I use the word sales when I refer to lawyers’ getting business from a new client or expanding business with an existing client. Hopefully, if you are reading this article, you understand that every lawyer is, or should be, in the sales business. That said, most lawyers receive very little sales training or coaching. So how do you close a sale without seeming like a salesperson?
Remember that you are in the relationship business. Even though you are selling, most clients hire you and not your law firm. Your law firm’s brand or reputation might have opened the door, but if the client does not feel that you can solve their problem, that you care about the impact of the problem on them or their business, and that you have the desire to become part of the solution, then you will never close the sale.
Be empathetic, listen and understand. Never interrupt a client or offer to represent a client before you know the entire story.
Do your research.
Research your prospects and existing clients in advance of your meeting. If you understand their business, the competition, and what trends are affecting them, you can build a bond quickly. In addition to the client’s website, use Google, LinkedIn and Facebook to find any relevant and appropriate information.
Be prepared to answer their questions.
They will be about you, your firm, and your experience and to correlate how this is relevant to their matter. You never want to interrupt a client, but you do want to talk about why they should hire you over your competition. Practice your sales talk in advance of your meeting. Customize your statement to fit the client’s need, and listen for cues in their conversation about what you should emphasize. For example, if they mention that their issue is more complex than similar issues they have faced in the past, emphasize your experience in addressing complex issues of a similar nature.
Don’t be afraid to discuss fees.
Understand that most prospects and clients have a budget in mind and are price conscious. If you find out upfront that your fees don’t match their budget, you can offer alternatives. If you wait and work to close the sale for weeks and then find out they can’t afford your services, you will feel defeated and they will not feel that you were completely upfront with them about what you could provide.
The little things matter.
Eye contact, a firm handshake, great posture, good manners, and being appropriately and nicely dressed are key differentiators for any lawyer who wants to close. Also remember to have a pen, a pad, and your business cards on hand and accessible. Turn your cellphone off and stay focused. Be on time.
Know what your firm has to offer.
Good sales professionals are always prepared to listen and talk about what they can provide. Know what your firm has to offer. You might find yourself in a situation where you can pitch the services of another lawyer in your firm, so make sure you understand the services of each attorney at your firm.
Be persistent without becoming a pest.
Follow up with prospects the next day to see if they have any questions about you or your firm or additional questions regarding their problem. Determine, without pushing, where they are in the decision process. Many times, they have to get consensus from others before they hire you. If they have not made a decision, give them another week. If you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally. Everyone is busy, and you might not have been chosen. My rule of thumb is to follow up four times. I wait a week between each follow-up call and follow up each call with an email. Each person has their own level of comfort with follow-up. If you do not follow up more than once and quickly, you will not close the sale.
I have been hired by prospects whom I initially met a year earlier. Many times, their initial issue resolves itself, but another issue arises and because you have kept in touch and made a good impression, you get that case. Keep all of your prospects in your contact database, and check in with them from time to time. You never know when a simple follow-up email or call will lead to a new file.
Many lawyers I have coached tell me that they have had a lot of great meetings in the past, but that very few of them yielded new clients. They come to me frustrated and defeated. After only a few tweaks, many of them find success in closing. My hope is that the tips above will help you find more success. Happy closing! Tea Hoffmann