The success of your law practice depends on new clients. And when it comes to acquiring them, your client intake process is everything. You can’t just hope the phone will ring. You can’t just hope the person answering the phone will say the right things or get the right information. You can’t just hope the prospect will set up a meeting. You have to make all this happen and it takes a process!
Whether or not you believe you have perfected your intake process, believe me — there is always room for improvement. Here are 10 essential steps in perfecting your intake system:
- Keep it simple. The purpose of having an intake system is to…ready for it?… intake! Get people in the door! When they call, you get their name, their phone number and their email address immediately. Those are the three essentials you need. Then you want your intake team to focus on making a connection so the prospect wants to book an appointment.
- Go long. You may have been told that you want to get the person off the phone as soon as possible. But what the prospect feels is that they’re being given the bum’s rush. Let them talk. Empathize. Spending a little more time on the call means you will build more trust with the caller.
- Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions like, “How do you feel?” or “How did it happen?” are gateways to getting prospects to open up. The more they talk, the better they feel. They feel good, they book the appointment.
- Listen. You want your intake person to listen, not talk. You build trust by listening.
- Train. You simply must train your intake people on everything — from how you want the phone answered to knowing the firm’s website address to the more delicate scenarios they may encounter with prospects. Do some role playing to help teach. And don’t just train once; implement regular refresher courses so they don’t become jaded. If you can’t do it yourself, I recommend checking out The Rainmaker Institute’s Intake University for training your intake team.
- Measure. If something’s not working, you won’t know exactly what unless you are doing a good job of measuring your intake process. How many calls you get a day, time per call, how many appointments are booked, how many no-shows, how many retainers are signed, etc. Do this for each member of your intake team so you can see who’s really performing and who needs help.
- Use technology. Today’s phone technology can provide you with many key insights into how your sales process is (or isn’t) working. Your follow-up process should be automated as well. You will want to set up an automated set of emails for appointment confirmations, to get those who called but didn’t book an appointment to do so, to get those who booked but didn’t show up to rebook and to get those who didn’t sign at the initial consult to hire you. All this can be managed quickly and effectively with an auto-response email system.
- Provide resources. You want to have a database of resources on hand to refer people to that go beyond your firm. If there’s a domestic violence problem, you want to be able to tell them about available shelters. If someone’s been injured and needs a specialist, have some names to give. You want to provide a holistic approach to helping them.
- Look for burnout. There is no question that members of your intake team will experience burnout. Be prepared to move them — either permanently or temporarily — to another position. It’s critical that your intake team members stay fresh and enthusiastic — your prospects will feel it if they aren’t committed.
- Always be connecting. Coffee isn’t just for closers, it’s also for connectors. Trust is built by making a connection with each person who calls your firm looking for help. You need to make them feel safe and secure so be sure your intake team is laser-focused on connecting, not just closing.
The most important person in your firm (hint: it’s not you)
Yes, you are an important person in your firm. But when it comes to getting new clients, the most important person in your firm is the one who answers the phones. And that person should be someone with experience in sales, not customer service. This person is the gatekeeper to your revenue stream! Don’t just hire someone with a pleasant phone manner — hire someone who knows how to sell!
Your intake system will either make or break you. If you haven’t been paying close enough attention to your intake process — or, God forbid, don’t even have one — then you have some work to do.