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Voicemail for grownups

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I don’t know about you but I hate voicemail messages like this: “Hey, it’s Don and I’ve got a quick question. Call me back. Thanks.”

Phone tag much?

If you want me to respond, ask me what you want to ask me or tell me what you want to talk to me about, and make it as easy as possible for me to reply.

Like this:

“Hey, it’s Don; it’s Monday and I’m trying to figure out which form to use for [whatever]. I have to file by Wednesday at 5 pm so if possible, could you get back to me by the end of the day Tuesday? I’d really appreciate it. You can either email me at [email] or text or call me at [number]. Thank you so much!”

Of course, your outgoing voicemail message should prompt callers to leave sufficient information:

“This is Joe Lawyer. Please leave your full name and a detailed message about the purpose of your call. Also, make sure you leave your phone number or numbers, even if you think I have it, and the best time or times to reach you. For a quicker reply, please email me at [email]. Thank you.”

You should also tell callers when you or someone from your office will get back to them so they know what to expect.

Oh, and when a caller follows instructions, praise them because so many people don’t.

Do you know the formula for getting more clients?

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Posture

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Yesterday, I talked about how some lawyers are afraid of their clients. They bend over backward to give them whatever they want, even if they don’t deserve it, because they’re afraid of losing the client or having them say bad things about them.

They try to please everyone, thinking they’ll attract more clients, but all they do is drive clients away.

When you’re too eager to please, too available, or too generous, you project an image of neediness. Clients can sense it.

When clients see you as needy, they get nervous. It’s like pulling up to a restaurant at 6 pm and seeing an empty parking lot. Nobody wants to eat where nobody else is eating.

People want to hire attorneys who don’t need their business. True or not, that’s what you want them to think.

Don’t be so quick to give them what they want. Make them wait a day or a week to book an appointment. Have them speak to someone on your staff or fill out a form on your website before they get to speak to you.

To pull this off, you have to believe that they need you more than you need them. If you don’t believe this, you need to work on that. For starters, make your services different and better than what other lawyers offer, or at least package and present them that way.

It’s called posture and the most successful attorneys have it in spades.

Have you seen attorneys who accept new clients “by referral only”? That’s posture.

You want to attract clients, not chase them. You want them to see you as the best choice, not just another pretty face in the crowd.

On the other hand, don’t do what some attorneys do. Don’t overplay your hand. Some attorneys come off as cocky, expensive, and too unavailable. Hey, if a client wanted that they’d hire a doctor, not a lawyer.

How to get clients to see you as the one they want

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Are you afraid of your clients?

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I heard an interview with an expert on international affairs. He was asked why Europe was the way it was. (I’ll let you fill in the blank about what that means.)

He said, “They’re afraid of their people.”

Europe has a history of revolutions and uprisings. Monarchs have been dethroned (and beheaded), corrupt leaders have been convicted and jailed, and the current heads of state are simply fearful of a similar fate.

Interesting. Explains why they outlawed guns, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my question for you is, “Are you afraid of your people?”

Do you operate out of fear of what your clients may say or do? If they ask for something, do you give it to them even if they don’t deserve it or you can’t “afford” it, because you’re afraid of losing them or offending them or being accused of something untoward?

If you do, stop it. Person up. (That’s how they say toughen up in Europe, y’all.)

Your job isn’t to make everyone happy no matter what. Your job is to do your job, and you get to choose for whom you do it.

You also get to choose to give more value to your best clients, the ones who deserve it, because it’s smart for you to do that, and not to every client because you’re afraid of losing your head.

How to make your clients happy

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An easy way to show your clients some love

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It’s been crazy around here the past week. We’re close to the fires and concerned about them spreading our way. Every day, the sky is filled with smoke and helicopters and planes buzzing overhead.

We’ll probably be okay but you never know.

Our credit union sent us an email that was on point. It said, “In the Wildfire Zone?” They wanted us to know that we are their number one priority and they hope we are safe. They offered some tips for being prepared in case we’re ordered to evacuate.

Things like planning where we’ll go (and making sure they take pets), having a “go bag” of clothes, supplies, credit cards, meds, and extra cash, making sure the gas tank is full, and gathering up important documents to take with us.

They also provided a link to ready.org, which has more information about evacuation planning.

Most of the emails we get from them are about “business”. It’s nice to know they are thinking about us and providing helpful information on an important topic. It’s important even for those who aren’t in the fire zone.

Note that they didn’t write the underlying information about what to put in a go bag, which papers to include in an “important papers” file or evacuation planning, they simply provided links to existing websites.

How difficult would it be for you to send your clients an email like this? About what to do in case of fire or flood, earthquake or hurricane, or other disasters?

Not difficult at all.

But your clients will appreciate you for thinking of them, nevertheless.

In fact, there are plenty of consumer-related topics you could write about: insurance, credit, crime prevention, retirement, refinancing and many more.

Ten minutes of research and some links to other people’s websites will do the trick.

For extra credit, interview some subject matter experts. Here’s how I did that and turned it into a book.

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Bedside manner for attorneys

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According to a recent study, a majority of doctors give their patients just 11 seconds to explain the reason for their visit before interrupting. Only one third gave them enough time to describe what’s bothering them.

I don’t know if doctors interrupt to ask questions or because (they think) they’ve heard enough to issue a diagnosis but it doesn’t matter. A visit to a doctor isn’t just about getting well.

Patients want to feel like they made the right decision in choosing a particular doctor. They want to feel that they are in good hands and that everything will be okay. They want to know the doctor cares about treating them and not just the disease.

It’s been said that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care.” It’s said because it’s true.

Do I even have to say that it’s also true for attorneys?

Let your clients talk. Look them in the eye. Don’t take calls during the appointment. Say please, say thank you, and go out of your way to show them you appreciate them, you care about what they’re going through, and you are committed to helping them get better.

Take care of the client, not just their legal problem.

Client relations made simple

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Sometimes, you should let them see you sweat

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Seth Godin said something I’ve mentioned before. He said there are two ways to provide your service. The first way is “with drama”. Let the client see how hard you’re working. Make a big deal about all the additional effort you’re expending on their behalf.

In other words, let them see you sweat.

The other way: “Without drama. Make it look effortless.”

Godin says both ways can work and you should choose the approach depending on the client and the situation.

I agree that both approaches are viable but there’s a third option. You can let the client know you’re working hard for them or giving them extra effort or value without being dramatic.

If you’re providing extra services or other freebies, for example, list them on your invoice followed by a “courtesy credit” or other indication that you’re not charging for those extras.

You can also provide invoices with lots of details about your work instead of the more typical invoice that omits most of the details. Let them see all that you did behind the scenes to get the job done.

You can also involve them in the natural drama of the matter by sending regular reports about your work and progress and by cc’ing them on correspondence. When you speak to them, you can use body language and tone of voice to provide subtle clues about the magnitude of your effort, no sweating required.

At the end of the day, you want clients to know that what you do is hard but you have it under control.

Invoices that get paid

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Reviews happen

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Positive reviews are important. Maybe even critical. I’ve heard that 84% of people trust an online review as much as if a friend had referred them.

So yeah, you want reviews.

I know, all you can think about is getting a stinker from some nutjob who thought you weren’t going to charge for [whatever] or who complains that you took 25 hours to get back to them instead of the 24 you promised.

Sorry, Charlie, bad reviews are going to happen. In fact, clients are much more likely to leave a review when they’re not happy than when they are, so that risk will always exist.

Unhappy clients are emotionally driven. They’re going to tell the world how they feel just because that’s how they roll.

Your multitude of happy clients is less likely to leave reviews. They need to be prompted, reminded, and made to feel like their reviews are important.

The bottom line: ask clients for reviews. You’ll get a preponderance of positive ones and they’ll drown out the ones who reside in crazy town.

According to a recent study, more than 50% of the people you ask for a review will provide one. The numbers are probably less for legal clients who want to protect their privacy but if only one in five leaves a review you should be way ahead.

Tell them which site you prefer and give them the link. Tell them how reviews help other people who are looking for a lawyer choose the right one. Tell them how much you appreciate them for taking a few minutes to help you.

Just DON’T ask for Yelp reviews, however, because, I just learned, it is against their TOS and you don’t want the Yelp police coming after your azz.

While you’re at it, you should also ask clients for referrals. Here’s how

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I want your case

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According to HR professionals, few job applicants say the one thing they should say in an interview to give themselves the edge as a candidate for the job.

They don’t say, “I want this job.”

Employers want to know you want what they have to offer. They want to know that you’re excited about working at the company and eager to get started.

Why should they hire you if you’re not?

Anyway, I was thinking about how lawyers are in the same position with prospective clients. Clients want to know that we want them as a client.

Does that mean we should tell them we want their case or that we want to be their lawyer?

No. We shouldn’t say that. But we should tell them this nevertheless.

Through our body language, the questions we ask and the comments we make, we should let them know that we are enthusiastic about working with them or that we understand their pain and want to help them alleviate it.

We need to tell prospective clients that we are not only ready, willing, and able to help them, we want to.

Yes you can get more referrals

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Find out what people want and show them how to get it

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Legendary investor Bernard Baruch said the secret to getting rich is to “Find out what people want and show them how to get it”.

Ah, you thought you were supposed to “help them” get it. No, you’re busy. You can’t help everyone do everything (unless they hire you). You have a practice to run.

Show them what to do. Showing is easier than helping and nearly as valuable.

Give them direction and feedback. Point to resources. Refer them to experts. Show them what to do. When push comes to shove, they don’t really expect you to drive them to their destination. They will appreciate you for giving them a map.

On the other hand, don’t just “tell them what to do”. Anyone can do that. Anyone can post a list of recommended resources on their website. No, show them.

Talk to them and make sure you understand exactly what they want and why. Then, provide suggestions and recommendations specific to their needs so they can get what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Explain why you recommend A instead of B. Give examples so they understand your rationale. Make sure they are ready to move forward before you turn them loose but let them know they can come back to you if they run into a snag.

Showing is less than helping but more than telling. Find out what people want and show them how to get it.

This is me, showing you how to get more referrals

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Client relations with Post-it notes?

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You’re throwing a party. You want your guests to open the front door and come right in. You want them to take off their shoes. You don’t don’t want them using the upstairs bathroom. You want them to help themselves to the snacks you’ve laid out for them and the drinks in the cooler.

To make your guests comfortable, you put up signs around the house explaining everything.

That’s the gist of an article I saw today.

It’s a great idea. Not only does it make guests more comfortable, it relieves you of the burden of repeatedly being asked where the restroom is and having to explain “the rules”.

But no, I’m not suggesting you do something like this at your office (unless you’re throwing a party). What I am suggesting is that when it comes to client relations, the sentiment behind this idea is on target.

We want our clients to feel welcome, not just to our office but to our “family” of clients. We want them to be comfortable with us and what we’re doing for them.

And, let’s face it, we also want to make things easier on ourselves.

That’s why we send new clients a welcome letter or kit, explaining things. We tell them about fees and billing, office hours, appointments, parking, and what to expect in the first days and weeks ahead.

We send them copies of our work product so they can see that we’re on the job. We send them reminders about upcoming appointments. When there’s a problem, we don’t email, we call to explain things, answer questions, and ease their anxiety.

In the office, we greet them with a smile and a handshake. We make eye contact and ask them if they would like something to drink. We take our time explaining things and answering questions.

Because our job as professionals goes beyond doing legal work. Our job is just as much about making our clients feel welcome, safe, and appreciated.

Most clients can’t tell how good you are as a lawyer. But every client knows and will remember how you make them feel.

Happy clients give more referrals

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