Marketing to Private Clients (3) – Convert existing opportunities/enquiries into profitable business

 In Practice Management

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phone answering in law firm

What is the role of the person handling the enquiry?

All too often, incoming calls are simply regarded as an administrative process. Too many are almost looked upon as nuisance calls … “Oh no, not somebody else ringing around for fees!” AS a result of this, many firms fail to see the importance of these enquiries. They are handled at switchboard or by support staff and regarded as a low-level routine task.

The truth is the role is essentially “sales”. The reason for that is because the callers are in a buying position … they will ultimately decide whether to proceed with a specific firm on the nature of the response to their call.

Most call handlers have had no conversational sales training for this role. I often enable them to double their conversion rates within the first three months after my training.

All I am really talking about is the process of influencing the caller to want the call handler or your firm to look after them.

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Influencing the feelings of the caller

Just for a moment, stop and think of a conversation with somebody talking to your about their services and prices, and you must decide whether to buy from him or her or someone else. Have you ever, in the middle of one of these buying conversations, heard a little voice in your head whisper, “There’s no way I am buying from them!”? What was it that made you feel that way? Was it something they said? What suddenly brought on this negative reaction? I have asked many people this question, and the most common response is usually, “I don’t really know, it was just a feeling”.

Have you ever had that moment, during a similar conversation, when, instead of the little negative voice in your head, you felt a positive tingle or shiver up your spine as you thought, “Yes, I quite like them”?

Again, what was it that brought about this response? What did they say or do that triggered such a reaction? The most common response is again, “I really don’t know, it was just a feeling”.

Callers to your firm with a new enquiry will experience this “just a feeling”. Whether it is a negative or a positive one, it is absolutely determined by the way the call handler deals with the caller, and I can tell you now it is about much more than just the price!

What is your firm really like? The terrible truth

Most firms, when initially confronted with this question, respond by saying, “I would like to think we are pretty good at this”. As food for thought, let me give you the result of a recent piece of research. Recently I carried out some mystery calls to 20 private client practices to see how they dealt with an incoming enquiry for a will. Judge for yourself what the “just a feeling” would have been.

From the 20 firms surveyed:

  • At three firms there was nobody at all available to speak with me, and only one offered a call back.
  • At six firms, the reception or switchboard simply gave me a figure and terminated the call.
  • At five firms, I was put through to the support staff of a private client practitioner who simply gave a price and terminated the call.
  • At one firm I was told, “We do not give figures over the phone”, and terminated the call.
  • At one firm I was put through to a practitioner who said, without any prompting, “I can give you a figure, but we don’t do cheap wills … you see, the problem is we don’t make much money on cheap wills. We only make money when people die, and often people take a long time to die after they have made their will!”.
  • Only one firm asked if I would like to make an appointment.
  • Only three practitioners engaged in any proper conversation and asked about my personal circumstances.
  • No firm gave me any specific reasons why I should choose them.
  • No firm offered any written follow up.
  • No firm asked if I would like to go ahead.

Although I approached only 20 firms, you will have to take my word for it that, having carried out similar projects before, these results reflect the norm and not the exception.

Don’t fall into the price trap when asked “how much?”

One of the biggest psychological barriers is the assumption that anyone who asks the price is a nuisance who only wants the cheapest. I am not commercially naïve. Some callers who ask “How Much?” may occasionally fall into this category. The danger, however, is the assumption that every human soul who dials your number and asks “How Much?” for any private client service is a cheapskate! Most ask for certainty and usually because, if they have never made a will before, they have no idea what the likely costs are.

I urge you not to fall into the price trap of assuming that the caller is only interested in the cheapest. If you only give the price to those who ask, then you reduce the issue to one of price, and you actually force them to go to the cheapest.

You need to strive to create the “BUT” factor

Have you ever bought something and said afterwards, “I could have gone somewhere else and got it cheaper but …” It is okay to be more expensive provided you give a reason … or a BUT to influence them.

Let me prove beyond all reasonable doubt why I know that price is not always the critical issue. I have often monitored conversion rates of wills calls by different enquiry handlers in the same firm. I almost always see a huge discrepancy of conversion rates between the different people despite the fact that they are all quoting the same fee levels. If A receives 28 per cent, B receives 43 per cent and C receives 76 per cent how do you explain the difference in results if all are working to the same fee scales?

It is clear something about C’s technique and performance influences more people to want to say “yes”.

Get the batting order right

If some people get better results than others when handling enquiries, then you should be getting the batting order right. Identify which enquiry handler gets the best results, and have them handle most of the enquiries. What is the commercial logic of having somebody who consistently only coverts 28 per cent of enquiries handle the vast majority of the calls?

Understand the differential price chart

My research reveals that if I called all firms providing wills or other private client services in any town or city, usually one firm is much cheaper than the others, and one who is much more expensive. However, if you exclude the extremes at both ends, the vast majority of firms fall into the middle ground of charging, and this is where most people actually buy.

Curiously, if you look at the cheapest and top ends of this middle ground, the fee levels between them usually appear small enough to not be decisive if you have the call handled well.

I encountered an instance of ringing 18 firms in a local market, and 16 of them remained within £15 from top to bottom of the middle ground. Position yourself near the top of the middle ground.

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