System # 3: Engaging Your Prospects – Predictably Inspiring Clients to Take Action and Retain Your Firm
Now that we’ve seen why marketing is so important to your law firm, let’s look at what happens once the marketing is in place.
When you engage in marketing, your efforts will eventually produce some prospects. Now, these prospects are different from those that came to you through a referral.
Referred prospects walk into your office with an intent to buy. That is, they are looking for reasons to hire you.
Marketing prospects on the other hand, have a very different mindset: they’re looking for reasons NOT to hire you. And quite honestly, many of your marketing prospects will not retain your firm unless you understand how important it is to listen to what their concerns are and address them. This may sound simple, but we see attorneys have problems with this all the time.
However, there are some steps you can take to improve your ability to listen carefully, address the real concerns of prospective clients and help more families plan. There are really 8 steps to a great meeting. We will not go into intricate detail today, but we’re going to briefly describe them all.
But before we do that, I want to let you in on a little secret: master the first three steps, and the other five will take care of themselves.
1. Build rapport.
Rapport is that thing that gives your client or prospect a comfort level when they walk through your door. It’s what puts them at ease and gives them the sense that they’re “in the right place.”
This rapport must be established from square 1 and be consistent in every contact. From the moment a prospect calls your office, you and your staff should be establishing and re-establishing your rapport. Greet your client by name. Be polite, courteous and helpful at every turn. Coach your staff so that they handle all clients in the best manner possible.
The goal is to make prospects and clients feel, “OK” all the time.
2. Start every meeting in the same way.
Starting your meeting on time and in the same manner will go a long way to building that rapport we discussed earlier. Pick a spot – whether it’s your office or the conference room – and then use that spot every time you need to meet. This familiar environment encourages a comfort level for you, and when you are at ease, it will put your prospect at ease as well.
Incidentally, we’ve found that a small, round table works much better than having you behind a big desk while your prospects sit on the other side.
Now, for format, we like to use what we call an “upfront agreement.” Once you’ve greeted your prospects, confirm how much time has been set aside for the meeting. Ask if this still meets their needs. Establish the agenda,.. a written one you can hand the client is even better because it creates a real sense of purpose, Give them the opportunity to add issues to the list and get agreement that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.
One important thing to note: when talking about the agenda, end with the concept that they should be ready to make a decision at the end of the meeting. You should then immediately explain that saying “no” is okay too. This defines the goal of the meeting while removing any pressure to commit.
3. Use the Decision Funnel.
This is a three-phase process that guides your prospect to a decision. The first part is the question phase. Ask your prospect why they’re here. What concerns have brought them to your office? How long has this been a concern, and how have they addressed it in the past?
Knowing how to ask probing questions is what makes a great counselor but remember, during this phase your ultimate goal is to listen. Attorneys often make the mistake of doing most of the talking, but good practice demands that your prospect should be doing the bulk of the talking.
As they identify these “surface issues”, ask what would happen if the issue is not addressed. This is the second phase of the Decision Funnel. Let them tell you what the consequences would be if something happened before proper planning was in place. Again, listen carefully.
All too often, attorneys feel the need to explain why estate planning is so important, but the real key is to let your prospects realize the necessity on their own.
Phase Three is probing on an emotional level. This is the point where most prospects will take action and make a decision.
Ask your prospects how important these issues are. People who answer “very important” are typically ready to move forward.
Now, as I said, there are 8 steps to engaging your clients. The other five are as follows:
4. Confirming the investment of time and money needed to proceed.
5. Confirming that all the decision-makers are present.
6. Defining the steps need to determine the right plan.
7. Demonstrating how the appropriate plans will address their concerns voiced earlier and how the plan works.
8. Confirming that they don’t intend to change their mind after they leave your office.
Ultimately, you’ll want to cover all eight steps to increase your client retention ratio but if you master the first three, you’ll find that the remaining five just fall into place.
Another critical point is that old habits die hard and, when under pressure, you will revert to whatever you’ve always done. With attorneys this usually equates to talking endlessly in an effort to convince your clients to do what you say. But this is not the way to success.The only way you can institute a new system and build your consultation muscles is to practice and practice some more.
In the beginning, write out the opening of the meeting and practice it everyday. Write out the questions you will ask and repeat them daily until you know them without thinking. Do some practice consultations with staff or family members. You can even have your questions written out and with you in the consultation room just in case you want to glance at them.
Once you start to really listen for issues and ask these questions, you’ll begin to see a dramatic difference in the success of your consultations. Remember, start the meeting the same way each time and be sure to use the upfront agreement. Probe with questions that allow you to uncover the underlying issues and listen to the answers. Let us know if you see a difference in your meetings and your results.
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.