I recently spoke with a Member about how to prepare for her first round of initial consultations and be as effective as possible. There are many aspects that come into play with consultations… from education to people skills. Some attorneys are just naturals while others have to work a bit more at it. There are however, several definite key success factors in preparing and conducting effective initial consultations. If you are looking for ways to improve your consultations, here are a few easy actions that can help you increase your retention rate.
Be prepared. Set aside plenty of time for the meeting so you feel well-prepared and your appointment has your undivided attention. Review your notes before going into the meeting so you know who each client is and what they are there for. Be sure to have all the necessary paperwork you’ll need for the meeting including the client intake form, fee agreement, informational items, etc. Let clients know you have been expecting them and that they are important to you by always greeting them by name and being genuinely happy to see them. And lastly, don’t be late. Be respectful of their time and be on time to the meeting.
Set the stage. Your office environment should reflect professionalism and warmth. Estate planning is a personal matter and you want your guests to feel comfortable in your space. We have all walked into these types of spaces where we are immediately at ease and relaxed. Take a look around your office with a fresh set of eyes. How does it really look and feel? What first impression does it give? Make sure all viewable work areas are tidy and the office environment is calm and in control. Staff running around frantically preparing last minute paperwork or stacks of paper piled up, does not portray a well-organized, professional office.
I’m OK, you’re OK. As you walk into your meeting, the last thing on your mind should be whether or not you are going to retain this appointment. The focus should instead be on what you can learn from them and how you are going to make them feel. Are you confident in your knowledge and topics of conversation? Are you easy to talk with? Do you have a predictable process in which you conduct each and every meeting? Systems and predictability bring confidence and ease. If you’re comfortable, they will be comfortable.
Be a proactive listener, not an educator. People want to be heard, not talked at. In the 18 years of working with many wonderful attorneys, I know some simply cannot help themselves from talking too much to impart their extensive knowledge. If you have a tendency to do this as well, you are in good company but you likely are not as effective as those who have mastered the listening part. Keep in mind most of the general population could care less about tax codes and PLRs. If they did, they would have gone to law school. Most of them do not want to know how the “watch” is made, they simply want to know you can help them avoid areas of risk and concern and attain their goals. In order to discover what is truly important to them and what things they place the most value on, you must come prepared with a solid list of questions and be ready to listen well. Rule of thumb: If they are not talking at least 75% of the time, you are talking too much and not asking about or listening for the things that matter most to them.
Evaluate yourself. After the consultation, spend a few minutes evaluating your consultation effectiveness. Were you able to build rapport? What percentage of time did you talk? Did you ask enough questions to identify all of their concerns? What could you do to improve? Be honest with your evaluation because it will only help you improve for future meetings.
So relax, come prepared, listen well and you shall be rewarded! Try implementing these easy steps and let us know how they work for you.
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555