There is no faster path to a law practice you hate that drains your life energy (and your bank account) than spending a lot of time marketing, only to attract clients who leave your office without writing you a check.
If you do not have a solid Client Engagement System in place that ensures you get hired by at least 90% of the people you talk to, you are wasting a huge amount of time and money on marketing your services.
Once you’ve got your Client Engagement System dialed in (which means you are engaging at least 75% of the people who call or email your office), then and only then, is it time to go full-force on your marketing with all the time, energy, attention, and money you can muster. At that point, the more people you get in front of, the more your investment in creating your system will pay off.
First things first. You must build the foundation.
The 11-Steps to Building a Solid Client Engagement System
When you have your Client Engagement System in place, you are able to create the consistent, steady, predictable cash flow that you can count on.
Step #1 Start with a Smile + a New Phone Script
The first step is simple and you can start doing it today. Just change how you answer your phones. Whoever’s answering your phones – you or a receptionist or your Client Services Director – everyone needs to have a smile on their face when they pick up the phone. They will also need a new script for how the phone is answered. No more generic “law offices” barked into the phone.
The script we used in my office was: “Welcome to the Law Offices of Martin Neely &
Associates. This is [name of the person answering the phone], how may I assist you?”
Remember that when people call a law office, they are likely afraid. Even if your practice area is something benign like estate planning, your prospects are still likely nervous to be calling a law office.
So, when they call your office and they immediately feel the calm and welcoming greeting of the welcome script, they relax.
While they may not realize it, they are comforted and beginning to trust you, right from the start.
Step #2 Qualify the Right People + Prepare Them Well
The next step is for you to change how your appointments are booked. Yes, this calls for another script.
And, if you are trying to book appointments right off of your website, you’re going to need to build scripting into your website so that the people booking appointments with you know exactly why they are booking, and why they should keep their appointment.
Now you might think, “Oh, God. If I script how somebody sets my appointments, it’s going to
come off cold or dry.”
In fact, the exact opposite is true…
It is scripting that allows whoever is setting your appointments — whether it’s you, your Client Services Director or intake specialist — to relax and know exactly what to say.
This script is not about trying to get people in the door. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s about protecting your time.
Even if you’re just starting out and are not busy yet, protecting your time right from the beginning is critical — and will actually make you even more desirable to the clients you love to work with.
Do not fall victim to the trap of scarcity and think that you need to take whatever walks in your door, on their terms, because that blocks the clients you really want to work with from showing up.
This script is about qualifying people who are the right people for you, properly preparing them for their time with you and ruling out the rest. It’s about asking questions and gathering information to make sure that the prospect is a good fit for your practice and that they are properly prepared for your first meeting.
When you do this, you won’t end up wasting time with people who won’t hire you.
Step #3 Get Booked in Advance
First and foremost, go to your calendar right now and block off time each month (at specific times) for only as many initial consults as you need to have to reach your personal financial goals. This is a key number for you to know in order to have a life and law practice you love.
If you do not know how many that is each month, or how to create a time blocking calendar, click here to get scheduled for a complimentary Cash Flow Forecast, Calendering and Clarity Session with one of our Law Business Advisors.
Without specific time blocks set up for when you can meet with new potential clients, what usually happens is that somebody calls your office or sends an e-mail and it’s all about how quickly you can get them in to see you.
And, perhaps in your practice area, it is more imperative that you do get them in fast. But, my guess is that might be a limiting belief that’s keeping you stuck.
You can always make exceptions for emergencies of course, but in most cases, you’ll want to book your appointments out into the future even if it’s only two weeks. For example, somebody who has an urgent matter like a DUI may be treated differently than somebody who has a non-urgent matter like an estate plan.
But, you can still build in systems to control your calendar, get your prospects immediate support needs met, build demand for your services, and have them looking forward to meeting with you even if they have to wait a few weeks.
Step #4 Inspire Trust and Confidence with a Pre-Meeting Package
You’ll have much better results, and fewer cancellations if you send a pre-meeting package that prepares your prospects to work with you and gets them actively working with you even before they’ve come in to see you.
A good pre-meeting package includes information that describes exactly what the clients can expect, a sheet of testimonials, directions to the office, and pre-meeting homework, and a folder the clients can use to prepare their homework. I’ll explain more about homework in step #5.
We recommend sending the package in a priority mailer via US Postal Service, which will cost you $5—$10. You’ll also spend a few dollars on the folder and the materials inside. Yes, it costs a bit of money, but here’s why it’s worth it.
The pre-meeting package gets prospects prepared for an experience rather than a mere transaction, and they are willing to pay more for it. Not only did we increase our fees on the front end, meaning the first transaction, but we increased the lifetime value of our client and the referrals that they sent us.
If you’re beginning to practice virtually and using online services, you can create this same kind of wow experience. For example, we white labeled a service that provides our Personal Family Lawyer® members with an interactive onboarding module to intake their new prospects and create that experience online.
The key is that as soon as someone sets an appointment with you for an initial meeting, they are taken through a step by step, pre-crafted and designed process for beginning their work with you.
Step #5 Offer Value Right Away
One of the most valuable parts of your Client Engagement System is to include homework in your intake process. This ensures your prospects come in pre-engaged, already working with you and seeing you as a trusted resource.
The homework serves a few purposes:
- Educating prospects about working with you
- Helping them clear on what’s important to them when it comes to financial and legal decisions
- Preparing them to hire you on the spot when you do meet
- Gets them excited about coming in to meet with you
- Provides value to them right away, even if they can’t see you for several weeks
When you give your prospects high-value pre-meeting homework (and incorporate the review of that homework into your initial meeting), whether those prospects engage you or not, they’re going to walk away with enormous value and will refer you to their friends and family, clients and colleagues, even if they themselves don’t need your services.
“I must say it was probably the single most successful meeting I’ve ever had with clients. At the end of the meeting they were saying things like, ‘We really loved filling out the questionnaire.’ ‘We are really thankful that you have taken us through this process.’ ‘This is the best thing we’ve ever done.’ I have to tell you I’ve been doing this for thirty years and I’ve never had anyone say that.”
– Stephen O’Neill, Providence, RI
Step #6 Don’t Focus on Free
Step number six is pretty straightforward — do not market free initial consultations ever again.
When you give your initial consultation a name, a purpose, and a value, you can give your prospects plenty of ways to get that time with you for free, but not because you are marketing your free initial consultations.
When you shift from offering free initial consultations — which are really just attracting price shoppers and lookie-loos — to offering an educational meeting that has a name, a purpose, and value, the only people you attract are your ideal clients.
The best part?
They are ready to work with you from the start and are ready to pay you for your services.
Our Personal Family Lawyer® members call their initial consultations Family Wealth Planning Sessions® or Life & Legacy Planning Sessions®.
What will you call yours?
Step #7 Eliminate Cancellations
Did I tell you about the time I lost $10,000 in one day because of all of the appointments that day that were canceled at the last minute?
That was the day I realized I had to do something to change the way I handled the booking of my initial consultations and I decided that I’d start securing appointment times with a credit card.
I know, I know — you think, that’s impossible. No one will book appointments that way. My Client Services Director thought the same thing too.
Once we nailed down the precise words and how to say them with confidence, it made perfect sense to prospects, and actually made our services even more desirable.
Once I figured this out, I rarely had a cancellation.
Every single lawyer I have taught this step to has experienced life and law practice changing results as well. I guarantee you – it works! You’ll get all the specifics on how you can get all of my scripts, including the script for eliminating cancellations, at the end of this article.
Step #8 Script Your Initial Meeting
This is the super-boost game changer. From the thing that you say the minute that you sit down with your prospects, to the perfect icebreaker to find out everything you need to know about them, to the agenda you present and the way you tell your firm story, to the way you package and present your fees – it’s all scripted.
And, when scripted properly, there is not a single bit of selling involved. It’s just not necessary!
If you take nothing else away, please take this: your job as an attorney is to be a resource, advisor and a guide, not a salesperson. You are not selling anything, but you do need to know how to get to yes.
Getting to yes involves asking questions that help your prospects tell you why they need to hire you. As they speak the words telling you why they need you, it becomes a done deal.
The natural outcome of your script is that if your services are really what your prospects need, you will get hired every time. And your prospects will feel great about their decision and refer you to all their friends, family, clients and colleagues.
Step #9 Create Irresistible Packages & Ditch the Hourly Fees
One of the most critical keys to getting hired every time is how you present your packages and quote your fees.
No more hourly billing. No more retainers. No more open-ended fees.
When you package your legal services into easy to understand packages, your clients will love it. Changing how you present your fees changes everything.
Before I started using the fee quoting system I developed, I spent most of the initial meeting trying to figure out what I was going to say about the money part. That’s why I often had four-hour meetings with prospects — I was afraid to quote the fee!
Once I created my Client Engagement System and had packages and a fee schedule in place, everything changed. My packages were laid out in a well-designed fee schedule that was laminated. When I presented the laminated fee schedule and helped my clients to choose their own package, no one ever tried to negotiate my fees down again.
Step #10 Be Prepared to Collect Payment
This brings us to step 10 which is about collecting payment. Most lawyers go into their initial
meetings totally unprepared to collect payment.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but that’s exactly what I did. I would go into my initial meeting with a pen and a pad of paper. That’s it.
Well, if you’re going into your initial meetings with a pen and a pad of paper, you are not prepared to collect a check and get hired.
Instead, you need to bring in a folder that includes everything that you need to get hired and begin the engagement.
In our office that included a pre-printed agenda, a fill-in-the-blank engagement letter that I could use immediately and a couple of other documents I needed to begin the engagement.
#11 Make Sure They Remember Your Name
I cannot tell you how many times I meet with people who have just hired a lawyer and I ask them who they hired and they cannot remember their lawyer’s name for the life of them.
Right now, I would imagine that many of your prospects and clients are walking out the door and ten minutes later they can’t even remember your name. No wonder you aren’t getting referrals!
Before the end of every meeting, whether I got hired or not, there were a couple of little things I did to make sure my new clients or the prospects I just invested my time and energy meeting with remembered my name.
Why is this so important? If people cannot remember your name, there is no way they can refer you to their friends, family, clients, and colleagues.
And getting referrals from the people you meet with, whether they hire you or not, is one of the least expensive, most effective forms of marketing you can do.
You see, your marketing and your Client Engagement System are intimately intertwined.
“I just wanted to let you know that with the profits from clients engaged today I have paid for your system. I have also been able to increase my client retention rate and decrease appointment cancellations while simultaneously raising my fees between 10-20%. Plus, I had another round of seminars using your techniques and my appointment booking rate doubled!”
– Michael Dellamonaca, Fitchburg, MA
With these 11 steps in place, you are on your way to engaging just about every prospect you talk with
Best of all, you’ll be able to work with clients you love, at higher fees than you’ve been able to command in the past, take control of your schedule, and love being a lawyer again.
If you are interested in NLBM’s entire system of templates, scripts, checklists, fee quoting system, and literally everything you need to create your Client Engagement System, schedule a call with one of our Law Business Advisors and they can guide you on how to get started today.