Last week, we talked about how there are three pillars that support every law firm’s growth and discussed the first pillar, which is having a predictable lead source (you can view the blog recap or the webinar recap here). The second pillar and the subject of today’s blog is quality intake and follow up. The third pillar is the ability to close business.
In this blog series (which was based on individual webinars originally released to our Facebook group audience that you can find here), Elliot Alicea, the co-founder of the legal marketing agency Empirical360, discusses the 3 pillars of law firm growth. This blog will focus on pillar 2: quality intake and follow-up.
Last week, we talked about how there are three pillars that support every law firm’s growth and discussed the first pillar, which is having a predictable lead source (you can view the blog recap or the webinar recap here). The second pillar and the subject of today’s blog is quality intake and follow up. The third pillar is the ability to close business. Though the first pillar is arguably the most important, law firm growth would collapse without the other two - if you have a predictable lead source and are consistently getting leads, but you have no sound process for organizing and contacting those leads, your efforts are wasted, and your growth will be stunted.
We’ll take a look at the second pillar and discuss it in more detail, but before that, let’s discuss what makes us qualified to speak on this topic and why we’re so passionate about the second pillar specifically.
Empirical360, our law firm marketing agency, runs PPC for attorneys all across the country, and we generate a lot of leads for them (over 100,000 last year alone). Sometimes we listen to the calls that have come in, in order to assess lead quality, but we notice that the manner of intake makes a huge difference in whether or not that lead becomes a client.
Intake is your first impression. You may have hundreds of clients, but they are looking for one attorney, so when you (or your receptionist, or your answering service) answers the phone, you need to treat it as your most important conversation. Remember that you paid for it! The first phone call is crucial to setting the tone for the relationship moving forward.
So what goes into a good intake?
First, answer the phone like a human, not an order-taker. Have empathy. Be kind. Be patient. Be professional, but don’t be a robot. People calling with legal problems are usually distressed, and when the person answering the phones sounds rushed or distracted, or treats them like a potential case instead of a person, they can hear it. That predisposes them to think you don’t care about them, and you may have just lost a great case before you even got them in for a consultation.
If you’re not answering the phones yourself, communicate expectations clearly and make sure your receptionist knows what the stakes are. It’s easy to be distracted on calls when you don’t realize how much the leads cost. If you run a personal injury law firm, one lead can cost $200 or $500, depending on where you’re located; even if you’re in family law, where the leads are cheaper, leads can still cost about $30 - $40. Add that to the time the phone call takes, and it’s clear that you don’t want to waste that call, so let your receptionist know that every call is important and tell them to minimize distractions around them.
Many attorneys offer free consultations, but many do not; on that initial phone call, expect that if you charge for consults, you may have a lower closing rate. We’ve seen lawyers with paid consults still close at a very high rate, though, depending on how the consult is presented and what the legal issue is the lead has.
Towards the end of last year, we hosted a webinar for our attorneys with LEX Reception, a legal answering service, on this topic, which you can view here. They shared some other important tips that can make or break your intake quality.
One of the things that they stressed was that lawyers always need to answer the phones with a live person, even if it’s not themselves. Calls that go to voicemail are usually wasted leads.
Another tip they gave was to take notes while the lead is talking. Most of the details that you are going to ask about will already have been addressed if you just let the lead speak initially, and this way it feels more like an organic conversation rather than a cold and data-based inquiry. When you need to, ask detailed questions related to the situation and practice area in order to increase relevance. If they are calling about a divorce, and you don’t ask any questions related to their divorce situation, then their confidence in you may decrease.
Get a commitment for a consultation or next step if possible. This makes it likelier that that lead will become a client!
We don’t recommend that attorneys do their own intake. Even for attorneys who feel like they may have the margin in their day to answer calls, if you are in court or engaged with another client and a call comes in, it’s better to know that someone is answering the calls and taking care of intake, which is where a good answering service can be an asset. Smith.ai and LEX Reception are our two top choices for legal answering services. There are many other options out there, but any answering service you work with needs to have live people answering the phones who speak clearly, to know what you do and what your firm’s values are, to be able to integrate with your CRM, to customize a script for your firm, and to record/QA your calls.
Smith.ai starts at $140 a month for 20 calls, LEX reception starts at $99 a month and they charge by the minute. You can reach out to these services and get more information about what they offer, but both are “inexpensive” compared with the cost of losing your time and your leads.
Intake is your first touch in the sales process. Follow-up is the next step.
You’re not going to convert every lead on the first call, which is why it is important to contact and follow-up with your leads. Hiring a lawyer is a big decision, and despite the fact that many legal problems are urgent, people are likely going to consider a few different lawyers before choosing one or even requesting a consultation.
Having a good CRM is an important part of your follow-up process. CRMs allow you to track the success of your marketing campaigns and organize all of your contacts. Every lawyer needs a CRM, even if they are currently only getting a few leads. If you get two leads a day, that may not seem like much, but in thirty days, that may turn into sixty promising leads that you want as cases. Now you have to email or call sixty people, and if some turn into clients or want a consultation, you have to send them documentation, etc….things can get messy quickly if you don’t have a good organization system. Note that putting information in an Excel spreadsheet or Word document is not the best system for a number of reasons. CRMs were designed to keep client information in one place and easily accessible, so we highly encourage lawyers to use them.
They don’t just enhance your sales process; CRMs also help you manage your existing clients better. You can store documents in their records, see how much the case is worth, see what marketing source they came from, and more.
If we asked you right now how many sales you got from Facebook last year, or how much revenue Google made you last year, would you be able to answer that? If you have a CRM, you can tag all of your leads with your different sources, and then input the revenue associated with those leads. Even if it’s not yet a closed case, you can view your pipeline values. As an attorney, there are different stages in your sales process, and each one of those stages may house different leads that can be associated with a different value. For example, if you do charge for a consultation, there is a value associated with people who come in for a consultation, even if they do not become clients, and you’ll see stats on the closing rate for consultations. When used correctly, CRMs are a powerful tool for lawyers!
PracticePanther and LawHustle are some of the most popular choices of CRMs for law firms because they are legal specific, but our clients have also used HubSpot, Clio (also legal specific), Salesforce, Captorra, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, and more.
The most important thing is to actually USE your CRM. Take advantage of the benefits it offers by marking leads, entering the marketing source, sending emails and texts (which you can automate). Chasing down leads is time-consuming; CRMs take the burden of time off of your plate, or your receptionist’s, and maximize your ROI.
How much do CRMs cost? It depends on the CRM you use.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about how much Salesforce costs, and we’ve seen that it can become very expensive. We’ve had clients pay $20,000 a month for Salesforce (that’s on the high end, but still). Law Hustle is also expensive, starting at $497 a month, but we’ve seen clients have amazing success with this, and they set up most of what you need for you. Clio, PracticePanther, and HubSpot all start at $49-$50 a month.
Compared to having a disorganized mess, this isn’t expensive, and is well worth the convenience and performance of the features you pay for.
Besides cost, what features should you look for while evaluating a CRM?
You definitely need to have email capabilities, or a Zapier integration to automate your emails. If someone is entered into the CRM, it should be able to send an automated email as soon as they are entered and make contact with that person or invite them to schedule an appointment with you. In today’s world, text message follow up capability (or a Zapier integration to automate texts) is also necessary, and this feature will help your contact rate and your closing rate.
We’ve already discussed why marketing attribution is such a big deal - it helps you evaluate your marketing sources and determine which one should get the most spend. When you’re purchasing a CRM, you should be able to tag your leads with the source that they came from. This feature is fairly standard across CRMs.
Your CRM should give you a pipeline view of expected sales. You should be able to easily tell how many people booked appointments in the last 30 days, how many people you’ve sent documents to who haven’t signed them, how many people have signed documents but haven’t paid, and how many people are in every other stage of your sales process. This gives you an idea of how many leads are close to closing and leads you may need to follow up with more aggressively.
If you’re looking to manage all of your clients out of this system, look for a CRM that has document storage. If you really want to know how your leads are responding to your contact methods, get a CRM that has email tracking and gives you the ability to see who is opening your emails and who is clicking through them. If you’re working with a team, task management is a plus, as it allows you to assign tasks to your receptionist or paralegal, like following up with a lead or sending them documents.
A few other tips for making your follow-up process the best they can be (that your CRM will help you with): When someone fills out a form or books an appointment, send them an automated email/text follow-up message. When someone moves to a new stage of your pipline, send them an automated email guiding them to the next step (for example, “Thanks for signing the documents! You’re now ready to complete your payment, etc.).
In summary, a CRM is only as good as the lawyer using it. We can’t stress that enough. Use it correctly in a sales capacity and it will work for you!
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