Your Biggest Mistake When Converting Law Firm Leads into Clients

By Stephen Furnari - May 10, 2016
Your Biggest Mistake When Converting Law Firm Leads into Clients

You’re out there hustling for new business, but you’re not converting as many leads into clients as you would like. Here’s the biggest mistake lawyers make.

Client matters take up most of your time, plus you have the “business” of your practice to run. In between it all, if you don’t find time for marketing your pipeline of new business will run dry.

It’s the classic conundrum that self-employed lawyers face every day.

Yet, in a world where free time for marketing (and the financial resources to spend on the same) is a precious commodity, lawyers routinely blow it when it comes to converting leads into clients.

For most lawyers the explanation is easy: they’re giving up on leads too soon.

Nurture Your Leads and Achieve More With Less

Think of sales like a funnel. Prospective clients enter at the top of the funnel and exit at the bottom as customers.

You’re out there speaking, blogging, networking and advertising both online and off. This is the first point of contact with leads and where they enter your sales funnel. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the lead has reached out to you to inquire about representation, it just means that they are aware that you exist.

It’s your job to convert as many of those leads into qualified leads (those who do reach out to you about a legal need). In the sales and marketing world, the process of making this happen is called lead nurturing.

Here’s the awesome thing about lead nurturing, as you become better at it, you can increase revenue without increasing the time and money you spend on marketing. Music to most busy lawyers’ ears. Simply achieve better results with fewer leads.

Plan on Making 8 Nurturing Contacts

Any sales professional will tell you that it can take, on average, up to eight contacts to convert a lead into a client. For some lawyers who work on high value, low volume matters, it can take many more than that to earn the trust needed for a client to hire you.

Once a prospect enters into your sales funnel, you begin the nurturing process. Use a series of “touches”, which will include a combination of emails, texts and phone calls.

Mostly Send Info that Solves a Problem

The focus of these messages should not be you asking the lead to hire you (at least not all of them), but instead, focus on adding value to the lead, while simultaneously demonstrating your competence and credibility.

So for a corporate finance attorney, send tips about the best ways to pitch investors (not how to comply with securities laws). For the personal injury lawyer, send safety ratings on child seats (not how to pick a jury that is favorable to plaintiffs). For an elder law attorney, give out a checklist on how to care for a loved one in an assisted living facility (not info on the best causes of action in a nursing home abuse case).

Better lead nurturing allows #lawyers to increase revenue with less marketing Click To Tweet

Of course, you should sprinkle in touches that ask prospects to hire you (or schedule a consult), but these should not be the majority of your lead nurturing contacts.

For Consistency, Set up a System

The concept of sending eight lead nurturing contacts is simple, but doing it consistently is not. For the small firm attorney, whose schedule can be erratically hectic, it’s critically important to put a system in place to manage your points of contact.

By leveraging a system, the passive points of contact will get completed automatically, and the active ones that require your direct involvement can be cued up by someone else and executed by you quickly.

You can set up a system in four steps:

1. Manage your list of prospective clients.

Create a way to easily keep track of the contact information of the prospective clients and each of the points of contact that you have with them. There are apps you can purchase, like Sidekick, Salesforce or Infusionsoft, but you can easily accomplish the same results using your current contact manager (in Outlook or Gmail) and a spreadsheet.

The only thing you need to do with your contacts is to set up a category in Outlook or set up a group in Gmail to keep track of your prospective clients.
Here is a template spreadsheet that you can use to manage leads.

2. Create templates for all eight touches.

If you know what point of contact to use in advance, it takes very little time to execute. It can even be set up to get done automatically. The touches should be a combination of emails, calls and even snail-mail.

Create templates for all the emails, so you can load up the emails in seconds, customize where necessary, and send. If you are a Gmail user, you can upload email templates by using the Canned Response tool, which is free. Others can just be sent automatically by putting the contact on a list; for example, your firm newsletter list or an invite to connect on LinkedIn.

Have a goal for all the phone calls and script (or outline) them. For example, your goal may be to get an update on the status of their matter. The call may be to invite the person to attend a networking event that you attend regularly.

Don’t forget about snail-mail when nurturing law firm leads. Who doesn’t like a handwritten note? Click To Tweet

Finally, have pieces ready to send by snail-mail. These days, the only thing that people get by mail are catalogs and bills. Have something educational about each area of your practice (that solves one of the client’s problems) ready to send. If you send it together with a nice handwritten note, you will get noticed, which is ultimately the goal of lead nurturing contacts.

Remember, the touches should not be sales material for your firm (brochures and such), but instead, focus on sending information that is educational or valuable to the client.

In his book Ultimate Sales Machine, sales expert Chet Holmes, offers some really great examples of how to do this.

3. Schedule all the points of contact.

Create a master schedule for when each point of contact should be sent.  The timing will be based on the number of days after the prospective client’s initial point of contact with your firm.

In terms of frequency, you will want to space each contact close enough so the prospect doesn’t forget about you, but far enough apart so you are not annoying.  Typically, the contacts are made more frequent in the beginning (two or three in the first week), then taper off to monthly after the first few weeks.

You will want to be in touch over the entire length of your typical sales cycle – and this will be different for every law practice. For example, a personal injury attorney’s sales cycle may be one month from the date of an injury. For a trusts and estates attorney selling estate planning, the sales cycle may be several years.

Keep in mind, the sales cycle may be different for the different kinds of matters your firm handles.  Take the T&E lawyer, for example. The sales cycle may be three years for estate planning, but one month to handle an estate when someone dies. Your firm may require different contact schedules for the different matters it handles.

4. Delegate everything you can.

The beauty of setting up a system is that once it’s created you can have someone else, whose time is much less expensive than your own, execute it.  Most of the points of contact can be completed automatically, and the ones that require your direct involvement (phone calls, consults and custom emails) can be cued up for you.

If you are lucky enough to have admin staff, assign anything that does not require your direct involvement to them. If you do not, consider hiring a student law clerk or a virtual assistant.

Delegating will ensure that your points of contact continue to be sent out even if you get sidelined while on a trial or a complex deal. Very quickly you will find that the increase in new business will be more than enough to justify the extra expense.

It’s Not Magic, You’ll Find Success with Persistence

Of the universe of prospective clients for your practice, only a small percentage –  10 percent or less – are ready to hire a lawyer now. A lead nurturing system forces you to stay in front of the other 90 percent of prospective clients who aren’t ready to buy today, but who may be in the future.

In many cases, the competition will have long given up, and you’ll be the last man standing.  An easy close in any book.

By sticking to a lead nurturing system, your firm will close more new business:

  • without any Jedi sales skills;
  • without improving your legal skills;
  • without changing your marketing strategy; and
  • without any significant additional expense (if any at all).

Success comes with sheer persistence, something there’s no shortage of in the legal profession.

About Stephen Furnari

Stephen Furnari is a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, the operator of coworking spaces for law firms. Through Law Firm Suites, Furnari has helped hundreds of attorneys launch and grow successful law practices. He is the author of several eBooks, including “7 Deadly Mistakes that Prevent Law Practice Success” and “An Insider’s Guide to Renting the Perfect Law Office”. Stephen has been featured in the ABA Journal, Entrepreneur, New York Daily News and Crain’s New York. Connect with Stephen on Twitter (@stephenfurnari).

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