Response from Stewart Fleisher, Esq, Academy Blog Subscriber
An avid Blog Subscribing reader responded to our recent blog titled – Your Fees Reflect Your Value, provided the following thoughtful commentary, we thought it was worth sharing with all. Enjoy!
27 years ago, I was told that I was charging too little, and that I should immediately double my fees. I objected because I felt I would lose half of my new clients. The mentor I was speaking with pointed out, “What’s wrong with that? You will be doing 1/2 the work and earning the same amount!”
The best way to implement what your blog addressed is to have a written schedule of fees. It should show a little more than you are willing to charge. That way you can offer each prospect a discount (I use 10%) because (1) you were referred by a financial planner; (2) you attended a seminar; or (3) your situation is less complex than average.
Having your price schedule laminated makes it look more official and less subject to negotiation. How would you feel when you go into Walmart, and they offered a special price on an expensive item, but that price was so low that only the cashier can quote a price? That’s how some prospects feel when they visit an estate planning attorney. If you “scratch your head” before you quote a price, it almost encourages the client to say, “that seems a little high, couldn’t you do it for less.”
Having a printed schedule and offering a credit of some sort in advance usually deflates the client’s tendency to negotiate fees. Remember, to some extent the client has a negotiation advantage in that you have already spent an hour or two (often at no charge) of your professional time and he has spent perhaps a little more time (travel?) of his retirement time. Technically, although most prospects don’t realize it, they are in a better negotiating position, but the use of the printed schedule and the offered discount turns the tables.
The educational credit for attending a workshop can be offered for a limited period of time. For instance, “If you decide to proceed at this meeting….”. But nobody likes to have that kind of pressure to make a decision. Alternatively, after quoting the fee and discount, the attorney can state that “one of the reasons we offer a discount is so we can get started while all the information you shared with us is fresh in my mind, but I understand that nobody likes pressure to make a decision on the spot, so I am glad to extend the discount for 24 hours so you don’t feel forced to make a decision on the spot. So just let us know during the next 24 hours and we will be happy to get started on your documents.”
At that point, I suggest having a preprinted form that lists the general work you will do (separate for LT, Will, and amendment/update) where you can check off what you will do and write in the client’s name and fee. Then say you will make a copy for your files, leave the room for at least two minutes or so (“someone was using the copier”) before returning. Leaving the room is especially important when husband and wife (or parent and child) are present.
Stewart W. Fleisher, Colorado Estate Planning Attorney
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128