Effective consultations are the cornerstone of a successful estate planning practice. Unfortunately, many attorneys fall into the trap of educating versus consulting. Educating is showing how much you know, whereas consulting is asking thoughtful questions to help you and your client better understand their needs and priorities. Whether you’re a seasoned attorney or just starting out, there are several key factors that can help you improve your consultations to increase your connection and retention rate. Here are some practical actions you can take to prepare for and conduct more effective meetings with new or existing clients.
- Be Thoroughly Prepared: First impressions matter, so ensure you’re well-prepared for each consultation. Allocate enough time before each meeting to prepare so you can give it your full attention. Review your pre-consultation forms beforehand to understand each client’s background and their specific needs. Make sure your client intake folders are prepared in advance with all necessary paperwork, including intake forms and fee agreements, ready.
- Set the Right Environment: Your office environment plays a significant role in how clients perceive your professionalism and approachability. Estate planning is a personal matter, and your clients should feel relaxed and comfortable in your space. Take a critical look at your office and make necessary improvements. Create a calm and organized office atmosphere and keep work areas tidy. A well-organized office sends a reassuring message to your clients.
- Focus on the Client: During consultations, shift your focus from worrying about whether you’ll retain the client to genuinely understanding their needs and making them feel at ease. Confidence in your knowledge and a predictable process for conducting meetings will boost your clients’ comfort levels. Be approachable and encourage open conversation.
- Be a Proactive Listener: Avoid the temptation to dominate the conversation with your expertise. Remember that clients want to be heard, not just educated. Many clients may not be interested in tax codes or legal jargon; they want assurance that you can help them achieve their goals and avoid potential risks. Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to uncover their needs, priorities and values.
- Talk Less and Assume Even Less: If you’re doing the majority of the talking, you’re not learning what’s important to them. Aim for a conversation where the client speaks at least 75% of the time to ensure you fully understand their concerns. When a client says “X” is important to them, never gloss over it or assume you understand their goals and concerns. Dig deeper to find out why it is so important. Then find out how important it is to them so they can start to identify how soon they would like to address it.
- Conduct a Post-Meeting Evaluation: After each meeting, take a few moments to assess your effectiveness. Did you successfully build rapport with the client? What percentage of the time did you spend talking versus listening? Did you ask enough questions to identify all their concerns and timelines? An honest self-evaluation can help you identify areas for improvement and enhance future consultations.
By following these simple steps, you can transform your consultations without any additional expense. By being well-prepared, creating the right office environment, focusing on your clients, and actively listening, you can enhance your connection with your clients and ultimately improve those relationships and your retention rate. Remember, relaxed and prepared attorneys who listen well are often rewarded with most satisfied and loyal clients. Try implementing these steps and let us know how they work for you.
Practice Building Coach
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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