How many times has this happened to you? You’re meeting with a potential client for the first time, and you get to the end of what you thought was a successful consultation. You think you have a new client, but then you hear the news – they’re meeting with another attorney later in the week to “comparison shop.”
The Academy offers training specifically on the topic of initial consultations. Here are some excerpts – see if any of them might help you out:
Before you address appointments in the future, be sure to uncover appointments they already have had with another law firm! How to do this? Ask questions methodically. For example:
- After finding out what issue has brought the potential client into your office, ask how long it has been an issue.
- Then, find out what actions they’ve taken so far to address the issue. Have they seen other attorneys? Have they gone to another estate planning seminar?
- If the answer is “yes,” then ask them to tell you what happened. Usually, this results in them discussing some disappointing aspect of that meeting. Be sure to ask, “What does the ideal relationship with an estate planning law firm look like?” This lets you know the target!
- If the answer is “no,” then be sure to ask the question mentioned above to uncover what they’re looking for in the attorney and law firm who will handle their estate planning. Here’s a key tip: if you’re consulting with a married couple, be sure to ask each spouse this question. Their responses can be both revealing and helpful. In addition, this helps continue, or establish, rapport with each spouse.
Now, on to the issue of a future appointment. What do you do when you find out that a potential client has a pending appointment with another attorney? Here are some responses you might consider using:
- Ask, “What exactly are you looking for that we have not covered today?” What you are trying to do is get at the real reason they are not moving forward with you today. There usually is a reason and it is often – fees! Questions are the only way you will uncover that. Another approach is to ask, “In my ___ years as an estate planning attorney, I’ve learned that this often means I’ve done something that makes you uncomfortable. Is this the case? If it is, I’d appreciate the feedback.”
What you hear will determine your next questions. However, when they indicate they want to compare others’ fees to what you get, you need to be prepared. Usually, they know what the other firm charges. So ask. When it is lower than your fees you need to ask, “What do you need to hear to convince you that it’s in your best interest to pay the higher fees we charge?”
This will let you know, and help the prospect clarify in their mind, what they are looking for. Sometimes there is nothing you can do when someone wants the lowest fee possible. The fact is that this is likely not the prospect you want as a client anyway.
You want clients who recognize and appreciate the value of your expertise and are willing to pay for it. Carefully qualifying who you accept as a client is a major factor in building the type of firm you want. This is another topic for another day; we call it Client Engagement Standards.
Sanford M. Fisch
CEO & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124