How to make your phone ring

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Suppose that next week you get an email from another professional, a business owner, a blogger, or someone else who sells to, advises, or is otherwise influential in your target market. The email says something like this:

I want to thank you linking to my site in your post last week. I really appreciate it.

I just spent an hour reading through your site and I’ve got to tell you, you’ve really got some valuable information. I also signed up for your email list, downloaded your free report and think it’s awesome.

I’d love to interview you for my blog. I know my 10,000 subscribers would love to “meet” you. Would you be open to that? Of course I’ll also mention your website and encourage them to sign up for your list and download your report.

Could we do this some time next week? Please let me know, ASAP.

Nice. 10,000 email subscribers in your target market who will learn about you, with a strong recommendation from the owner of the list.

Do you think you might get some new clients out of this? And sign ups for your list that will lead to more clients down the road?

Fairy tale? Not at all. This kind of thing happens all of the time.

What’s that? It hasn’t happened to you? I find that hard to believe.

You do have a website with lots of good content on it, don’t you? You also have an email newsletter and a report or ebook you offer to encourage visitors to subscribe, right? I’m sure you regularly link to other sites in your niche, pointing to content your subscribers would benefit from reading, don’t you?

What do you mean, you don’t know how to do this? You do have a copy of Make The Phone Ring, don’t you?

If you want to make your phone ring, get Make the Phone Ring

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An attorney who gets it

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I may not use the word “posture” but that’s what I mean when I recommend charging top dollar for your services, refusing to discount or match another lawyer’s fees, and being confident enough to tell prospective clients to talk to other lawyers, as I did in yesterday’s post. Virginia appellate attorney Steve Emmert gets it.

After reading yesterday’s post, he emailed me the following:

Hi, David –

I read this entry, and it suggested a related topic. You may recall that I’m an appellate lawyer. Because my state’s appellate bar is small, we all know each other and we’re all pals. I therefore have a ready database of available alternate counsel.

My “related topic” is my fees. I have intentionally set my fees at the upper end of the range for appellate lawyers here. When someone – either a prospective client or one of my “customers,” a trial lawyer – calls and asks about my fee, I tell them up-front that I’m one of the most expensive appellate lawyers in the state. I then quote them a fee based on that premise.

As you might imagine, my fees dissuade many customers and clients from hiring me. I’m never upset when they can’t afford me; I tell them I can find them another capable appellate lawyer who can do it for less money. That makes everybody happy – my pal gets a new case that he would never have seen otherwise, and the client/customer gets to experience the unthinkable – an attorney telling him or her, “Don’t give me your money.” That usually floors them, and I have received more than one message, a year or two later, thanking me for my honesty and for the referral.

Finally, the real point of this overlong note:

Some customers or clients ask me to reduce my fee. My stock reply harks back to the previous paragraph: “No, but if you want, I can find you a capable” etc. This usually generates one of two responses. The first is, “Yes, please, I’d like to save some money.” I give those folks a name or two and then go about my life with a clean conscience. People who want to economize on a lawyer are not high on my target list of incoming business.

The other possible answer, which often comes after a day or two, is “I’ve thought about it, and while I appreciate the offer of a less-expensive lawyer, I’ve decided that I really want you to represent me. I’ll pay your quoted fee.” Imagine what that feels like; these are the kind of customers that you really go the extra mile for.

As you might surmise, Steve loves what he does. He gets to pick and choose the cases he accepts and because he charges top dollar, he doesn’t need lots of business to enjoy a very comfortable income.

Hold on, you say? That’s fine for someone with his years of experience and stellar reputation. One look at his website and you know that this is the guy you want to hire. Most attorneys can’t be that choosy. Most attorneys can’t get away with being “one of the most expensive” in their field.

And you are right. Most attorneys can’t. But far more could do so than even make the attempt.

Look, you’ve got to be good at what you do and you’ve got to be able to prove it. You have to have the chops. You can’t be the new kid on the block and expect to charge what lawyers with thirty year’s experience charge.

But you can charge more than you think.

Most attorneys play it safe. They “price match” what other attorneys charge, or they undercut them. They’re afraid of the competition. They expect that all clients choose their attorney based on price (they don’t) and believe they have to be competitive to get their “share” of the work that’s available.

They operate in fear, not confidence.

Who’s to say you can’t charge more than you do? Who’s to say you’re not as good as other lawyers who charge more, if not better?

I don’t know if you have what it takes to be “one of the most expensive” attorneys in your market, but I have long advocated setting fees that are at least in the upper one-third of the market. Obviously, most attorneys don’t.

If you’re not good enough yet, do what you have to do to get there. But if you are, don’t let a lack of confidence or a fear of losing business to other (cheaper) lawyers stop you from getting what you’re worth.

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Why you should tell prospective clients to talk to other lawyers

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I read an article this morning written for people looking for a lawyer on how to find the right one for the job. I’ll summarize it:

  • Attorneys specialize and it’s important to find someone who handles your type of case; [examples]
  • Keyword searches are a good way to find some candidates; avoid referral sites and directories, you don’t need a middleman
  • Check out their websites and choose three or four attorneys who handle your type of case; [examples]
  • Call all of them and ask questions about them (how long practicing, what percentage of their practice is this type of matter?), and about your case (what are the options, how much will they charge?)
  • Meet with them, ask more about the case, about how they will work with you, accessibility, fees, etc.
  • Most people looking for a client won’t do half of this, they will hire the first attorney they speak to, and that’s not wise. You have many lawyers to choose from so take your time and choose the one that is most qualified and “feels” right

Twelve paragraphs. Basic stuff. Something any attorney could write.

Including you.

Have you written an article like this and submitted it to blogs and websites in your target market? You should. It will bring visitors to your website who like your information and the honesty with which you presented it. They’ll want to learn more about you and put your name on their short list of candidates.

But here’s the thing. They probably won’t call other attorneys, as you advised, or if they do, there’s a good chance they will come back to you. They “met” you first. You helped them. You know what you’re doing.

And let’s face it, if they wind up hiring someone else instead of you, they were probably going to do that anyway.

One more thing. After you write an article like this, post it on your website, too. Yes, tell visitors that they should call other lawyers who do what you do, and tell them what to ask. Crazy? Not at all. They will respect you for being so forthcoming. They will see your confidence, and like it, and like you.

Just do it. You’ll thank me later. You’ll get lots of traffic from people searching for “how to find a _____ attorney,” and a good percentage of them will hire you.

Marketing online is simple when you know what to do

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7 things you probably don’t know about me

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I usually don’t share a lot about my personal life, at least not online. If you look at what I post on Flakebook and other sites, it’s either business-related or something fun but impersonal, e.g., cat videos others have posted.

And yet I do believe it’s a good idea to open up and tell people a little bit about yourself. It helps them get to know you and like you (“You do that, too?!’) When you have something in common, they begin to trust you.

Anyway, here are 7 things you probably don’t know about me:

  1. I entered law school at age 20. I wasn’t the youngest in my class, however.
  2. I sold my boyhood coin collection to open my first law office.
  3. I used to play the drums; now I play table tops and my thighs.
  4. In in 80’s, I owned a real estate seminar business. C’mon, didn’t everyone?
  5. I built a successful network marketing business and wrote a book about it.
  6. My favorite game is chess. I also like word games. I played a lot of poker in college.
  7. I would like to try stand-up comedy some day. People tell me I’m funny; I tell ‘em, “looks aren’t everything”.

No, not shocking. Not even very interesting. I don’t sky dive in the nude, I’ve never climbed a mountain, and I’ve never performed the Heimlich maneuver (although I did take a CPR class once).

Okay, now it’s your turn. Make a list of things your clients probably don’t know about you and post it (or a portion thereof) on your website and on social media. Email it to your list.

You don’t need to share your darkest secrets. They already know you’re a lawyer and eat your young.

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How to eliminate 80% of your law firm’s past due accounts

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According to a survey by LexisNexis, 73% of law firms report having past due accounts. Lawyers in small firms reported that up to 39% of their total client base is past due.

What causes this? And what can be done about it?

More than 80% of the law firms surveyed said that client financial hardship was the biggest cause. This suggests that the best way to reduce past due accounts is through better client selection. If you refuse to accept clients who are having financial issues, you will eliminate the number one reason clients fall behind.

Make sure clients have the ability to pay you before you do any work. Ask them to submit a financial statement before you accept them as a client.

This is not always possible of course, and financial statements don’t always reflect reality, so in addition, make sure you get a sufficient retainer at the time of the engagement, and make sure this is replenished when it falls below a certain threshold. You can also request collateral and personal guarantees, and get set up to accept credit cards and other financing arrangements.

Next, make sure that you bill promptly and frequently. A delay in billing is one of the biggest factors in clients’ falling behind. If you want to get paid on time, send a detailed invoice no less than every 30 days.

Finally, if you want to avoid large unpaid receivables and write offs, make sure you have procedures in place for addressing late payments immediately after they occur. Don’t let a small unpaid balance become a big one.

These three strategies, better client selection, sufficient retainers, and prompt and frequent billing, should help you eliminate 80% or more of your billing and collection problems and increase your cash flow. For more strategies, get my ebook, Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection, as a PDF or on Kindle.

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Things successful people don’t say

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Successful people have different philosophies than unsuccessful people. Successful people, for example, generally don’t say, “I don’t know how.” According to this Entrepreneur article, “Instead of automatically shutting down solution-finding, successful people learn what they can in order to succeed in a project or in their career.”

Another phrase you won’t hear successful people say is, “I did everything on my own.” Successful people surround themselves with smart, talented people, the article notes. “Recognize those that have helped you or made an impact and you’ll continue to earn success and recognition yourself.”

Go through the 15 phrases in the article. Do you find yourself saying or thinking any of these things? If you do, you probably won’t change by simply telling yourself to “stop thinking that way. You’ll have better luck replacing the unsuccessful thought with a related thought that is both true and success oriented.

For example, I know many attorneys hold the belief that, “If our competitors don’t have it, then we don’t need it,” number 14 on the list. If you share that belief, you’re limiting your growth. A successful person would think, “We can gain an advantage in our market by doing what our competitors don’t do.” The latter statement is both true and more likely to lead to growth.

The author says, “Copying competitors is one of the many possible deaths for most companies. True innovation comes from the flip side: figuring out what competitors aren’t doing and fill that niche to answer a need in the industry.”

If you have negative or limiting beliefs, turn them around and find a positive version of the idea. Anchor your new thought with ideas and information that support and “prove” your newly adopted philosophy.

To support the statement that you can gain an advantage by doing what your competition doesn’t do, you might read profiles of companies and leaders in industries outside of law who dominated their market by figuring out what their competitors weren’t doing, and doing it.

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How to get your first client (or your next client)

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An attorney who is starting his own practice wrote me asking how he could get his first client.

I’ve written before about the value of doing a S.W.O.T. analysis. “S” stands for “Strengths”; “W” means weaknesses; “O” is for “Opportunities”; “T” means “Threats”. You can read more about this here and here.

If you’re launching a new practice, or setting goals for growing and improving your existing practice, a S.W.O.T. analysis is a good place to start.

The attorney who wrote me didn’t tell me anything about his background or experience, or anything else, frankly, other than the fact that he doesn’t have an office. (I’d put the latter in the category of “Weaknesses”. Get thee some office space, my legal friend.)

Anyway, getting your first client. Or your next client. Start by assessing your “Opportunities” (and keep an eye on your “Strengths”).

Who do you know? Make a list of employers, your employers’ clients with whom you have a relationship, other lawyers, and business contacts. Include family and friends on your list.

Who do you know socially or from church? Do you have hobbies or something you do outside of work? If there are other people involved, put them on your list.

The point is that everyone you know, or have known in the past, may have legal work for you, or referrals. They may be able to introduce you to people who have work or referrals.

To get your first client, contact everyone you know and let them know what you do and what you want. Tell them how they can help you and ask them to do that. Ask them for referrals, ask them for introductions, and if they have experience in the business world, ask them for advice.

While you’re at it, ask them if they know where you can find an office space. Which reminds me, when you get an office, get in a suite or building with other lawyers. You can get work from them. That’s how I got clients when I opened my first office. Overflow, conflicts of interest, appearances.

What else?

Create a website. Add ten or twenty articles or posts that demonstrate your expertise. You need an an online presence so prospective clients and referral sources can find out what you do and how you can help them.

In fact, do this first. Then, when you contact everyone you know and tell them what you’re doing, you can send them to your website.

If you don’t know how to create a website that pulls in business, get my course, Make the Phone Ring, to learn what to include on your website and how to use it to get traffic, build a list, and get new clients.

Other opportunities? Look around you. Find some places to network or deliver a presentation. You’ve got the time. Don’t sit there organizing files, go meet some new people. Look for people you can help, and not just with legal issues. Send them business and introduce them to others who can help them. Build a relationship with them.

Every day, you need to build your email list. All of your marketing efforts from this point on should be designed to get more people to opt into your list. As your list grows, and as you stay in touch with them and remind them that you are available to help them solve legal problems, your list of clients will grow.

That’s enough for now. Do these things and you’ll have your first client. Or your next client.

Want more referrals? The 30 Day Referral Blitz shows you how.

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My formula for persuasive writing

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When I write sales copy, presentations, books, or blog posts, I often use a formula that makes it more likely the reader or listener will do what I want them to do.

I may want them to buy something, do something, or remember something. The formula works the same way.

The persuasive writing formula I use (no, I didn’t invent it) has five parts:

  1. State the PROBLEM (here’s what’s wrong, what you don’t have, what will happen if you don’t do anything about it.)
  2. AGITATE the problem (dramatize the pain, here’s more about how bad it could get, here’s other ways this will affect you)
  3. Present the SOLUTION (what can be done to stop the problem)
  4. Describe the BENEFITS (relieve your pain, other good things you get with this solution)
  5. CALL TO ACTION (what to do to get the solution and benefits)

Try this formula the next time you write something. You may find it helpful to start with the call to action. What do you want them to do? What’s the key takeaway?

Then, either work backwards through the other parts (ie., the benefits they will get when they do what you want them to do, the solution that delivers those benefits, etc.) or go to the beginning, describe the problem, and work forwards.

Anyway, an article in the Harvard Business Journal presents a similar formula based on classical story structure. In “Structure your presentation like a story,” author Nancy Duarte says:

After studying hundreds of speeches, I’ve found that the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers: By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved.

That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.

Persuasive writing is about creating tension (or identifying it) and then relieving it. If you want someone to hire you, show them the status quo and the path to a better way: “You’ve got this problem that’s only going to get worse; if you hire me, I will solve that problem (or help you take the first step towards solving it); here’s how you’ll be better off; here’s what to do to get started.”

Tell them a dramatic story that makes them angry or afraid. Just make sure it has a happy ending.

Do you know the formula for earning more in your practice? Go here.

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Would you like to get started today or is next week better for you?

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In sales, the “alternative choice close” is a well known technique for getting the client to buy something, rather than nothing. You ask them if they want “A” or “B” and no matter which one they choose, they’re buying something.

“Credit card or check?” “Deluxe package or basic package?” “Would you like to come in at noon or 4:30?”

Clients want you to help them make a decision. They know they might procrastinate and never get the work done. When you help them take action and get the benefits they want and need, you’re acting in their best interest.

And did I mention you’ll also get more clients?

Anyway, you can also use the “alternative choice” concept to improve your own decision making and productivity. It can help you reduce procrastination.

The idea is to always have more than one project you’re working on, or could be.

Writer Geoff Dyer put it this way:

Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other.

If you find yourself procrastinating on Project A, you can turn to Project B. Or Project C. When you find yourself resisting something, work on something else.

You probably do this now with client files. When you are frustrated or bored or unsure of what to do next on a given file, you put it aside and work another.

I do this with blog post and other writing projects. I’ve got lots of irons in the fire and when I run out of steam on something, I’ve always got something else I can work on.

I also do this with reading books. I have thousands of books in my Kindle and I usually read two or three of them at a time. When I find myself losing interest with one, I turn to another.

You can use the “alternative choice” concept for anything you’re working on, or should be. Calls, letters, documents (drafting or reviewing), even errands. Always have something else lined up, because doing “A” or “B” will always be better than doing nothing.

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Promote your practice with a tasty holiday promotion

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A local real estate agent sent me a card for Thanksgiving. It says, “Thanksgiving is the perfect time to remember special clients and friends like you. . .” It closes by saying, “Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving!”

I don’t know this agent and I assume she sent this card to many of my neighbors. If she’s like most real estate agents, she has a “farm” of 300 or 500 contiguous homes she targets. She advertises to us, mails cards and note pads or calendars and such, and otherwise keeps her name in front of us so that when we’re ready to sell, we’ll think of her.

Anyway, what made this card different is the offer. It says, “Email to order your complimentary FRESH APPLE or PUMPKIN PIE by Monday November 17, 2014″ followed by her email address. It continues, “Delivery is Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 2:00 to 6:00 PM”.

Now, what does this accomplish? Well, I assume she will drop off the pies herself and get to meet the homeowners, give them her card, and possibly offer a free home evaluation. If they’re not home, she’ll drop off the pie with her card or note attached, and follow up with a call to make sure they got the pie.

But it’s not about the pies, or meeting homeowners. It’s about creating an impression. It’s about standing out amongst all of the other agents in the area. It’s about anchoring her name with the pie promotion and being remembered for it.

That’s why you create a farm, and that’s why you build a list. So that when the client is ready, your name will be in their “minds and mailboxes”.

My guess is that no more than 25 out of 500 homeowners will request a pie. She’ll pay perhaps $3 per pie, plus the cost of the mailing, so maybe $300. She may get a couple of homeowners who want the free home evaluation, and that may turn into a listing. Or not. But more than a few homeowners who aren’t ready to sell will remember her when they are.

In addition, some of the people who got her offer but didn’t request a pie might be interested in a home evaluation. They may also know people who aren’t on the agent’s list but who are looking for an agent, so she could also get some referrals.

Anyway, could you use an idea like this in your practice? Next month for Christmas or next year? Or any other time?

What could you offer? Who would you mail to?

If you do something like this, I have a suggestion. Instead of asking people to send you an email to accept your offer, tell them to go to a page on your website with a form to fill in their name and email address. This way, they will subscribe themselves to your email list, allowing you to send them more information, offers, and invitations.

The other things this will do is get them to your website, where they can read your articles, offers (i.e., free consultation, download your report, etc.) and begin the process of getting to “know, like, and trust” you.

Okay, gotta go. All this talk about pie is making me hungry.

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