Initial consultations can make or break what happens in your practice. By aligning with the way modern consumers hire family lawyers, you stand to win more business and gain more referrals.
By Liz Wendling, Business Development Coach
Many firms spend a fortune on marketing to get prospective clients to schedule an initial consultation, but nothing on adjusting their approach to align with the way the modern legal consumer hires lawyers. If your initial consultations are not regularly ending with a retainer check, then you need to update your lead conversion skills.
When I begin a consulting project for a law firm or work one-on-one with family lawyers, many are shocked to find out that they are regularly saying and doing things in their initial consultations that clash with how human beings are wired to be influenced. Most lawyers believe that they have a solid understanding of how the legal consumer hires lawyers: that when they sit down to meet with a prospect, they have all the skills they need to convert them into a paying client. The reality is that many lawyers are using 30-year-old techniques and outdated communication skills that are no longer effective with today’s Internet-empowered consumer.
Smart lawyers are using a more progressive and innovative approach that today’s sophisticated and experienced consumers not only appreciate, but they also notice.
The Legal Consumer Has Changed, so You Need to Shift the Way You Connect and Communicate with Your Prospects
Engaging with today’s legal consumer requires a shift in the way you connect and communicate with them. If you are not connecting in a way that is relevant to your potential client, they will find a lawyer who can.
By the time the new consumer meets face-to-face with a lawyer, a whopping 65–70% of their decision-making process is already complete. They are doing their homework on their terms, their turf, and their time. This consumer will hop from website to website to research you, google you, read about your credentials and expertise, and check out your ratings and reviews.
The remaining part of their process comes down to you. Will you engage, connect, and communicate with prospects in such a way that they do not feel the need to visit the competition or continue shopping for a lawyer? Will your one-on-one communication skills and approach be current or look like you got stuck in the ’80s? Will you be an evolved lawyer or lose business to one?
Before writing my books for lawyers, I conducted extensive research into the mind of today’s legal consumer. I ran focus groups with individuals who went through the process of retaining family lawyers. They freely and frankly revealed their wants and needs, sharing what makes them tick and what ticks them off.
5 Tips to Help You Align with the New Legal Consumer
The following insights only scratch the surface of what the new legal consumer is looking for during an initial consultation, but they are a good place to start updating your conversion skills.
1. Skip the Shallow Small Talk
When meeting a potential client, lawyers are taught to begin the consultation with superficial small talk: to chat about the weather, traffic, parking, or to comment on what someone is wearing or a current event. Did you have any trouble finding the building? Did you have any issues with parking? How was the traffic getting here? Is it hot enough out there? STOP! Every other lawyer is saying the same thing! Contrived chit-chat does nothing to build rapport, create a strong connection, or make a dynamic first impression. Remove this old-school tactic immediately. Connect authentically, not artificially.
2. Connect with and Relate to Me
People are looking for a lawyer who makes a genuine connection, one who cares about them and their situation. When prospects don’t feel a connection, they disconnect from you. Disconnected people don’t write retainer checks. From their pre-consultation research, they already know that you have the qualifications and experience they seek. The contemporary consumer is buying who you are and how you treat them, not just your expertise. “Make me feel like I matter,” they think, “and that I am more than just a case number to you.”
3. Don’t Treat Me Like I Know Nothing About My Legal Options
In the past, the consultation approach relied on meeting with a potential client willing to sit quietly and be educated: a time when clients knew next-to-nothing about the divorce process or their options. Lawyers were taught not to sell but rather to educate. Don’t sell yourself or your services: educate! Educate some more, and the consumer will write you a retainer check. Not anymore! Education is still important, but today’s consumer is more knowledgeable and has more options available than at any other time in history. Find out how much the prospective client already knows, and navigate the consultation from there.
4. Help Me See How You Are Different from Your Competitors
One challenge that lawyers face when attempting to communicate how they are different is that, to potential clients, they sound similar to their competition. When a prospective client asks you how you are different or why they should retain your services, they don’t want you to launch into a canned answer. “I have been a divorce lawyer for more than 33 years and have an outstanding reputation in family law. I am proud of my practice and the outstanding service that I deliver to all of my clients. Blah, blah, blah.” They are thinking: “Tell me something that I can’t get from your website. Give me something that I can’t read in your bio.” You must articulate and connect the dots about why you are different and how that difference relates to them and their situation.
5. I Have a Name – Please Use It
In one focus group, a consumer declared, “Can you believe that the lawyer never used my name in our entire conversation, except to greet me? I’d never hire a divorce lawyer who did not see me as a person with a name.” How much is this damaging habit costing you? Addressing your client by their name not only personalizes your conversation, but it also builds a deeper connection. However, don’t overdo it – that becomes creepy.
Adapt, or Lose Business to a Savvy Competitor
You have a choice. Will you adapt to the modern legal consumer’s behavior or fight it? The more you align with them, the more you will stand out, gain referrals, and win business.
Liz Wendling is a nationally-recognized practice development coach for lawyers. She designs programs for divorce lawyers who want to attract more clients, close more business, and differentiate themselves from the competition. www.therainmakingcoach.com
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