections? Why am I being “shopped on price”? When attorneys come to me complaining of being shopped on price I tell them three things: 1. Only 15 percent of people buy solely based on price, which means 85 percent of people take price into consideration but it’s not their only or even their most important consideration. The best thing you can do for your practice is identify those true “price shoppers” early on in the consult and quickly refer them to your competitors because they are nothing but trouble. 2. It’s almost never about the money! When people focus on the price, it’s rarely about the money—it is almost always about your failure to show them enough value. You need to emphasize how the price is reasonable compared to the value you are bringing to the situation. For example, we have a client who regularly gets $15,000 to $50,000 for an asset protection plan because he demonstrates how he is going to be able to bulletproof their estate and protect it from creditors and predators as well as save their family tens of thousands of dollars in estate taxes. 3. Be ready to challenge people when they bring up price as a major objection. When a prospect brings up price, especially early on in the conversation, directly ask them, “Is price the major factor in making your decision?” Most will quickly answer, “No, but it is something I’m going to consider.” You can then respond, “Certainly, but what are the other factors you are going to use in determining who to hire as your attorney?” Once they list the other factors you can use them to show how you can meet or exceed those criteria. If the prospect says, “Yes, price is the most important criteria I’m looking at.” Then you have a decision to make—do you want to be the low cost provider by charging the lowest price? If not (and I don’t recommend it unless you are truly desperate for business), then respond with something like, “then we are probably not the best fit for you. We pride ourselves on doing excellent quality work at a fair and reasonable price, but if you’re truly only interested in getting the lowest price then I would be glad to refer you to someone else. In fact, I have the names of the three law firms in town who are known for charging the lowest rates. Of course, they also have the least amount of experience and get more than their fair share of client complaints, but here are their names.” More often than not, people use this objection as a negotiating tactic to see if they can get a better deal. Don’t play into their hands. I like my clients to be on the high side of what the market is priced at. You can always negotiate down, but you can never go up. Is it OK to tell clients “it depends” when they ask me how much their case will cost? OK, I admit I’ve never had an attorney ask me this question, but I wish they would! Setting appropriate expectations and being transparent about pricing and the expected costs to handle a legal matter is key. Here is what I tell attorneys: if you ever use the phrase “it depends” in your answer, you must immediately follow up with “and here are the major factors it depends on….” For example, if a prospect asks you how much will it cost to handle their divorce you could say: “Well, it depends and in my experience of handling over 1,200 divorces in the last decade here are some of the major factors it depends on: 1. Are there children involved and if so, how old are they? If there are young children involved, it usually costs significantly more because of all the decisions that need to be considered along with the emotions surrounding them. 2. How much conflict is there between the couple? If each side wants out of the marriage as soon as possible then it can be easier, but if a major fight erupts every time both parties are in the same room than chances are it’s going to cost a lot more. 3. Which attorney did the other person hire? Every town has a few divorce attorneys with a reputation for dragging things on forever and needlessly racking up legal bills. If the other spouse hired one of those attorneys then it is going to get messy really quick! Knowing the factors that typically impact your case fees or settlement awards and being able to articulate them are important when it comes to talking to prospects about pricing and fees. I’m a litigation attorney. How can I market my law firm when I’m trying cases all the time? Litigation attorneys have a particularly difficult time with marketing because being good at marketing and business development is almost the antithesis of being a good litigator. There are two keys to growing your litigation law firm: (a) have an internal team member who is not an attorney be responsible for marketing and (b) create and implement a marketing plan built on a systematic approach to business development that is not dependent on the litigation attorney. You must put systems into place that help you stay connected with former clients and referral sources, while building relationships with potential clients. What are your questions about referrals? Are you getting enough qualified leads? Let us know.
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