Marketing is just the first step in the conversion process. Once someone makes the decision to call your firm, his or her experience communicating with you is equally important. Are all prospects treated consistently? Is the experience positive? You do not want to lose people after they have already expressed an interest in your firm. In order to ensure everyone who contacts your firm receives equally good treatment, you should establish a solid lead intake system.
Lead intake encompasses everything you and your staff do once you begin communicating with a prospect. This can include email, phone follow-ups and in-person meetings – any action that places you in contact with a person you hope to convert to a new client. All marketing efforts can be wasted if your firm executes lead intake poorly or inconsistently. The business of managing inquiries should not be an afterthought. Here are some strategies for lead intake that can help your firm turn a higher percentage of contacts into clients:
Respond only when you are truly available. Immediate, hurried responses are often reactive instead of engaging. Reactions can be more emotional, and the quality of any reactive correspondence may vary widely depending on mood or circumstance. When handling prospects, you must take time to respond when you can be present and available. A good response is engaging. By taking time to listen and be present, you will be able to pull valuable information from the interaction about the needs of the prospect and the viability of the lead. If you find that on “bad days” you always get poor quality leads, you may need to take a step back and focus on a more responsive style of lead intake.
Review your electronic communications. When communicating with other attorneys, you are probably used to getting to the point — quickly. However, in an email, this style of communication can come across as abrupt or even rude. You do not know how others will interpret such a matter-of-fact style of correspondence. When sending emails, always start with a greeting and end with a signature. Include details. Add explanations. Prospects do not live in your world and cannot always interpret an on-screen tone accurately. They need to know they are being heard.
Share responsibility. Managing and responding to leads can take a lot of time — time you should be using to help current clients. Consider hiring and training an assistant who is dedicated to lead intake. Having an employee devoted to handling leads can also make the process easier and more consistent for prospects, helping build trust in your firm.
Have a system for storing lead information and responding on a schedule. A surprising number of people are erratic with the timing of phone and email replies. Schedules fill, problems arise, priorities shift and leads get forgotten. Create a firm-wide rule for how much time is allowed to pass before responding to an inquiry. You may also want to use a lead management software that allows you to monitor inquiries, track interaction with prospects and collaborate with staff.
Do not make assumptions. Professionals of all stripes have said it at some point, “This person [case, project, proposal] is just not worth my time.” And, yes, some leads are bad. But make sure you take the time to accurately assess leads before you decide to refer them to a colleague or other service provider. Do not make judgments about the about the quality of a lead before you have heard the person’s whole story and asked pertinent questions about his or her issue.
Listen. It is easy to get into a rut when dealing with new inquiries, especially if you frequently handle the same type of case. Try to remember that this is likely the first time the person you are talking to has dealt with the issue. Really listen to prospects to gain an understanding of their individual situation and see how their case may be different — even if only subtly.
Taking the time to create a system for handling lead intake is well worth the investment. You owe it to yourself and your staff to have a consistent process for client conversion.