Interviewer: This is Interviewer Jacobs talking very briefly to Attorney K., DUI, DWI defense attorney out of Philadelphia and South Jersey. How are you doing?
Attorney K.: Doing well. Thanks, Rich.
Interviewer: Today we’re going to spend a few minutes talking about conversion, converting potentials into clients. I just wanted to ask you some of the ways that you do it because you seem to be pretty good at not only getting people to hire you but most of them do it over the phone without them always having to come for the initial consult.
Can you talk about the evolution of what you learned and gone through to get people to take that step of actually signing up with you before they come into the office?
Attorney K.: Sure. Before I started my own law firm, I worked for a number of people and saw there were a number of different techniques that people used. Most lawyers I come across and talk to about their techniques for converting clients or converting leads into clients usually involved bringing the folks into the office. The prior person I worked for, his philosophy was the exact opposite which was try not to bring the person in the office.
When I started my own firm, I could see the wisdom behind both philosophies, I guess, from a certain degree. Over time I really have come to the conclusion that probably the best method is a hybrid. I usually don’t bring people in the office. I will give them the option. Typically, after the initial consultation over the telephone, they just would rather get things dealing right then and there. I’ve had people who at first even insisted on coming in and then call me a day later or that day say, “Forget it. I don’t want to spend the time doing that. I’d rather get this taken care of over the telephone.”
What I found is that when you spend 15 to 20 minutes with the initial telephone consultation, that really weeds out the tire kickers, the folks who are just trying to figure out how much an attorney is going to cost them. Again, some people have that philosophy. Well, you never quote a fee over the telephone. I don’t see what the difference is whether you do it over the phone or in person. The only difference in my mind is the waste of time that you’re spending with somebody who is not in the position to pay what you’re going to charge.
In fact, if somebody wants to come in, I will always float the fees that I charge to them over the phone to see if they’re still interested in coming in. If they’re insisting in coming in and they still seem interested after I talk to them about what my fees are going to be, then I know that I’m not usually going to be wasting my time.
Interviewer: You actually use that as a litmus test to see if the person is really serious and capable of paying what you ask for.
Attorney K.: Yes, that’s right. I want to filter out the crap, to put it plainly. I don’t want to spend time in person, which is usually going to be at least an hour and they’re going to try to milk you for everything that you’re worth, try to get as much information from you. Most people don’t realize that the information that you’re conveying to them is how you pay the bills. They think that by asking and getting as much information from you that they’re going to be able to figure out how to handle it on their own or perhaps use that to qualify other attorneys who are maybe charging less money.
Like I said, usually I can figure who’s interested on going forward in a 15- to 20-minute process. Sometimes it gets a little bit longer but I don’t mind going a little bit longer if I think that the lead is showing sincere interest in hiring me.
Interviewer: What kinds of things do people say that you can tell they’re just kicking tires, they’re testing you, or they’re baiting you to use your information to just talk to someone else?
Attorney K.: Well, one of the key indicators is when the person calls up and my secretary says, “I have so and so on the phone and he or she wants to know how much it costs to hire you,” without even talking to me for a second. I know this person’s just really looking for the best price. Occasionally, I will still talk to the person depending on additional information I get from my receptionist. On occasion, those folks I have converted into clients. Typically, you know from the get go that these folks are just interested in price.
The other leads who tell you immediately, “I’ve been talking to a number of attorneys,” again, that’s, to me, a true indicator that they’re just going down the list of information that they found on the internet potentially and calling each one to see how much information they can get from these lawyers over the phone and who sounds like they provide the best service at the lowest price.
Interviewer: Any other common things that people say that lets you know either good signals or bad signals, like the most common ones you have to deal with?
Attorney K.: I will always, at some point in the conversation, directly ask them what they do for a living. It serves a two-fold purpose. Obviously, I want to know that in regards to a potential commercial driver’s license issue or a professional licensing issue or just to know in general if the person needs a license to carry out his or her occupation.
The second aspect of that is to find out if the person is going to tell me that they’re on SSI or working at Taco Bell, then I know I’m probably wasting my time. At that point I will usually cut the conversation much shorter than I would be. For somebody that tells me that doctor, lawyer, or other highly skilled professional, I know I have somebody on the phone who is in a position to pay my fees and is somebody whom I want to represent because, in my experience, the more educated the client is, generally the easier the client is to deal with. Generally they trust you more and that’s another aspect of why I try to filter out the wrong clients when I’m going through the initial telephone process.
Interviewer: Just as the potential clients either consciously or subconsciously doing to you, you’re evaluating, poking, and prodding to see if they’re viable at the same time.
Attorney K.: That’s right. That’s the main thrust of these initial questions in my conversation. Part of it, the initial conversation over the telephone, is going to be inquiring about specific details in their case, which I find most lawyers aren’t interested in hearing over the telephone in the initial conversation. Again that gives me somewhat of an idea of what kind of case I’m going to be handling and how deep I’m getting into. Also let them talk to find out how good this person is at explaining him or herself. Can this person convey the right information to me that I’m going to need to defend?
Again, my goal is to try to find the best client for me. I’m not just trying to find any client who is going to come to me and pay a fee. I want to find the best clients who are also willing to pay the fee. Sometimes I’m not going to get the best clients. I’ll get subpar clients. In my opinion, the greater success that I have with my cases depends on what I’m doing in my initial interview.
Interviewer: I’ve heard a lot of attorneys will not want to answer questions. They say, “Just come into the office. Just come on in and we can discuss your case and the fees and disclaimer. Every case is different,” to kind of stop people from asking those questions. Obviously your opinion is you think that’s a big mistake to do that, right?
Attorney K.: I don’t necessarily think it’s a big mistake. I think with cases that are referred to you, you can take that extra time and have them come into your office. I will say on occasion, even with referrals, people who are referred to me from a good source, I set them up to come in and I don’t spend any time with them on the phone beforehand, a lot of times they will cancel the interview, the initial meeting in person, because they’ve already talked to another attorney. I found out that it has to do with family members convinced them to talk to somebody else who obviously got them in a little bit sooner or perhaps spoke to them over the phone and gave them some degree of confidence and they decided to go that way.
I don’t even trust clients to come in the next day. Unless you have the time available immediately and they can come in immediately, I think you’re taking a risk by hoping that they’re going to come in, in person, even a day or two later.
Interviewer: Is there obvious language that they use that tells you that, besides the obvious, they’re ready to commit right then over the phone?
Attorney K.: Well, I would think generally when they start asking you a lot of questions and they tell me information like, “Wow. I’m happy talk to an actual attorney on the phone,” or, “You’re giving me some great information. I didn’t think about that.” When they’re reacting positively to the information that I’m conveying or if they can give me a compliment about what I’ve told them or how I’ve interacted with them or how they feel comfortable immediately by talking to them over the phone, then I know that they’re on the right track to hiring me.
Interviewer: Do you have to ask for the sell on the phone or do they usually say to you, “All right. What should I do now?” How does it literally end up resolving?
Attorney K.: It just depends on the person. Some people are very verbose so they’ll continue to ask questions. Frankly, I don’t want to be on the phone with a person for too long if I’m not getting a definitive commitment. Then I will cut in and say, “What do you want to do at this point? Do you want to go forward with representation?” I will ask them a straightforward question. Others will just say to me, “All right. How do we get started?” It really does depend on the person.
Interviewer: Anything else you want to say about conversion that you think is important for other attorneys to hear that would help them?
Attorney K.: I would just advocate to any other attorney who is interested in increasing conversion, certainly if you have the time when a lead calls in, you should take that time to, at least briefly, talk to the person and give them a sense of interest in their case. If you’re the type of lawyer who needs and wants to speak with them in person then certainly get these folks into your office as soon as possible.
Interviewer: This was short but I appreciate your time.
Attorney K.: You’re welcome.