What to do when a client says they can’t afford your fee

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What do you do when a prospective client tells you they can’t afford you? You have three options:

(1) Help them to see the light

Many clients who say they can’t afford you have the money, they just don’t want to spend it. Others can borrow the money, liquidate a retirement account, sell something, or otherwise find the money to pay you and they will do that, but only if they want to.

Point out the greater expense and/or dire consequences that may arise if they don’t hire you, or the immense benefits they will get if they do. Help them to see that hiring you isn’t an expense, it is an investment in their better future.

You can also show them that while you may be more expensive than other lawyers, you’re worth it. You have more experience, offer something others don’t offer, and provide more value and better “customer service” than other lawyers.

Most of this can be done before you speak to them, that is, via articles and posts on your website and in your marketing documents.

(2) Offer to “work with them”

That is, suggest that they hire you for part of the work today and the rest at a later date. You can make things more attractive for them by allowing them to “lock in” the fee they would have paid had they hired you for everything at once. You can also allow them to use a credit card or other financing options.

(3) Let them go

Tell them, in essence, “I’m sorry, let me know when things change for you”. When they want what you offer enough, they’ll find a way to pay for it. Stay in touch with them and remind them that you can still help them.

You can also offer to refer them to another attorney who charges less, which often helps them to decide that no, they really want you.

What you shouldn’t do is cut your fee.

Quoting fees (and getting them) starts with an unshakeable belief in the value of what you do. You can’t possibly expect clients to see this value if you don’t see it yourself.

Remember, there will always be people who can’t afford you and people who can. Target those who can and you won’t have to worry about the ones who can’t.

How to quote fees, invoice properly, and get paid. Go here

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Too hot, too cold, or just right?

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If you give prospective clients too many options for hiring you, you risk confusing them, and a confused mind usually says no.

If you only give them one option, however–hire you or don’t–you may lose them for other reasons.

The objective is to find a balance between too many  options and not enough.

Take a look at each of the services you offer. Are there too many choices? Are you confusing them with variables, add-ons, upgrades, and optional services that make it difficult to choose?

If so, look for ways to simply those options. Aim for clarity. Make it easier for them to decide.

If you don’t offer any options, however, if you give them a choice between “A” or “nothing,” look for ways to provide them with a second option. Something that adds value without adding confusion.

Let them choose “A” or “B” because whichever one they choose allows them to get the benefits they seek, and allows you to get a new client.

Sometimes, a third option is warranted. Should you offer it as option “C” along with the first two options? Should you hold back and offer it later? Or should you include it as a free bonus for choosing your higher priced package?

The answer is: I don’t know. And neither do you.

You could look at what other lawyers offer. You could conduct surveys and see which option prospective clients say is the most attractive. You could “go with your gut”. But the only way you’ll know for sure is to offer different options it to prospective clients and see how many sign up.

If you’re still not sure, start with two options. Price the second option higher than the first, but not a multiple of the first. $3,000 and $4,000, but not $3,000 and $10,000.

If you charge by the hour and you don’t offer any flat fees or packages, look for ways that you could do that because more clients will sign up when they know in advance how much it’s going to cost.

Master the art of successful billing and Get the Check

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How to get more clients with “The Puppy Dog Close”

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The Puppy Dog Close is a well-known concept in marketing and sales. Here’s the skinny:

You go into a pet store, just to look. The salesman sees you playing with the puppies in the window. You’re almost there, but the salesman can tell you’re not sure. So he says, “Why don’t you take one of these little fellas home for the weekend. No charge. If it doesn’t work out, bring him back on Monday.”

You bring the puppy home, give him a name and fall in love. There’s no way you’re bringing him back.

The salesman didn’t have to close you, you closed yourself.

You may recognize this approach when you go looking at new cars. The test drive is a form of The Puppy Dog Close.

Okay, so you don’t sell puppies or cars. How can you use this approach in your practice?

The odds are, you already do.

Think about it. Aren’t you giving people a “free sample” of your wisdom when you do a seminar or other presentation? When you write articles or blog posts or give away reports or videos, aren’t you showing people how you think and giving them a sense of what it might be like to work with you?

You also do it when you network. As people get to know you, they begin to like and trust you, and that leads to hiring you or sending you referrals.

If you offer free consultations, prospective clients get a chance to try you out and fall in love with you, or at least the benefits you offer. You help them gain clarity about their problems and the available solutions. You help them see a way out and a way forward and they like you for it. It’s hard for them to walk away from that.

You might want to take this up a notch. In addition to offering free consultations, you might offer a free entry-level service. Prepare a free simple Will, for example, as a gateway to doing a trust or other estate planning services. Give prospective divorce clients the first hour free, so they can see how much value you deliver.

Once a prospective client tries you for an hour, they’re probably not going to take you back to the lawyer store.

Crazy talk? I don’t know. How about giving this idea a try before you say it’s not for you. You might fall in love with this puppy.

To learn more about promoting trial, get The Formula

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Will you REALLY fight for me?

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A personal injury lawyer used to (still does?) run TV ads which ended with him pointing at the viewer and saying, “I’ll fight for you!”

But will he?

It depends.

Is it a good case? Are there enough damages? Does the other party have insurance?

If he were being honest, when asked if he would fight for the client, he would say, “We’ll see”.

“We’ll see” is a lawyer-like answer. But it won’t get the client to call.

Clients want more commitment. They do want you to fight for them. They don’t necessarily expect that you will win every time, or bring in a massive settlement, but they expect you to try.

“We’ll see” doesn’t cut it, so although you might be thinking it, don’t say that to a client.

Most lawyers recognize that their clients expect (and their oath demands) that they provide “best efforts” and they will tell the client something along the lines of, “I’ll do my best”.

That’s much better, but what if their best isn’t good enough? What if they don’t have enough experience? What if the case needs resources they don’t have? What if. . .

Your clients don’t want to hear that you’ll do your best, they want to hear that you’ll do “whatever it takes”. And that’s the message you should convey in your marketing.

This is also true for non-litigation matters. Clients want to know that you’ll do whatever it takes to help them achieve a good outcome. If you’re negotiating a contact, or drafting documents for them, they want to hear that you’ll do whatever it takes to protect them, deliver value, and make them happy.

“I’ll do my best” isn’t good enough. Tell them you’ll do “whatever it takes”.

If you want to earn more, make sure you have The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Email marketing done wrong

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I got an email this morning, from a guy in Russia. The subject, “Let’s do business”. The message:

I’m running a digital marketing agency focusing on local businesses that need help getting leads using PPC and Facebook ads.

One of the niches we’re definitely interested in are attorneys and you seem like an expert on this topic.

I’m not sure what kind of marketing services you provide to your clients but it would be good to have a quick talk and and see if we can bring more value to your customers by working together on some projects.

I won’t want to bore you with excessive details. . . get back to me if you’re interested in general. . .

You don’t know what kind of services I offer? Why not? You want to work with me on some projects? Yeah, I think I’ll pass. But I’ll use your email as an example of email marketing done wrong, thank you.

I don’t want to talk to this guy. I don’t know him and he obviously doesn’t know me. But even if he said something brilliant and I wanted to learn more, it’s waay too soon to talk.

So no thanks. Delete. Bye.

What could he have done differently?

For starters, how about personalizing the email? Show me you’ve actually read something I wrote or at least know what kinds of services I offer.

Then. . . let’s see. . .

How about mentioning the name of someone I know who referred you to me? That would get my attention.

Or how about mentioning the name of someone in my field you’re working with whose name would impress me and show me you’ve got some credentials?

How about friending me on social media, first? Like and share my posts, engage me, talk to me about something we have in common. When you email me, then, you can mention that we’re connected and remind me that we already have a “relationship” before you take the next step.

How about offering me something I might be interested in? A free report, a tip sheet, a checklist, a video, for example, that shows me how to make more money, save time, get more leads, or something else that interests me, related to what you do?

How about offering me a free trial of your product or service, so I can see if it’s something I want to use or recommend to my clients?

How about at least giving me your website, so I can learn something about you and how you can help me?

Get my attention, first. Show me you have something beneficial to offer to me or my clients. Earn my trust, before asking me to talk.

Attorneys can use cold emails in their marketing. But don’t just blast them out and hope for the best. Don’t “spray and pray”. Learn something about the prospective client or referral source, meet them where they are, take them by the hand and walk them towards where you want them to go.

They’ll come, but at their pace, not yours.

Marketing online? Here’s what you need

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Do you get nervous when quoting fees?

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You’ve met with the prospective client, diagnosed their situation, and told them what you can do to help. You’ve got your retainer agreement ready and it’s time to quote a fee.

How do you feel at that very moment?

If you’re like many attorneys, you’re nervous. You’re afraid they will say no or try to haggle. They’ll balk at signing up and you won’t know what to do next.

Maybe they sign up, maybe they don’t, but the next time you quote a fee, you’ll remember that feeling and your apprehension will grow.

It doesn’t get better over time, it gets worse. It gets worse because deep inside you may believe that your fees really are too high and you telegraph that to the client.

What’s the solution?

Reduce your fees. Lower them until that uneasy feeling goes away and you feel that you are offering them a great deal.

Hey, if YOU believe your fees are too high, they’re too high.

Think about it. If you truly believe that what you are proposing to do for the client is worth more than what you’re asking them to pay, if you truly believe that you deliver immense value and the client would foolish to turn you down, you would have no trouble looking the client in the eye and telling them that. No nerves, no doubts, no hesitation.

Okay, okay, you want to know if there is another solution.

Sure. Instead of lowering your fees, increase the value of your services.

Look at what other lawyers do and do more. Provide better service, bonuses, guarantees, payments options, and other tangible and intangible deliverables that make the totality of what you do worth more to the client.

When quoting fees, you’ll be able to tell the client the advantages of hiring you. You’re worth more so you can charge more.

What’s that? You believe your fees are fair? You’re nervous because you think the client won’t understand.

Ah, but they will understand. You just have to do a better job of selling your services.

Don’t just show them the “features” of what they get–the documents, the process, the work product–show them the “benefits”. Show them how they will be better off as a result of hiring you. Show them how they will save money, increase their profits, protect their business or family, minimize risk, or achieve peace of mind.

Features are what you do. Benefits are what they get as a result of your doing it.

Don’t hold back. Tell them what could happen if they don’t fix the problem. Give them both barrels, right between the eyes.

Tell stories about other people who tried to fix that problem themselves, hired the wrong attorney, or waited too long, and suffered the consequences. And then tell them success stories of clients you’ve helped get the benefits you offer.

Give them a vivid picture of how things could be if they hire you, and how they might be if they don’t.

Sales is about the transference of belief. If you believe in the value of what you do, and you transfer that belief to your prospective clients, you’ll sign up more of them and never get nervous quoting fees.

For more about using features and benefits to sell your services, get The Formula

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Charging clients more because you are worth more

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I heard from an attorney who says he gets tongue tied speaking with prospective clients about fees and tends to lean towards charging less. Even then, he’s afraid they will think he charges too much.

I told him to write out what he would say to them if he was confident about his fees–why he charges what he does, the benefits he offers, why he’s worth more than other lawyers, and so on.

Write it, read it, contemplate it. And then post it, or a version thereof, on your website so that prospective clients will be able to read it before they ever speak to you. They will understand that you charge a bit more but you’re worth it.

You might want to try this, too. Write down all that you do for your clients, from soup to nuts. Write down all the little things you do to make their experience with you as comfortable as possible. Write down all of the things you do to help them achieve a successful outcome.

You don’t have to post all of this on your site but you do need to see the value in what you do. You need to understand why you are worth more.

But what if you don’t believe you are worth more?

Then you have work to do. Because if you want to charge higher fees than you currently charge, if you want to charge more than other lawyers charge, you have to believe that you are worth more.

If you believe it, you won’t have any trouble talking about fees. You will do it confidently. It is a selling point for you. You want clients to know that when they hire you they get incredible value for what they pay.

Charging clients more comes down to believing you are worth more.

But keep in mind that when it comes to something as abstract as fees for professional services, value is relative and perception is everything. You’re worth what clients are willing to pay and you’re willing to accept.

No more and no less.

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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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Why didn’t the client hire you?

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You’ve met with a prospective client. You’ve given them a free consultation or done the dog-and-pony show. It’s decision time for them and unfortunately, the decision is “no”. You didn’t get the job.

You need to find out why.

Ask them why they chose someone else.

In your presentation or conversation, did you forget to say something they wanted to hear?

Did they think you don’t have enough experience? The right experience? What would have made a difference?

Did they see a bad review online or talk to someone who said negative things about you?

Were they unable to afford your fee? Would they have said yes if you offered a payment plan or accepted credit cards?

Were they expecting you to be more solicitous and comforting? Did you do something during the consultation they didn’t like (e.g., taking calls, checking texts, not making eye contact)?

Was it your website, or lack thereof? Were you lacking in content that proved you are good at what you do and have helped others?

Or was everything “okay” but other lawyers looked better or offered more? Clients have been known to hire the lawyer who offers free parking over the equally qualified one who doesn’t.

You need to know. If you made a mistake, if you don’t offer something clients want, if your bedside manner needs improvement, you’ll want to fix that so it doesn’t happen again.

So ask: why didn’t we get the job?

But here’s the thing. When they DO hire you, you should also ask why. What are you doing right? Why did they choose you instead of others?

Fixing your mistakes and neutralizing your weaknesses are important, but it’s even more important to maximize your strengths.

If new clients consistently tell you they like all the great content on your website, for example, that it helped them see the depth of your knowledge and experience and get a sense of what it would be like to work with you, you’ll want to do more of the same. If they chose you because of a referral from another professional, you’ll want to thank that person, reciprocate, and find more like them.

Clients will tell you why they did or did not hire you and their feedback is invaluable. But you won’t get that feedback unless you ask.

Turn your website into a client magnet. Here’s how.

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The best way to end an email

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What’s the best way to end an email?

The same thing you do at the end of any closing argument, presentation, meeting, pleading, report, blog post, or other persuasive communication.

Tell the reader what to do.

Tell them to buy. Sign up. Click here. Remember these three things. Go here. Do this.

When you tell people what to do, more people do it.

Can’t they decide for themselves? Sure. And they will. You’re not forcing them to do anything, you’re just pointing the way. Instead of leaving things up in the air and asking the reader to figure out what you want, you’re telling them.

And guess what? People want you to tell them. The judge wants to know what you want. The audience wants to know what you’re selling. The client wants to know what you advise. When you tell people what to do, you’re making things easier for them.

Of course somewhere in your opus you should tell them why. You have to back up your call to action with some substance. Tell them how they benefit, why it’s the right decision, what will happen if they don’t.

The call to action doesn’t literally have to be the last thing you say. You could tell them what to do and follow that with a memorable quote, a short story, or additional bullet points in support of your request. But don’t walk off the stage or sign your letter until you’ve told them what to do next.

You’re not in the entertainment business, you’re in the persuasion business. Do your job. Tell people what to do, and why.

Like this:

If you want to get more clients and increase your income, go to this page and buy everything.

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