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Referral marketing succeeds with the right interview

August 15, 2018

Filed under: Marketing,Practice Growth,Referral Sources,Uncategorized — admin @ 5:24 pm

STRATEGIC INTERVIEWReferral marketing is the lifeblood of any successful practice, but it can be intimidating when you’re trying to cultivate referral sources. Maybe you’re not naturally outgoing, or maybe you are self-conscious when you ask someone to refer clients to your practice.

Even if you don’t have any jitters to overcome about asking for a referral, you can still benefit from employing The Strategic Interview™ approach developed by Atticus when you connect with your referral sources.

Why are referral marketing sources so important? Referred clients typically bring a higher value per case with less acquisition costs. There is less “sales” involved in hiring you because the prospect has basically been pre-sold on why they should be hiring you. Referrals also feel good – if you’re known to others as the best, that’s a great reputation that can give you confidence.

Having great referral sources is like having an endless annuity for your practice. It makes it difficult to unseat you as the dominate player in your market. And, you get three great rebuttable presumptions – because the client was referred to you they naturally assume you’re honest, you’re fair and you’re competent.

Succeeding with the Strategic Interview™ in your referral marketing process is a skill, not an innate talent, which means it can be learned.

To begin using this strategy, you’ll want to know who to talk to, what to say, and how to say it.

The “who” consists of the people who make up your top 20 referral sources. These are typically existing clients, the other professionals they use (i.e. accountants, insurance agents, other attorneys), any attorneys you refer work to, members of any boards you serve on, your family, and your friends.

The “what” is the respectful request you’re making for this person to refer you new clients. The request can be preceded by an effective and compelling story that helps you sell your services (i.e. how you helped another referral source, how you helped a client, how you resolved a specific issue).

The “how” is the delivery of the request and when you should make it. Will the request come over the phone, in person, at a networking event, or in a meeting at your office? When during the conversation is the best time for you to make the request for a referral? It really depends, and each situation is likely going to be different.

Employing this strategy requires some detailed thinking on your part about defining your best possible referral sources, the context and content of the conversation you want to have with them, and how to deliver your message in the most effective way so that you’re fully heard and understood.

Don’t just wing it.

Write two or three scripts and practice them in front of your spouse or someone at your firm. They’ll more easily see where you need to improve your message and delivery than you would by practicing in front of a mirror. After a while, as you become more comfortable talking about your practice and the kinds of clients you want to serve, you will be able to talk extemporaneously and go off the script when it feels right.

Before you phone a referral marketing source and say, “Please, refer work to me,” you need to be able explain why you’re requesting to meet.

You could simply say, “I’d like your opinion on …” and bring up an issue that may be affecting their clients that your practice specializes in resolving.

Or, you could say you enjoyed working with them on a previous client’s case and were wondering if they had a similar case the two of you could work together on again.

A slightly more daring approach is to admit you’re a little bored: “I like to keep busy. I’ve got some gaps in my calendar coming up and was wondering if you’ve come across any new cases or clients you’d like to refer out?”

When you meet with your referral source, ask questions about her business — and ask follow-up questions to show you’re engaged in the conversations. Be sincere. You’ll likely make a personal connection, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll create more opportunities for yourself.

A good strategy, especially when dealing with non-lawyer referral sources is to ask what frustrations they’ve had when they’ve dealt with lawyers in the past. Write down what they say because those frustrations are marketing gold. The more you can understand their frustrations, the more likely you can design a solution for them.

After the meeting, enter detailed information about what was said and what each person committed to into your contact management software. Schedule a follow-up meeting, especially if there is a big potential for work from “A” level clients referred to you by this source.

If you can help your referral source by sending her a referral, introduction or connection, do it. For some it won’t matter, but for others it can make all the difference.

And always — always — find a unique and genuine way to acknowledge and thank your referral sources whenever you are handed a prospective client by them. If you’re stumped on how to be unique in expressing your gratitude, know that nothing is easier to do or more effective to communicate your appreciation than a handwritten thank you note.

An attorney’s fear of asking for money

March 13, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:56 pm

Nothing seems to turn attorneys into quivering lumps of goo faster than asking a prospect for a retainer check.

I don’t care if their area of practice is family law, estate planning, commercial litigation, elder law, etc. If you have a contingency fee practice, then you have likely been confronted by this fear. To look a prospect in the eye and discuss your fees can be terrifying.

If this is true for you, and your goal is to increase your profitability, then this may be the most important business skill you work on this quarter.

Why is it so hard? What about it requires so much work?

While there are multiple tactics we can discuss that can address this fear, in this post let’s focus on “The Ask.”

If you are not crystal clear how you will ask someone for payment, then you are going to bumble through the conversation. While you think it should be obvious to a prospect that you will ask for payment or discuss fees, most of the time this is not obvious to them. When you start talking about hourly rates and retainers, many prospects will display a confused expression.

What do most attorneys do when they see that expression? They immediately start discounting fees and their retainer in their head (which only makes matters worse).

What should you do? It may sound obvious, or perhaps a little silly to some of you, but I think you need to practice “The Ask.”

Think back through all the times that that asking for payment went well, and all the times it went bad, and consider what you did right and wrong. Then, practice asking. Then practice asking again.

If you want to increase your law firm’s profitability, one of the best and simplest strategies is learning how to ask for money. Practice, practice, and practice some more until your ask becomes easy.

Lawyers: Tech tips from a client

August 31, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:47 pm

One of my longtime clients, Attorney Mark Metzger, was featured in an article for Above the Law on how he created his own amazing document assembly program.

Mark is a member of one of the Atticus Dominate Your Market™ quarterly workshops, which I co-teach. He is a great example of how a solo practitioner can use a bit of ingenuity and patience to develop a strategy to leap ahead of competition.

In the article, Mark talks about how he streamlined a complex residential real estate closing process. Yes, there are real estate closing software programs out there, but Mark customized an off-the-shelf product for his firm in such a way that it allowed him to price aggressively and move work through his pipeline quickly.

Before you read the article, there are three things to consider:

  1. If you are going to repeat any action in your firm more than once, it may make sense to follow Mark’s lead.
  2. The software he references is an “off-the-shelf” toolset. That means anyone can buy it, download it, set it up, and use it. It may make sense to delegate or outsource the setup if you do not have Mark’s patience and tech skillset, but long term it pays off.
  3. In the Dominate Your Market™ program, we teach that sometimes the greatest way to increase revenues is not by marketing but by increasing your firm’s ability to move cases quickly and more profitably through your case pipeline.

Let me know what you think.

Lawyers: Have you registered for the fall semester?

August 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:26 pm

“Classes are starting soon!”

My attorney friends, did that bring back any of your law school anxiety? Don’t worry, Atticus has lawyers covered with several great courses lined up — from The Practice Builder™ (think of it as “Running a Law Firm 101”) to The Exit Strategy™ (for when it’s time to walk away from the practice) and every coaching opportunity in between.

On Aug. 20th, I’ll host a short webinar reviewing the group coaching programs at Atticus that are beginning this fall. You’ll learn about the enrollment requirements for each workshop and how to register. The webinar begins at 12pm Eastern. I hope you can join me.

Lawyers: Use this test to determine the profitability of your flat fees

May 7, 2015

Filed under: Money,Practice Growth,Practice Management,Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:39 am

Many of my coaching clients who are confident in their hourly rates are concerned about ways of determining profitability for their fixed price, or flat fee, services. They want to know how to reach a profit margin that will make them the kind of money they need to be successful.

Profitability is a term that is thrown around in business settings, but people often use the word without knowing what it really means. In order to define it, let’s first talk about what profitability is not.

Fair Price

When I talk about profitability, I’m not talking about what you or anyone else thinks is a fair price. “Fair” is a relative term, and everyone has his or her own idea of what that means. Whose idea of “fair” are we talking about? Fair to you? To the client? Is there some sliding scale of “fair” out there? Of course not.

Client Wish

Profitability also has nothing to do with what the client would wish to pay. Most people are looking for ways to save money. But you are not in the business of providing the cheapest, bargain priced, clearance rack service. You are in the business of providing excellent service. And excellence costs money. If the client doesn’t want to pay the rate you need in order to be profitable, then they are not the right client for you.

Market Expectations

I’m also not talking about market expectations. Just because your competition charges a certain rate, that doesn’t mean that the service they are providing their clients is on par with yours. Their overhead may be different or their staff may be larger or smaller. They may cut corners or provide extras you aren’t aware of. You can’t base your rates on what your competition charges.

The Acid Test for Determining Profitability

All that you need to be concerned about here is figuring out what you need to charge your clients in order to ensure that your business is profitable, that it’s making you money.

Many people have complex ways of figuring profitability. But determining what you need to charge your clients in order to be profitable does not have to involve long drawn out calculations.

There is a straightforward, simple way to determine profitability. It’s what I call the “Acid Test.”

  1. Calculate the amount of time it will take to provide the service. This includes your time and your staff’s time.
  2. Figure up the cost per hour for that time. Include the amount your work is worth per hour and the cost of your staff’s work.
  3. Then multiply those two figures to arrive at the amount it costs you to provide the service your client needs.

But that number does not make you a profit. That number only covers your costs. Note my emphasis: Your costs. Not the client’s cost. That is the minimum amount you need to make just to break even. You can’t run a profitable business that way.

To make a profit, you need to build in a 50 percent gross profit margin on top of your total cost for the service. So basically, take what it costs you to cover your expenses, and then double that number. That is the amount you need to charge the client in order to make a profit. It’s that simple.

If you apply this simple acid test to your fees for service, you will become profitable.

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