Marketing to Private Clients (4) – 5 Steps in Handling Queries

 In Practice Management

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It is absolutely critical that the private client department and all practitioners understand the importance of this first leg of the Marketing Triad and the potential financial implications of it.

Step one – Invite the caller into the conversation

If you want to successfully influence the caller to want you or your practice, they must like and trust you first. People buy people! You won’t create that relationship just by giving a price and bombarding them with legal complexities.

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Many callers will be anxious and apprehensive. Buying a will in preparation for death is not exactly a fun purchase. Your primary objective from the moment you connect with them is to make them feel comfortable and to demonstrate a real interest in them.

The call will almost always start with their asking “How Much”?. Flip things round, and respond by asking them a question back. Note, whoever asks the questions controls the conversation.

Respond with something like the following:

Caller: I wonder If you can give me some indication of the cost of making a will

Enquiry handler: Absolutely … no problem … more than happy to try to help! But listen, can I just check that you’re okay for a few minutes so that I can get a little bit of personal background about your circumstances, so that when I give you some indication of the cost, it’s going to reflect your wishes properly? Is that okay?

Caller: Yes, that is fine!

With this approach, you have differentiated yourselves from the competition positively and shown you are prepared to spend a bit of time with the caller. This immediately creates a good impression, reflecting your interest in them! By asking “Is that okay?” you are also getting their permission to proceed.

Step two – Build rapport with the caller

It is a vitally important objective, in its own right, to “chat” with the caller. Ask questions about his or her life.

It is not for me to tell you the technical and legal questions you need to ask but, obviously you need to be talking and getting information about assets, property, personal circumstances, children, etc.

These sorts of questions will not seem intrusive if you invite the caller into the conversation and obtain permission to proceed.

Ask the magic question. There is one question that very rarely gets asked, and yet it has the potential to be one of the most influential questions of all.

You must realise that people have reasons for doing things. Therefore, if they have not previously made a will, there will be some event or trigger that prompted them to want do this now. Ask the question:

“Do you mind if I ask you what prompted you to think of making a will now?”

The sort of reasons they will give will include the following:

  • Diagnosed with an illness;
  • Someone close to them has died;
  • Read something about inheritance tax;
  • Change in family circumstances;
  • Going on a long holiday with long haul flights; or
  • A recent terrorist incident or disaster has taken place

Whatever the reason, when the caller knows that YOU understand why they want to make a will, you make a connection with them, and this will be a major factor in influencing them to have the positive “just a feeling” mentioned earlier.

Step three – Bounce back

Bouncing back is the process and technique of quite literally repeating back to the potential client your understanding of their circumstances and situation. This will have a positive influence by showing you have listened and understood their situation.

For example: “…So, Mrs Johnson, let me see if I have understood this correctly. You don’t have a will at the moment, but you want to make one now because you are going away on a cruise for three months. You have a couple of grown-up children … etc … [with repetition of their circumstances] … Is that correct?”

Again, the final question commands a response.

Step four – Give the fee, but break it into bits

The key is to let potential clients know how much effort and value you will give them. The greater the value and benefit the client perceives they receive, the more they will be willing to agree to your fee. This is particularly the case with more expensive tax planning wills.

Thus, instead of telling the client, “Our cost for preparing a will is £85 plus VAT, providing it is simple and straightforward”, or simply stating “it’s £695 for a tax planning will”, as many do, consider breaking the value into its component elements:

  • “Well, Mrs Jones, first of all, we’ll invite you in for a meeting to chat through your existing thoughts.”
  • “We may raise a number of things that you might not have considered such as possibilities of tax saving devices.”
  • “You’ll have the opportunity to ask us any questions that you might have that concern you.”
  • “When we feel we understand your situation correctly, we’ll draft the will for you and deliver it within an agreed time period.”
  • “You’ll then have the chance to amend the draft and ask more questions”.
  • “We’ll advise you on the signing of the document to make sure it’s all valid and store the original for you at no additional cost.”
  • “Our fee for all this will be £85 plus VAT (or whatever amount) … When would you like to come and see me? Is it better for you to do it this week or next week?”

By breaking it into bits, you create the impression of a greater level of work, care and value.

Step five – Ask for the business

In the above conversation with a potential client, instead of just giving the fee at the end, the enquiry handler asked, “When would you like to come and see me?” and offered two possible choices.

One of the main reasons firms don’t get better conversion rates is simply because they don’t ask for the work. All too often, the call will simply end, or more frequently the call handler will “IF” the caller away, with a comment like, “Our fee will be £85 plus VAT. If you would like to go ahead, please don’t hesitate to get back to us.”

The moment “IF” is used, the call handler influences the caller that this is not the time to make up his or her mind and proceed to the next stage.

If you want to get a higher conversion, then having followed the earlier steps, you must ask for the caller’s business. There are many ways to do this, for example:

  • “May I take it you would like us to go ahead?”
  • “Is that going to be acceptable to you?”
  • “I very much understand your circumstances and, without question, feel we can help minimise your liability for inheritance tax. With that in mind, can I take it you would like to instruct us?”

Any of the above will command a response and in most cases it will be a positive one. However, the most powerful and influential question to ask is “WHEN”. Simply ask when he or she would like to make an appointment, and always offer two options. By asking somebody a question and offering two alternatives, the brain is almost compelled to choose between those two. So, a question, “When would you like to make an appointment. This week or next week?” will, in most cases, provide a response of one or the other.

Cynical? Try it and see!

Other useful tips on handling enquiries

The importance of switchboard and reception

First impressions are very important, and, therefore, some standards need to be defined and training given to switchboard and reception staff on precisely how to create the right impression and level of influence with callers. If this has not yet taken place in your practice, then make it a must!

Avoid Jargon

Jargon is very intimidating. Have you ever had your car serviced to be told by the mechanic that the “triple threadle sprocket” needs replacing? Those who use such phrases are not even aware of doing so because they are so accustomed to saying them! So, when you ask callers whether theirs will be a “simple and straightforward will”, how are they supposed to know? When you talk about different kinds of discretionary trust or types of wills, do not necessarily expect that they will understand.

Ensure the right person converts the enquiry

Does the person who deals with the enquiry have to do the work? The simple answer is no.

It does not follow that the person who is most technically able is the best at building rapport, making conversation and asking the right influential questions. The person who consistently gets the best conversion rates is the ideal person to handle most enquiries.

If the enquiry handler builds appropriate rapport and influence with the caller, it will not be difficult to use the confidence and trust gained to explain to the caller that they will be looked after by a named person with the right level of experience and ability.

Of course, the enquiry handler must be trained and trusted not to attempt to answer questions outside his or her knowledge base. The caller will respect a person for saying, “That is a really good question, and I’m going to have to get somebody with a little more experience to deal with that for you. Let me see if they are available now, and if not, I will arrange a time for them to call you. Is that okay?”

Don’t hide behind a questionnaire

I have often been told during my “enquiries” for will quotes that if I want to proceed, the firm will send me a questionnaire to complete and return or bring in when I come for my wills appointment. While this might seem administratively sensible, all my experience indicates that it creates an obstacle and barrier to actually proceed. Don’t confuse processing the job with winning the client.

How to handle email enquiries

Many firms now receive an increasing number of emails directly or via the web asking for the cost of making a will.

Here is what not to do! Don’t ignore them or simply return the email with the figure or an hourly rate. Make sure your response is friendly and personal in tone. Include some background about the practice, breaking the process into bits as demonstrated earlier. If you must give a figure, then give ballpark figures subject to a proper conversation.

Wherever possible, try to acquire their number so you can speak to them using the techniques above. Remember, rapport and influence is key, and it is not easy to create this via email.

What do do with visitor enquiries

Let me tell you what not to do. Believe it or not, I have seen visitors being put through by telephone to somebody in the private client team upstairs! The potential client is made to have their conversation in full view of other visitors in reception. This is neither a comfortable nor an appropriate way to deal with an enquirer.

Visitors should be politely thanked for the enquiry, asked their name and asked to take a seat. The appropriate person from the private client department should come down and take them somewhere private for a conversation.

The same step-by-step techniques already demonstrated should then be used.

The importance of training and practice

Handling and successfully converting enquiries is a personal performance skill for which training and practice is absolutely necessary, and anyone dealing with enquiries has the potential to improve their performance. Contact me for further enquiries about training courses in this area.

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