Intake is one of the most important aspects of your business. It begins your working relationship with a “potential” client and consists of all the communications and activities associated with retaining them. These communications and activities may include phone calls, meetings, emails, text messages and nurture campaigns.
As attorney Reza Torkzadeh put it, “The most important part of any case is getting one.” We know it’s important to generate leads – whether they come from a form fill on your website, lead generation service or other source. But your work doesn’t stop there. Once you qualify a prospect, you need to ensure they remain engaged and sign up.
First Impressions Can Make or Break You
The most important aspect of intake is the first interaction. Chris O’Brien, CEO of Captorra, points out that people will decide within the first seven seconds if they’ll do business with you—or not. That means you have to make sure you engage the prospect within those first few seconds and make a great first impression.
So, how do you do that? Start with the basics:
- Show you care by listening and expressing interest
- Pay attention, and engage in the conversation
- Be positive and upbeat, and reassure the prospect you can help
- Don’t over-qualify the client on the first call
The last point above is an important one. According to Chris, one way firms lose clients is by going too deep into investigation too quickly, prior to signing. Although you need to qualify the client, it’s best to save the hard questions for later. Asking too many questions too soon can put the prospect through undue stress, creating negative associations with your firm.
Instead, identify a few key questions prior to the first call that will help you determine whether you want to work with the client. You can ask the detailed questions in person, after you’ve established some rapport and trust.
Which Method is Best – Email, Face-to-Face or Snail Mail?
Once a prospect gives you the green light, get them to sign a retainer quickly, so they don’t change their minds. Best case scenario is to qualify prospects over the phone and send them a retainer agreement by email. E-sign technology helps eliminate time between the call and signing during which your competitors could move in for the kill.
If e-signing a retainer isn’t an option, invite them to your office or arrange to meet them at another location. You can also mail out the agreement, if an in-person meeting proves challenging to schedule.
Ensure a Smooth Transition
Once you have the signed contract, focus on a smooth transition your intake department over to your legal team. Avoid forcing clients to repeat everything you learned during your initial interactions—that will only frustrate them. Brief legal on the details of the case before they reach out to the client. It’s a simple step that will go a long way in terms of client satisfaction.
If the Lead Doesn’t Qualify, Think Referrals
If you determine a lead doesn’t meet your firm’s qualifying criteria, refer the prospect to another firm. Not only will that create good karma with other attorneys in your network, the prospect may remember you and send you leads in the future.
What if You Don’t Have the Right Resources?
If you’re short on resources to handle this part of intake correctly, third-party services, such as legal-specific call centers or specialty intake services may be a great way to manage the workload. In fact, over 56% of law firms use non-attorney staff to handle intake. That’s because in many ways, intake involves more sales skills than legal skills.
Also consider using technology to automate email and text messaging, intake questionnaires or e-signing to reduce your workload and streamline intake processes.
This is an excerpt from a webinar, titled Best Practices for Winning More Clients, aired on 3/28/2017.
Just a few other articles and information to consider:
- Top 3 online marketing strategies, including lead generation
- 3 Simple Email Nurturing Tips for Client Retention
- Conversion Tools
- The Power of Texting (coming soon)
- Technology Options for Intake (coming soon)
 Reza Torkzadeh, Tordzadeh Law Firm, Generating New Business, 8/2/2016.
 Michael Solomon, PhD, psychologist, chairman, Marketing Department Graduate School of Business, NYU.