Interviewer: This is Richard Jacobs, and you’re listening to the 1st of a series how to better convert potential clients into retained clients for attorneys. I’m here tonight with Josh Hale. He’s a pretty good converter and a criminal defense attorney from the San Diego area.
Josh: Thanks for having me on the call.
Tonight we’re going to talk about how attorney Hale converts potentials into clients and hopefully provide some value to other attorneys that are listening on how they can improve their score, get more clients retained, make more money and have a better time of being a lawyer and not just scratching by to make a living.
One of the things that you said to me in previous conversation was: You can tell, if you’re on the phone with a potential, usually in the first two minutes, if they’re going to retain you or not. I found that kind of odd. How can you tell that? What kind of signs do you get from people that tell you that’s going to happen or not?
Josh: Generally, people, believe it or not, I think have made their decision before they call you. Particularly, we are in the age of Internet, people have an idea who they’re looking at. They have an ability to look at who we are, who other people think we are, including past clients. They can look at reviews of our office. They can look at cases sometimes. I handle civil work as well. People can see some of the civil work I’ve handled. It’s all public record.
People do their homework now. It’s not the same as even when I started. I’ve had my license six years, going on seven. When I started, people just were guessing. Now, a lot of people already know what they want to do. They’re calling the attorney more or less to determine whether their gut instinct was right and I think a lot of times that’s exactly what happens and you can hear it in their voice whether they’re interested or not from the get go.
We’re in a little bit of a different field in so far as most of the people that are contacting us want to talk to us. They may not like the fact that they have to talk to us but they already know that they need to hire an attorney. Some other things, when you’re selling widgets, for example, sometimes you’re creating a need. With attorneys, by the time people are contacting us, due to our rules of ethics, the need’s already there. They’re just trying to decide who they want to use.
Interviewer: Okay. I mean, for the past two and a half years, I’ve actually been providing leads to attorneys that are cold. Sometimes they will have come and looked at an attorney’s profile on a my site, maybe read some reviews, but sometimes they are cold. When you talk about people researching you, I mean, I’m sure a lot of the Internet leads that people get, people maybe haven’t researched the person. Can you tell if someone has researched you or not? Can you tell what kind of call it’s going to be when you first get on?
Josh: The people that research you like to tell you. They like to let you know that they know about you. I have a lot of people who tell me that they’ve seen reviews for my office, that I’m the sort of attorney that they want to work with. I think that that’s easily the best indicator is when someone blatantly tells you. People want to appear intelligent and they want to show people that they’ve done their homework. We’ve always been rewarded for showing our homework. I think the easiest way is when someone just tells you.
When somebody doesn’t tell you, they still let on indicators. They say types of cases that you’ve handled in the past. “Oh, I understand that you do DUI’s,” or, “I understand that you do injury work,” or, “I understand that you do medical malpractice.” I’m just throwing out different areas that attorneys do. I don’t do medical malpractice myself. But you hear someone who says that and you automatically know that they know something about you when they say that because it’s not just information they’re going to get from looking at your publicity on a DUI site. You’ve got to be cognizant of what they’re saying and you’ve got to actually listen. That’s a sales technique my Dad taught me a long time ago: listen to people. A lot of people don’t listen. They’re too busy selling to listen.
Interviewer: You spent a lot of time cultivating reviews on the web. I know for awhile you used Kudzu and, again, as I talk to you, it seems like you spend a lot of time trying to cultivate as many reviews as you could. You feel that’s done a lot of the work for you in selling?
Josh: I don’t feel that. I know that. I know people say that to me before we get started a lot of times. They’ve seen what other people have said about me. One of the things that I hear an awful lot, particularly on Internet leads, is, “One of your clients referred me to you.” I’m rather blunt, I’ll ask, “What client referred you to my office?” They’ll say, “Well, it’s somebody that you handled something for.” And I’ll say, “Well, the only reason I’d like to know is I’d like to personally thank them for sending you to my office” and if they ever come back to my office in the future, I’d like to let them know that I’ll make sure I take care of them and give them some sort of retainer discount or something along those lines where they feel that they’ve done something worthwhile.
I can’t offer retainer discounts for that, but I can always give somebody a discount to say ‘thank you’.” A lot of times when people start going down that path of, “Well, we heard it from one of your clients,” eventually they’ll say, “Well, what I actually did,” and they’ll stumble and eventually they’ll say, “I actually read about you on the Internet.” From there, I know the reviews are working. I know that they’re paying off and the time I’ve put into them is paying me back.
Interviewer: Wait a minute, people will say, “Oh a friend of mine recommended me,” but the truth is that they’re covering up that they’ve read reviews?
Josh: Well, everybody wants to feel that they know somebody. “I know somebody who knows you.” Part is they might think that they’re going to get a better deal. The other part is, if they’re saying that, like I said before, they’ve already kind of decided that they want to work with you.
The next trick is to give them the ability to work with you. Don’t put too many hurdles in front of somebody who’s already told you that they’d like to work with you. If somebody says that they were referred to you, it doesn’t matter if it was through the Internet or through their best friend who happens to be somebody you went to high school with. What’s important is they’ve already decided they want to work with you. Now how do you let them work with you? That’s what conversion is. Conversion is going that next step.
Interviewer: Was there a critical mass of “enough” reviews where this started to happen pretty frequently or did you pay attention to that?
Josh: I see, on any given site that I’m reviewed on, when there are five or more reviews on a given site, I get more, a lot of marketers like to use the word, “juice”. I get more “juice” out of it. I see more returns on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s, like you were saying before, Kudzu or Yelp or if it’s, you know, there’s hundreds of review sites out there. Some of them are better than others and some of them get you more referral juice than others but generally, you’ve got to have at least five.
One, anybody can write a review. Two, somebody can ask their friend to do it. Not to say that attorneys have ever been less than honest. I don’t mean to imply that at all but I know my reviews out there are all real and my clients do too. You can see it in the reviews. You can see the grammatical errors. You can see that somebody doesn’t talk like an attorney. They may talk like a telemarketer or they may talk like a dentist’s assistant. They speak differently even in the way they write and people can see that that’s real and that makes a big difference.
I knew one guy when I got out of law school that was having somebody else write reviews for him. I can’t say if it was an attorney who was doing this, I can’t say anything about that, all I’ll say is he had no value or benefit out of it for his business. I think it’s people can see through it. You know? People can see the honesty in my reviews. They see that it’s real people and that makes a big difference.
Interviewer: Well, one thing I’m getting from what you’re saying so far is that it’s got to be a goal of the attorney. Maybe it’ll take even six months or a year but their reviews will always have to be on their mind and, like you’re saying, they have to cultivate in a few select places at least, 5, 10, 15, and then it really starts to add a beneficial effect for everybody they talk to. They can point to the reviews’ credibility. People find them on their own, all that stuff. I think that summarizes what you’re trying to say, right?
Josh: I think so. I think that referrals are the best marketing, without a shadow of a doubt. Clients that come to me and are actually a friend of one of my previous clients or a sister or a brother of a previous client, they’re always the ones that hire me on the spot because they just say, “Hey, you treated my brother or sister, my cousin, my aunt, uncle well. I want to hire you.” I don’t have to convert them. They’ve converted themselves.
On somebody who’s coming from the Internet, they want to be there. They want to be able to say that it was somebody that they really did know and you’re just giving them an excuse. You’re letting them work with you and that’s what a lot of people that are doing this or any other type of sales don’t understand. Once you’ve got them with you, all you’re doing is giving them an excuse to work with you.
Interviewer: Tell me some of the ways that attorneys lost people or make it hard for people to work with them. I’m getting the feeling that you’re saying that attorneys push potentials away either intentionally or unintentionally so what have you seen that they do to do that?
Josh: Well, I think a lot of attorneys are going through life on the presumption that the way things used to be, are the way things should be now. I’ll explain that a little more. One of the things, when I got out of law school I was working for a gentleman who was about 80 years old and he had the feeling that you should always get somebody in the office, “You should always get them in the office,” because they’re more likely to sign if you can put the pen in their hand. I saw the fallacy in that because he was getting lots of people in the office but he was also getting lots of clients that he didn’t want. He was getting clients that weren’t paying. He was getting clients that weren’t paying enough. He was doing lots of work for nothing.
In what I do, I think that that’s a mistake, getting people into the office. I think that’s a waste of the attorney’s time. I think it’s a waste of the client’s time. I live in one of probably the biggest geographic court jurisdictions in the United States, which is San Diego County. You have probably 100 by 100 miles that is covered in one court jurisdiction.
I live in one of biggest geographic jurisdictions for courts probably in the U.S. It’s probably about 100 by 100 miles and if I make people come to my office that are in North San Diego and I’m in South San Diego, that’s an excuse for them not to hire me. “Oh, he’s too far away. It’s going to be too hard to work with him.” Well, I have people hire me in all of California in criminal matters and personal injury matters and small business matters. I don’t force anybody to come into the office. I have not met with somebody face to face for the initial retainer or for the initial contract in several years.
Every other attorney I talk to says, “Well I’ve got to get people office. I’ve got to get people in the office. I’ve got to get people in the office,” and I think that that’s a fallacy that has been perpetrated by listening to other attorneys on how they convert and I think it’s wrong. It hasn’t done anything for many attorneys and for some attorneys, it does less than that. It makes life more difficult because they get clients they don’t want. I think that’s a big part of it.
Interviewer: How do you do that then? How do you get people to take the step of literally signing your retainer agreements or giving you their credit card over the phone without getting them into the office to see you face to face?
Josh: Well, I’m a rather blunt guy. I tell people the truth. I tell people the tricks of the trade, as it were. I’m like that magician that gives away the tricks. I forget what his act is called but I know you know who I’m talking about. I tell people exactly what other attorneys are going to do. They’re going to say, “Come into the office. Let’s schedule an appointment. Can you meet me on Tuesday at 2:00 or Wednesday at 3:00?” They desperately want the client to come into the office and because I’m one of the few attorneys that don’t do that, I tell them the tricks.
I tell them exactly what the other attorney’s going to say. I give them information that allows them to feel like they got an upper-hand on the used car salesman. Basically what I’m doing is saying, “Look, every attorney that you talk to on the phone, they’re not going to give you this consultation that I’m giving you for free. They’re going to tell you to come into the office and they’re going to tell you to come into the office because they want to do one thing: they want to hold you hostage once they get you there and until you sign the contract. I’m not that attorney. If you want to work with me, I want you to work with me because you want to, not because I’ve tricked you into working with me.”
The truth is, it’s all semantics. Everybody’s trying to convert and the client knows that you’re trying to convert his business as well. It’s just a matter of, “How do we convert?” and, “What do we say to the client that makes them feel like we’ve given them information that somebody else hasn’t given them?” I hear that quite regularly from many, many people that retain me is the reason they retain me is because I have given them more information in five minutes than they’ve gotten from every other attorney in an hour of meeting them at their office.
Interviewer: What do you think the other guys are withholding if you’re able to give the missing info so fast? What is it?
Josh: I told you a phrase the other day when we were talking, something that we were talking about with somebody in your work, which is I let the client know I’m not looking at them as my next ATM withdrawal. I’m looking at them as a client with an important case. It’s sometimes the most important thing going on in their life. I treat them like everything they’re saying is important because it is important to them. Other attorneys are treating them like they’re the next client. I’m treating them like they’re an individual that has something important to say and they can hear that in your voice.
They know that if I’ve got to talk to them for two hours to make them feel comfortable I’ll do so but many times they’ve decided within the first couple of minutes whether or not they want to work with me. They’re just trying to confirm what they’ve already decided. I’m giving them the information that other attorneys tell them they’ll give them when they get into the office.
Many times, even when they get in the office, the other attorney doesn’t give them that information because, again, they’re looking at them as the next contract, the next retainer agreement. Obviously, I have to do the same. I wouldn’t be in business if I weren’t in business to make money but looking at somebody as an individual makes a big difference and people can hear that in your voice.
I think as soon as you tell somebody to come into the office, they know the game you’re playing and I’ve changed the rules of the game. I’ve differentiated myself, which is something that I’ve talked to you about many, many times. If we want to be successful in whatever we’re doing, whether that’s DUI’s, auto accidents, marketing to attorneys, which is what your forte is, we have to be different than everybody else. How many marketers are out there, people that are doing marketing full-time? Do you have any idea or are there so many that you couldn’t even guess?
Interviewer: A lot of the attorneys tell me that they get called every, single day by marketers so that’s a lot.
Josh: Yes? I get called most days at least one time. What makes an attorney go from one step to the next is you differentiate yourself. With me, when you started working with me, you said, “What can I do to earn your business?” and I told you and you probably remember what I said. I said, “Rich, I’ve been burned by a lot of marketers. They take money and they never do anything and if you want to prove to me, put your money where your mouth is and we can figure out a way to work together,” and we figured out a way to work together that’s been beneficial to us both, I think. It’s because you differentiated yourself. That differentiation is what makes any business special, whether that’s an attorney, a marketer or a used car salesman. I keep using the term “used car salesman” because that’s where I learned a lot of this.
My Dad was a used car salesman for a lot of years and he told me a lot of the things he used and a lot of those things I use to this day. Some of those things I go exactly opposite of what he says and it works for me. He liked to have people in the office sign an agreement, like right in front of him, and I agree with that if you can have that, that’s great. But when you have somebody calling 30 different attorneys, you don’t want to give them a chance to get off the phone. You want them to sign before they get off the phone because if they get off the phone they’re going to be called by somebody else.
Interviewer: That’s the paradox. I would guess the past few years, probably a lot of the people you speak to have talked to more attorneys than before. They’d probably even tell you that, “Oh, I’m calling around,” or, “I’ve called a bunch of people.” I’m sure the attorneys feel even more pressure to get the person because they know if they get off the phone with them they’re going to run.
Josh: That’s the thing, though. A lot of the attorneys think that as soon as they get somebody to schedule an appointment with them that they’ve got the client in the bag and that’s a fallacy. It’s just not right because as soon as they get off the phone with them, there’s going to be another guy on the phone with them that’s like me, that’s going to try to convert them before they get off the phone. I know I’m telling, from my office, my trade secrets but if that can help some of your clients do better in their given areas, hopefully none of them are in San Diego, so be it. Regardless, even if everybody used every secret I have, I would still find a way to differentiate myself from them and that’s the goal. Differentiation leads to conversion.
Interviewer: That might be a little bit nebulous for people so let me get more specific. Back to when you made a little speech saying, “That attorney’s going to try to get you in the office. You know what that means,” literally when do you tell someone that you’re on the phone with, with that? Right in the beginning? As soon as possible? At the end?
Josh: You mean in so far as telling people that other attorneys are going to try to get them into the office?
Josh: I pretty much lay out four or five things right at the beginning of the phone call and I say, “Look, first, I’m on the phone with you because I’m interested in getting your business.” People respect that. People know, at that point, that you’re not just a guy to give free information, which a lot of attorneys give a lot of free information and having no expectations of any returns. I’ve been told I give too much information but my goal is to get returns on it. Some of those returns is conversions. Some of it is conversations at a later date when they realize that the slick salesman attorney that’s out there can’t fulfill what he said he would.
The goal of telling people these tricks of the trade is twofold. One, if they call anybody else, they’re going to hear it from the other attorneys. “Yes, I talked to four other attorneys and they all wanted me to get in the office. You were right, Attorney Hale. That’s exactly what they wanted and I felt really used.” I’ve heard that more than once.
Interviewer: It’s fair to play hypnosis. You’re poisoning them against, poisoning the well, I don’t know what you want to call it, laying traps for other attorneys. It’s almost like hypnosis. You’re telling them, “They’re going to say this,” and then when they say that, I bet you and the person goes, “Hmm,” in their mind and it really affects them a lot more when otherwise they might gloss over that comment.
Josh: That’s the whole thing is that’s one side of it. The other side of it is when I’m talking to them, maybe they’ve talked to four or five other attorneys already and I’m saying, “This is what other attorneys are going to say to you,” and they’re saying, “Oh my God. That’s what every attorney said to me.” You’re doing exactly the same thing as the other attorneys – you’re trying to convert. But what you’re doing is you’re giving the person an excuse to work with you because they feel at that point that you know what you’re doing. “Wow, that guy, he told me exactly what other attorneys were going to say.”
Interviewer: What else do you tell them?
Josh: It’s not that you’re poisoning the well. I’ve never told somebody, even when somebody’s asked me advice about another attorney, for example, another attorney that I knew, I have never told somebody anything bad about any other attorney. That’s not who I am as an attorney. But telling them tricks of the trade? I don’t owe it to anybody not to tell the tricks of the trade. The reason is none of these other attorneys are out there putting money in my bank account not to do that. I’m doing it to make a living and that’s my goal is to make a living, even if it means another attorney doesn’t convert the lead. I don’t particularly care if the other attorney doesn’t convert the lead. I want the client in my office, not in his.
Interviewer: What are some of the other tricks of the trade if you’re willing to speak to them?
Josh: Well one of them I’ve been using the past several months was based on your advice. You use a service called DocuSign. I understand that there are several services that do roughly the same thing but DocuSign is a service that allows attorneys to basically get a document signed while they’re on the phone. I’ll send a DocuSign agreement for DUI’s. That’s where I started with you, with DUI’s and we do some other things now but DUI’s probably a good conversation piece because that’s where we have the most experience together.
I use DocuSign while I’m on the phone with them. I’ll say, “You know what? Here are some of the things that we’ve got going on.” In California one of the tricks is attorneys will scare people by saying, “You’ve only got 10 days to retain me,” and that’s because there’s a 10-day rule for the DMV. Well, that’s a pretty common thing for attorneys that handle DUI’s to say.
I take it a step further. I say, “You know what? We don’t have much time on this DMV issue. I’m going to send you the agreement right now while we’re on the phone. Do you have access to the Internet right now while we’re talking? Tell you what, why don’t we go through the agreement together. You can click it. As soon as I get off the phone with you, and I’ll tell you what, I’ll even do it without a credit card, before I get off the phone with you, I will have made a request to the DMV. The DMV will not be able to take your license automatically.” I’ve just went above and beyond what every other attorney does.
Interviewer: That’s true, yes. None of them would essentially do free work, which that’s what it is.
Josh: That’s what it is but, like I said, these people are individuals. They want to know that they’re going to be taken care of. I’m giving them every reason to work with me versus somebody else.
Interviewer: Here’s another softball I’ve actually heard from other attorneys. A couple of attorneys actually told me this: they don’t like to spend time with people on the phone because they’re afraid that it’ll be considered to be giving legal advice. I don’t know if I heard that right from them but they either had that reason or some other reasons not to spend much time on the phone. They only feel comfortable with them in the office. Can you talk about that?
Josh: Any time an attorney talks to somebody, it can be construed as legal advice, plain and simple. But these people are attorneys. This is what they do for a living. They give legal advice. If they can’t give good legal advice, they should find a new job.
Interviewer: Do you have any disclaimer on the phone, like, “By the way, we’re going to talk about ‘X, Y and Z’ but I just wanted to let you know that just by talking about it doesn’t mean that we have an attorney/client relationship, but I am giving you legal advice.” Do you say that? Do you have to say that?
Josh: I don’t think that you really do because, truthfully, at least in California, even if you say that, they can come back at you later. Just putting a disclaimer on something doesn’t do anything but make you feel good. If you stick to a standard script of information, then if they ever came back at you, you could just say, “Look, I tell people they have this issue,” the DMV issue, for example, and they have 10 days. That’s sound like legal information. I tell them that the prosecutor does this on a normal case. That’s standard information. I tell them that they can lose their license between four months and a year for a first time DUI. That’s standard information.
As long as you don’t get into the specifics of their case and you stick to more or less a script, and I don’t mean you have to write everything out but you stick to saying the same things every time, you’re going to find that do real well and that you also have less liability. Other attorneys, I think, again, they want to get people in their office because they want the contract signed. It has nothing to do with liability. They want the contract signed. That’s the bottom line. It’s a trick of the trade and every attorney knows it. Get them into the office. That’s why I’m telling every attorney that’s listening to this, change the game plan. Do something different.
Interviewer: Let’s give them some more specifics. Do you suggest attorneys, not word for word, but do you suggest that they script out this new way of going to speak to potential clients?
Josh: If they’re going to be doing it on the phone, for example they’re doing DUI’s, if they’re going to be doing a DUI practice and they’re going to be getting leads over the Internet, something that you and I started out doing, then they should have a general idea what they’re going to say every time. Ten days, that’s a big one. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to go to trial. You have this. You have that.
What is it like working with my office versus another office? Something I tell people is, “Look, the way I’m talking to you now is the way I will always talk to you. I will never, not answer the phone. The phone number that you have right now is the phone that rings directly to me. You will not reach a secretary. You will not reach an attorney that works for me. I have people that work for me, but you’re not going to reach them. You’re going to reach me. You’re paying to talk to me.”
I do everything I can from the second I say hello to the second they sign the contract to differentiate myself. Once they sign the contract, there’s not a whole lot of differentiation in the way one good attorney is going to handle the case versus another good attorney. The only time we have to differentiate our self is before they sign the contract, at least in my opinion.
Interviewer: Another phenomenon I was encountering with attorneys, and maybe it was just me, but they seemed very wooden and they seemed like they don’t talk very much. They give you one word answers and it’s very careful about what they say. Do you think that that translates to them talking to people on the phone and maybe they’re literally even socially awkward or they just feel like they have to be very short, otherwise they’ll get themselves in trouble or otherwise they won’t say the right things? I’m sure that negatively affects the person’s view of them if they’re just tight-lipped like that and serious and “[professional]”.
Josh: I think attorneys have an idea of what we’re supposed to be. A good example for this is doctors have this whole Hippocratic Oath and they’re supposedly not supposed to have any transference, I think is the word, where they don’t have a personal relationship with their patients and that’s including any sort of friendship or anything like that. And doctors all have this idea that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
If you ever saw the movie “Patch Adams”, that’s based on a true story. It was somebody who was a lot like me that said, “Just because every other doctor is out there that does things this way, doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be.” That’s what I do, I change things up. I think a lot of attorneys have an idea that they’re supposed to be stoic, they’re supposed to be serious, they’re supposed to be robots.
The people that hire me, generally, are the ones that end up calling me “Josh”. They don’t end up calling me “Attorney Hale” all the time. If they look at me like I’m another human being that’s trying to help them, I think that’s very beneficial because they know that I actually do want to help them. It’s a big difference when somebody calls you your name, your given name, rather than “attorney”. I think a lot of old-school attorneys would say that’s a sign of disrespect. I would say the exact opposite. They feel that they’re important enough in your life that they can call you your given name.
Interviewer: (inaudible 0:35:41). That’s what a lot of them are. I don’t know. They feel naked unless they’re standing in front of their law books and unless they give you a one-word very, very specific answer. They say anything extra, they’re going to lose face or I don’t know.
Josh: I think the problem that a lot of attorneys have is that they see themselves as attorneys. When they’re on the phone, they’re not an attorney. They haven’t gotten the client to work with them. At that point in time, they’re a salesperson and every attorney dreads seeing himself as a salesperson. He’s a professional who went to law school, who passed the bar exam, who upholds the highest standard of ethics. He’s an attorney.
He’s not an attorney. He’s nothing until he gets the contract signed. Until he gets that contract signed, he’s got to convert the client. He’s got to get the client to want to work with him. The whole basis of that is he’s got to be a good salesperson too. That’s why, in the legal profession, we have the term “rainmaker”. It’s an attorney that works for the firm that converts the most clients. Well, what does rainmaker actually mean? It just means salesman of the month. It’s just a different term for salesman of the month. But attorneys can’t even use the term “salesman of the month”, they have to change it to the word “rainmaker”.
Interviewer: I got you.
Josh: Because they feel that they have this ethical standard to be different than everybody else and that’s not true. It’s a profession, which means we still have the right to make money doing what we do. The way we make money doing what we do is by getting people to want to work with us and, ultimately, to give us money.
Interviewer: Let me say a couple more questions. What happens if, and I’m sure this comes up a lot, a potential client starts asking you specifics about their situation and, they may not be pumping you for information but they’re just generally freaked out so they start asking you all these specific questions? I’m sure one response is, “Come into the office,” but what’s another response that would work just as well that wouldn’t, maybe, give away all the info or give it away, what would work better?
Josh: Be truthful. I say many, many, many times the same thing to every client and that is, “Look, right now, anything I say to you would be a guess. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to your question. What I can tell is that I won’t have any idea,” for example I keep going back to DUI’s because I worked with you in the past with DUI marketing. I know we’re doing other things now and I’d be happy to discuss converting some of those clients but I’ve gotten the most experience there. When I talk to those people, I try to always, Jiminy Cripes, I forgot my train of thought. What were we talking about?
Interviewer: That’s fine.
Josh: I just went off-rail, Rich. I apologize.
Interviewer: No, that’s fine. I was saying to you, the question was, when potential clients start asking you all kinds of specifics about the case . . .
Josh: Oh, Okay. I know exactly where I was going. I apologize. You got me back on track. Okay. Basically I say to them, “Look, anything I tell you is going to be a guess and I can’t really answer your question, particularly in a criminal case.” They say, “Well, why is that?” I say, “I don’t have the police report. One of the biggest issues in your case is I’ve got to see what the police had to say about the incident, a DUI in particular.”
You have the field sobriety test. You have the preliminary screening. You have the booking. You have Title XVII. You have this, that, the other. You have to see that police report to be able to give them any sort of guess as to what going to happen on their case. Instead of backtracking and saying, “I can’t answer the question,” you can say, “In a lot of circumstances, this is what might happen, but none of this is going to be really valid until I see a police report. I don’t know.”
I think that works real well because people understand that. They know that attorneys have to have 100% of the information or we have 0% of the information. It’s black and white because the second something is not eliminated for us, that’s the thing that’s going to stop us up. That’s the thing that’s going to be a problem.
If I don’t have all the information, then all I can do is tell the client, “Hey, this is completely a guess. I don’t know. What I can tell you is once we get that police report, I’ll tell you what I think. Secondly, I’ll tell you, in my experience, my best prognosis as to what’s going to happen in your case.” People really respect that because they understand an attorney doesn’t necessarily know right up front. A lot of times they’re not looking for the attorney to know.
They’re just looking to know that once the attorney gets the police report, that, “Hey, this is what’s happened in the past and this is what I think I can do for you. From there, more than anything, regardless, I’ll fight for you. No matter what else happens, even if you’re police report is just bad, bad, bad, I will fight for you. That’s my job.”
That’s what people really want to hear when it comes to an attorney. They don’t want to hear specifics about their case. They don’t want to hear case law. They want to hear that an attorney cares enough to fight.
Interviewer: That’s what they all say, you know. “I’ll fight for you,” and all that but you’re communicating it in a different way. This also makes me think that this is another point where attorneys would feel tempted to… well, I’m not going to say they’ll say unethical things, but they may be tempted when someone’s pressing them on the specifics of their case. “Can you get this taken care of? Can you this business, can you get it dropped?” I’m sure, like a lot of them, you got to have an answer or the best way to handle that. That’s why I’m asking.
Josh: The thing that I hear that is the most borderline as to what you’re talking about, I hear this a lot more from what I keep referring to as “old-school attorneys”, is the phrase, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. I’ve got it handled.” What does that mean? It really doesn’t mean anything but it makes the client feel like the attorney’s going to take care of them and that, if it’s something where they’d be going to jail, they won’t be going to jail. It just makes people feel safe and secure.
To me, it’s borderline unethical. We have no idea what’s going to happen on a case. I think that that’s exactly what you’re talking about is where some people will say something like that. That’s two things. One, it’s borderline unethical, but, two, as far as converting somebody, what are you saying that’s different than anybody else? The whole point is you’ve got to do something different, which is not what they’re doing at that point. They’re just saying, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you,” that’s what a lot of attorneys say.
Interviewer: Okay. Yes, I mean, you could also say too, “Hey, a lot of other attorneys will probably try to tell you that they can get this reduced or dropped or, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it for you,’ but I think that’s a mistake because X, Y and Z,” so you can further, I guess, set the expectation when they talk to other attorneys and turn it in your favor that way.
Josh: I think any time you can set their expectations in so far as what they’re going to be hearing from other attorneys, you’re doing yourself a favor and you’re helping the client not choose to work with somebody else. That’s always the goal. If you’re not in this to convert leads, then you should probably be working for a corporation. If you’re working for yourself, you’ve got to convert. That’s how you make money. Again, I keep using the same word and it’s going to hold true the entire conversation, “differentiation”.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about cold leads. You get reviews, that’s wonderful, but what about ice cold ones? What do you do with them and what do you suggest to other people?
Josh: I think on cold leads you’re still doing a lot of the same things. You’re still telling them what other attorneys are going to do as far as the conversations. You’re still telling them how you’re different. You’re still differentiating yourself from other attorneys. You’re still giving them an excuse to work with you. A lot of times on a cold lead, if they’re getting it from a service provider that provides all leads, you know the lead providers better than I do, but if they’re getting a bunch of leads from provider “X” and that provider is sending those leads to 37 attorneys who practice the same area in the same geographic area, all they’re getting is 37 phone calls of attorneys saying the same thing.
Interviewer: That’s true.
Josh: Again, it goes back to the same thing over and over and over. This is what every attorney, every marketer, every salesperson needs to take out of this phone call: if you’re not differentiating yourself, then get out of the business because you’re not going to make a living doing it.
Interviewer: A lot of people would listen and say, “Yes, that’s wonderful,” and I know you told me 100 times so give me some more specifics.” Are there any other specifics, and if you don’t have any right now or you don’t want to disclose them, that’s fine, but are any other specifics that you can come up with, especially for cold leads, that you can speak to that would help people?
Josh: I ask people if they’ve talked to other attorneys.
Josh: That’s a big one. It sounds simple and it is simple but it changes the tone of the entire conversation. “Have you talked to other attorneys about this? What have they told you? What information do you still need? You’re still wanting to talk to me, obviously, somebody hasn’t given you enough information. How can I complete the questions you have?” Because when you complete the questions you have, that’s when you’re going to hire the attorney.
Interviewer: Oh, very good. Okay. Yes, you can use that as that one question could open up a whole world of ammunition, maybe that’s the wrong word, but a whole world of talking points that you can use to get them closed.
Interviewer: That’s very good, very, very useful.
Josh: If they haven’t talked to any other attorneys, then they haven’t gotten the information, obviously, at all and what you need to do is, first, find out what they do know. A lot of people have done research as to their particular type of case. Some people have done nothing. Some people will say, “I have no idea. This is all new to me.” You say, “Look, do you want me to explain the process? Would you like me to tell you ‘A’ to ‘Z’ what generally happens in these cases?” and a lot of people say, “Oh, yes, that’d be great.” You just kind of give them an overview of what the case is. A DUI, you have DMV, then you have court, court can give you fines, court can give you classes, court can give you jail. They haven’t heard this from anybody sometimes and sometimes, if you do it correctly, by the time you get off the phone, you’re their attorney.
You want to give them a lot of information because you don’t want them to have an excuse to go to somebody else because they feel they haven’t gotten enough. It really depends on if they have talked to somebody or not before they talk to you. If they have, then what you’re trying to do is complete the puzzle for them.
What have they missed out on? “What questions do you have, because you obviously have questions or you wouldn’t still be calling attorneys? How can I get you to work with me because nobody else is answering the questions that you have? Obviously you want your questions answered. Let me do that for you.” That’s a cold lead for somebody who is calling in and they’ve talked to other attorneys.
A cold lead for somebody who’s calling in and hasn’t talked to anybody, you’re simply saying, “Hey, we have this puzzle to work out. Let’s do it from beginning to end together.” I know I’m using really simple terms but making someone feel comfortable to work with you is not rocket science. It’s showing them that you do want to work with them and you’re willing to do what I asked you to do all those couple years ago, I guess it’s been about three years is, put your money where your mouth is.
An attorney’s money is his information. Our information and our time, that’s what we get paid for. If I’m putting information on the table, you’re going to do one of two things with it: you’re going to hire me before the end of the phone call or I didn’t do my job or I guess there’s always the third person, who, they weren’t going to hire me regardless of what I tell them. By the end of the phone call, if they still decide not to hire me, maybe I’ve given them enough information that they can have their case worked on in the way they want that worked on. I don’t feel bad about that either.
I look at that as my pro bono. I give somebody the ability to find what they need and if they don’t want to work with me . . . I learned the first year I got out of law school, if somebody doesn’t want to work with you, you do not want to work with them. It doesn’t matter how much money they’re going to give you.
Interviewer: All right. So how do you ask for the goodnight kiss? How do you, literally, ask for the business at the right time? What do you say?
Josh: It’s situational, generally. Many of my phone calls will use the phrase or something along the phrase of, “Okay. Josh, if I want to work with you, what do we need to do next?” That’s a real easy one. That’s the homerun, hit it out of the ballpark, “Okay. Let me send you the contract while we’re on the phone. Sign the contract. You signed it. I’m your attorney. If you need anything else, here’s my phone number.” That’s the easy one.
Probably the next level is where somebody says, “Well, what do I do now?” Generally what I do is I’d say, “Look,” and this is another sales technique that’s a non-sales technique. I say, “Look, I’m not a salesman. I don’t want to be a salesman to you. I want to be your attorney. You’ve got to let me know if you want to work with me. If I make you feel comfortable and I make you feel like I know what I’m doing and I make you feel like you’re going to be safe in my hands, then this is the steps we’re going to take for me to be your attorney.” That one works pretty good, if they ask you that question.
It’s the person who just is non-committal that’s the hard one. It’s, “Well, you know, I don’t know what to do and I talked to 30 attorneys and I still really don’t know. It’s a lot of money.” Some of them are digging for a discount. I don’t fight with other attorneys on the basis of how much my services are. I just don’t do it. Other attorneys do. If they’re digging for a discount, then by that time I’ve probably lost the client, that’s what they want, this discount.
There are also those clients that are just so lost that they don’t know what to do so what you’re trying to do is give them direction. You’re trying to say, “Look, you called me and you had some questions, correct?” and most of the time they’re going to say, “Yes.” And you’re going to say, “Did I answer all your questions?” and a lot of times they’ll say, “Yes.” “Okay. I’ve answered all your questions. You know what’s going to go on. You know what it means to have an attorney work for you. You know this. You know that. You know this. Now, if I’ve answered all your questions, are you comfortable with me?” Just as blunt as can be.
Some people will say, “I don’t know,” and you say, “Okay. What can I do to make you comfortable?” Some people will say, “Well, yes, I’m comfortable with you. You sound like a straight-shooter.” I hear the word “straight-shooter” a lot. I don’t know why. I think people like the idea of the old West but they say, “You’re a straight-shooter. Yes, I trust you.” I say, “Well, if I’ve answered all your questions and you trust me, then would you like to retain me because I’ll tell you what I need from you for you to retain me.”
Generally, if you get to that point, they’re going to say ‘yes or no’. They’re going to say, “Well, I don’t know. I’m going to shop around.” If they’re shopping around, they’re price shopping and, ultimately, the reason that I don’t discount my services at all to anybody is another lesson I learned the first year I was in practice. The more I discount my services, the less the client appreciates me. I don’t know why. I’ve never figured that one out, but I just don’t do it. I give discounts to people that are in the military. I give discounts to people who are currently full-time students but in so far as discounting my services on the basis of what another attorney does, I won’t do it. If they want to go with the other attorney who’s discounting more than me, please work with that attorney because I don’t want the headache.
Interviewer: You’re giving specific reasons why. It’s not just, “Oh, all right, I’ll give you a discount.” There’s a specific reason why so people know the rules, you communicate the rules even if it means not working with you so, I understand what you mean. Got you.
Is it worth it to ask you about when you can tell that someone is not going to retain you or is it worth to ask about how you can tell if someone’s there just to waste your time?
Josh: I think all attorneys get phone calls from the people that are . . . oh, it’s almost like they’re just wanting somebody to talk to and the second that I realize that it’s that person, a lot of times I’ll get off and say, “I’ve got other things to attend to. You can call me back if you decide to retain me.” I let them down as easy as possible but, ultimately, I don’t want to talk to them. They’re a perspective client. They’re not a friend. If they need to talk to a friend, they should call a friend. Once they decide they want an attorney, they should call me.
There’s that sort of waste of time. There the people that are price shopping and that’s a complete waste of time for my office because I don’t lower my price. I tell people that at the get go. I say, “I’ve done pretty well for my clients. I continue to do well for my clients and I will fight for all my clients. Therefore, I feel my price is fair. I don’t change it based on what other attorneys do.” I tell them that ahead of time. If you want to tell me that another attorney is lowering his price, I will simply say, “That’s very nice of him. I’ll refer the next client that wants to have their DUI handled for $0.99. I won’t do that. I’ve got to make a living.”
I think when you’re really blunt with people like that, they have an understanding of what you’re willing and not willing to do. If they acquiesce to whatever the price it is that you have, that means they want to work with you. If you acquiesce to the price that they want, it means you want to work with them and there’s a big difference.
Interviewer: What if the first question out of their mouth is, “I’m just calling around, had a DUI. I’m just trying to see how much you charge.” What do you say to that?
Josh: It kind of depends on how they say it. If they’re just as blunt as what you’re saying, I’ll generally say exactly what my price is and I’ll say just exactly what a lot of people have said in sales since the beginning of time, “You’re paying for quality. You can go to the guy that charges you $200.00 and spends a half-hour on your case or you can go to me and I charge this much and I’m going to take as much time as I need to. I’m not going to compete with that guy. I’ve got no interest in only spending a half-hour on your case. I want to help you. I don’t know what he wants to do but I want to help you.” If they ask another question, you normally have a chance at retaining them. If they say, “You’re too high,” then you say, “Have a good life.”
Interviewer: Is there anything else I should have asked you about conversion that you think is pretty important to let other people know or is that about it for right now?
Josh: Well, I guess I’m going to turn the question around on you, Rich. Have I answered all the questions that you had for me?
Interviewer: I think so. I think you’ve given a lot of good nuggets of info. The call is definitely worth listening to and it’s going to help attorneys that really listen to it.
Josh: You’re comfortable talking to me?
Interviewer: I know, you always do that. I’m so comfortable, I’m about to fall asleep. I’m just kidding.
Josh: I’m being a little funny here but I’m also not. I’m doing the same thing to you that I do to clients. I’ve given you the information that you want. I’ve made you comfortable in talking to me. Now, the next step is to get you to sign the dotted line. Getting them to sign the dotted line may mean something different than what it means to my clients but, ultimately, it is the same thing.
Ultimately, the goal here for you in your conversation with me and me in my conversation with you is for both of us to make money. I may not make money directly from this phone call, you might. But if I can make money by other attorneys having same or similar questions, I’m happy to consult with any attorney, at any time, to help him learn how to convert. I hear time and time again from attorneys that they’re conversion rates on phone calls are about 3%.
Interviewer: Why’s that?
Josh: Then once they get to what I call a good lead, like an actual, real person that wants to hire an attorney, they’re as low as 5% – 10%. On a good lead, my conversion is three times that. So any attorney that’s listening to this that wants to learn how to convert because he’s not making enough money, I will be happy to take his money and teach him.
Interviewer: Well, how, specifically, should they get in touch with you then?
Josh: They should get in touch with me the same way all my clients do. They do not have to talk to a secretary. They do not have to talk to an assistant attorney. They can call me directly at 619-663-9384.
Interviewer: They will not eat green eggs and ham. They will learn to convert, Sam I Am.
Josh: That’s the goal, right? Because if we all get enough leads, truthfully, attorneys generally get enough leads. The reason they’re not making any money is because they don’t know how to convert.