How many of you believe that once you get a prospect in for the initial consultation, the hard work is over? If you’ll admit to a little vanity, I’ll bet most of you think that once a prospect is in the door, the deal is done.
If your closing rate is 100%, then you don’t need to read anymore. But if it’s not, then maybe you need to look at the way you are managing your prospective client’s experience of you at the initial consultation.
Consider these 12 steps that will help you get clients to sign up right away instead of having to “think about it” — which can be code for “you’ll never see me again”:
Clean up. Wherever you hold your consultations — your office or a conference room — should be neat and orderly. Clutter indicates chaos, and no one wants to hire a lawyer who is not in total control of his/her work. Think about it: they are coming to you with a problem that is taking over their lives. They want to feel confident you’re the right choice. If you’ve got a desk full of files spilling all over the place, how can they feel confident about how you’ll treat their case (if you can even find it)?
Greet immediately. Do NOT keep a prospect waiting! Do not leave them alone in a room, fretting and stewing over their problem. You want to make them feel safe the moment they come into contact with you. Leaving them alone to cool their heels does not make them feel safe or that you value them.
Be friendly. Going to a lawyer’s office is intimidating enough. Greet them with a handshake and a smile. Make eye contact. Be happy to see them.
Take control. Prospects like structure; it makes them feel comfortable. So right upfront, give them a brief overview of what your meeting will cover. Just don’t make it too structured so that they don’t feel comfortable sharing everything they want or need to tell you.
Give up control. Prospects want you to listen to them. Make it a habit to listen more than you talk. Ask open-ended questions and let them go. Be patient; it takes some people a little longer to open up.
Keep listening. The person sitting across from you did not come for immediate answers; they came to tell their story. Let them talk. It’s how they come to trust you.
Keep notetaking to a minimum. Taking copious notes may be part of your process, but it can be distracting to your prospect. Your focus needs to be on them.
Use listening body language. Nod your head, make some affirming noises — use whatever body language necessary to show you are listening and absorbing what they are saying. Don’t be afraid to show some emotion and empathy for their plight.
Repeat back what they say. Just a few times during the session, repeat a word or two that they say. If they say, “it was so horrible,” say “horrible” while nodding. This affirms for them that you are sympathetic to their problem.
Advise them only on what they need to know now. The initial consultation is not the time to go into a lengthy discussion on the points of law applicable to their case. There will be time for that after you’re hired. Just tell them what they absolutely need to know right now. Before they leave, be sure to ask them if you answered all their questions.
Walk out with them. Walk with them back to your front door. Don’t leave them for a moment until they walk out that door. Be sure they understand the next steps. Validate their parking. Give them a bottle of water for the road. Keep making them feel you are taking care of them.
Follow up. Call them the next day to ask if they have any questions they may have thought of after your meeting. Then set up the next meeting so they feel the process is moving forward and that you are thinking about their case.
After you check all the boxes above to ensure you’ll have a successful consultation, keep in mind the common mistakes some lawyers make and do everything you can to avoid them:
Thinking that the decision to hire you is based on fact. People make their buying decisions emotionally, not logically. They want to do business with people they like and trust. If they feel good about you, they will rationalize away any negative reviews they may have seen or facts that don’t fit with their feeling about you. It’s important for you to do what you need to do to be liked and trusted. You do this by letting them know you care, you’re interested in the case and you are excited about helping them.
Not truly listening. Don’t get so wrapped up in trying to make a good impression that you fail to listen. Your job is to listen, not talk.
Be a person first. Don’t try to impress them by showing them the lawyer; instead, show them the person. Being human is how you connect and gain trust. You may be the greatest lawyer ever, but they won’t hire you for that. They’ll hire you because you care.
Not preparing. Be prepared enough to know the legal issues you’ll be discussing with the prospect. Your intake person should have provided enough information to allow you to do this.
Over-preparing. Preparing too much can lead to you talking too much. The idea is to listen. Prepare just enough to be confident, but don’t feel like you have to share every detail with the prospect. Remember, you are there to hear their story.