Making sure the client understands

The only thing worse than explaining something to a client and finding out he didn’t understand you is not finding out.

You talked, they listened, but they lost you somewhere along the way.

If they let you know, you can repeat what you said or explain it further. But if they don’t tell you and find out later they misunderstood, what happens?

Bad Times at Ridgemont High, that’s what happens.

And they blame you. Even if you did a great job of explaining and they didn’t listen.

They might have been thinking about what you said just before this. Or worried about their legal situation. Or thinking about what they have to pick up at the market on the way home.

It doesn’t matter why they didn’t understand, you have to make sure they do, for their sake and for yours.

Especially if it is a complex issue or an important decision.

How do you do that? Besides putting it in writing and asking them to sign off?

You ask them to repeat back to you what you just told them.

Have them restate what you said and tell you that’s what they understood. Ask if they have any questions before you continue.

Hold on. You also need to do this when they say something.

Restate what you heard and ask them to agree that this is what they meant.

Then you can put it in writing.

Happy clients bring repeat business and referrals

Where does it hurt?

If you want to communicate more effectively with clients and prospects (or anyone) and motivate them to act, you need to understand what makes them tick.

You need to know what they want and what they want to avoid or stop.

We’re talking about pain (what they want to stop) and it’s ugly cousin fear (what they want to prevent or avoid). Nothing motivates people to act more than these two felons.

When you understand someone’s pain, you can offer them relief. Someone is in trouble, they want to be rescued. Someone is threatened, they want protection.

When you know where they hurt or what they fear, you know what you need to say to get their attention.

You can also persuade them that you can deliver the outcomes they seek by referring to ideas and examples from their industry or market and by telling stories about clients you’ve helped overcome similar problems.

Before you talk to another prospective client, write your next article or email, or create your next presentation, take some time to discover your target market’s pain or fear, and the words they use to describe this.

One easy way to find their pain points is to find groups where your target market hangs out (Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al.) and search for words that indicate pain or problems.

General words like “help” or “trouble” or “discouraged” can point you in the right direction. More specific keywords related to what you do will give you additional fodder.

Note how people describe their problems and their pain, their frustrations, and their failed attempts to fix what ails them.

You don’t need that much. A few details, a story or two, can go a long way.

When you better understand your target market and what you need to say to the people in it, you’ll get more prospective clients to see you as the right attorney for them.

For more places to find your target market’s pain points, check out my video course on using email for marketing your services.

Words don’t teach

Educating clients and prospects–about the law, about their risks and options, about what an attorney can do for them, and about why they should choose you as their attorney–is a viable marketing strategy.

The more they know, the more likely they are to understand why they should hire you and the more likely they are to do it.

The problem is, words don’t teach. Telling isn’t teaching. At best, it is only an introduction to the subject.

What does teach? Experience.

That’s one reason lawyers offer free consultations. The prospective client gets to see what you think about their specific situation and how you treat them, and get a sense of what it would be like having you as their attorney.

The experience teaches them what they need to know.

To a lesser extent, this is why lawyers speak in public, do interviews, make videos, network, and otherwise get themselves in front of prospective clients (and the people who can refer them).

What about writing? In your ads, blog, newsletter, articles, and elsewhere–where it’s just your words? How do you use experience to teach?

Use your words to help people remember relevant experiences in their life similar to what they’re currently experiencing. Help them to recall what happened–how they felt, what didn’t work, and what did.

And share stories of people like your reader or listener who have had the same types of problems and desires and how they found the solutions.

Your words are important. But not as important as the listener’s or reader’s experience, real, remembered, or imagined.

How to get more clients to say “you’re hired”

Do your marketing documents sound like Klingon?

When someone visits your website, reads your email or article, or hears your presentation, you want to make sure they understand what you said and what you want them to do.

When you send them your bill, you want them to understand what you did and why you did it.

Too often, we assume we’re writing or speaking clearly when we’re not.

Either avoid using legalese or other arcane references or explain what they mean.

But this may not be enough.

Even when you explain what you mean and give examples to illustrate, people may not understand what it means to them.

When you list your practice areas, for example, prospective clients may know what you do but not understand what you will do for them.

When you perform your services, what does the client get or avoid? How is he better off?

Clients don’t pay for your services so much as they pay for the results and benefits you deliver. Your services are merely the mechanism you use to deliver those benefits.

Make sure you translate what you do (features) into “benefits”–what your clients get as a result.

How will they better off? What will they be able to do, avoid or prevent?

One way to translate features into benefits is to use a transitional phrase, “Which means. . .”, between them.

A few examples:

“We’ll file for a restraining order against your ex., which means the court will order him to stay away from you and your son.”

“Once we settle a case, we usually have the funds in our Client’s Trust Account within 3-4 business days, which means you should be able to pay your bills within the week.”

“We’ll prepare you for your testimony. You’ll know what to say and how to say it, which means you won’t have to worry about making a mistake.”

“We’ll send you a monthly report and copies of all of the documents and correspondence, which means you’ll always know what’s going on with your case and won’t have to call us to find out.”

Translate your words from Klingon to plain English. Explain what you mean and what this means for your clients.

When you do this, you’ll get more clients and have fewer misunderstandings.

Which means you’ll earn more and not have to work so hard to do it.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

Most attorneys miss this

People want to know about the solutions you offer–your services, how they work, what you do better or differently than other attorneys. But if you only talk about your solutions, or you open the conversation or presentation by talking about them, you’re missing the boat.

Prospective clients are far more interested in themselves than you. If you want them to appreciate what you offer and how you can help them, you need to talk more about their problems than your solutions.

In consultation, in a seminar, in your newsletter or blog, on your website, talk about problems. That’s what a prospective client is thinking about, after all. That’s what’s keeping them up at night.

Ask questions to help them identify the nature and extent of their problems. Help them understand their risks and how bad things can get.

Then, get them to acknowledge that they want to fix their problem.

Now you’ve got their attention. Now, they’re ready to listen to your solutions and much more likely to take the next step.

Focus on problems and pain. They’re far more interesting than your legal services and far more likely to get prospective clients to say, “Where do I sign?”

Need help writing effective marketing messages? Let me know

Reading this could be a waste of time

Most people aren’t that interested in learning the bulk of what you could teach them about the law. If you’re trying to build a following by pushing out as much information as possible, no matter how good that information might be, you’re probably wasting your time.

In the beginning, prospective clients read what you write in a blog or newsletter because they’re looking for information–about their problems or interests and about your ability to help them.

Once they’ve satisfied themselves that you can help them, they won’t continue to read what you write or watch your videos or listen to your podcast unless you give them a reason to do that.

And you want them to do that.

You want them to continue to read or listen to you until they’re ready to take the next step. You want to build a relationship with them because that relationship will mean that if they hire any attorney, they will be more likely to choose you.

That relationship can also help bring more traffic to your website, build your following on social media, and generate more referrals.

That’s one reason why I put a lot of “me” into my content, and why you should do the same. We are a lot more interesting to our readers and followers than the information we provide them.

Building a following isn’t just about showing people what you know. It’s as much about showing people who you are.

Let people get to know you; liking and trusting and hiring won’t be far behind.

To learn how to build a following with email, go here

Obfuscate, equivocate, prevaricate, and other big words

Some people don’t like lawyers. When we parse words, say we didn’t mean what we said, play games to prove we were right or get out of something we said we would do. . . it drives them crazy.

It’s hard to blame them. When it comes to words, we’re tricky.

We choose our words carefully because that’s how we protect our clients and ourselves. We hide behind our words because we don’t want to reveal what we really think or how much our client is willing to accept.

We’re notorious for being hard to read and hard to pin down.

But we need to know when to turn it off.

When we speak with a client or prospect (or a friend), ambiguous language and exploiting loopholes is off-putting, frustrating and breeds mistrust.

We may win a lot of battles with our clever ways but in the end, we lose more than we’ve won.

If we want people to like and trust us, hire us, and stay friends with us, we need to speak clearly and plainly. No loopholes, no footnotes, no arguments preserved for appeal.

How do we do this? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

A message for sole practitioners, introverts, and misanthropes

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a hermit. I like being around people. But like most introverts, I can only handle so much of that before I get antsy or fatigued or ready to scream.

I can speak on a stage in front of thousands. But for personal communication, I prefer one-on-one or small groups.

Also, I usually prefer to work alone.

Not always, not for everything, but given most of the projects I am involved with, my preferred way of working is to do most of it myself.

No committees, no groups, no partners, no second opinions, just me and my lonesome. At least until I’ve taken it as far as I can, or as far as I need to, and it’s ready to hand off to someone else.

Does this resonate with you? If so, you might be a kindred spirit. I’d give you a hug to welcome you to the club but I’d rather just send you an email.

Anyway, the point isn’t that introverts or extroverts are better or more successful. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s a tie. We are equally successful, but for different reasons.

The point is that no matter which way you swing, as an employer or partner or member of a board, it’s important to understand how others prefer to work so that we can give them what they need to do their best.

If you’re an extrovert, understand that if we don’t want to meet with you or work directly with you, it’s nothing personal. We’ll get back to you when we’ve done our thing.

If you’re an introvert, understand that while we do well working alone, there are times when involving others lets us do even better.

As the well-known African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

Does your website need a refresh? This will help

4 words that helped me pass the bar exam

In law school, as we learned how to ‘think like a lawyer,’ we learned the importance of being able to look at both sides of an issue and argue either one. On exams, that’s precisely what we did.

On exams, I routinely used a four-word expression to transition from one side to the other: “On the other hand”.

No doubt, you did too.

We need to remember those four words when crafting (or signing off on) a marketing message (presentation, ad, conversation, etc.) directed to prospective clients.

Prospective clients know there are alternatives to hiring you. When you acknowledge this, you gain trust. You don’t look like a salesperson, you look like an advisor.

So you might say, “Here are your options:”

  1. “You could do nothing. That may work out if. .  On the other hand. . .”
  2. “You might wait and see if X happens. If it does, you should be okay. If it doesn’t. . .”
  3. “You could handle it yourself (e.g., write a letter, talk to the other lawyer). But, you’re taking the risk of [bad things that could happen])”
  4. “Or, you could let me handle this for you. Here’s what I’ll do. . .”

Given these options, most prospective clients will make the decision that’s best for them, which is usually the one that’s best for you.

How to get more repeat business and referrals

Start with no

Whenever you consider taking on a new project your default decision should always be “no”. You have enough on your plate. You need to focus on the things you’ve already decided are a priority in your life. Anything that would distract you from those priorities should be turned down.

You might change your mind tomorrow or even later today. A no can become a yes but the project has to earn it.

You have to see the value of diverting resources to take on something new. What will it cost? What will you have to give up or delay? Why should you do this instead of what you had already planned to do next?

Okay, you get it. You probably already do this to some extent. But do you also do it when someone else asks you for something?

When someone asks for a favor, your time, a donation, or anything else, your default answer should also be no, although you might not want to say that out loud.

Their request might be easy to fulfill. You may want to do it. Still, pause for a moment and consider what you’ve been asked and give yourself the option to turn it down.

Don’t be a Scrooge. But do reflect on what you might have to give up or delay if you say yes.

It’s about putting yourself first. Valuing your time and resources and not giving them away willy-nilly. Protect your time, protect your health, protect your fortune.

If you don’t take care of yourself, eventually you won’t be able to help others. And the more you take care of yourself, the more you will be able to help others.

Take care of your clients and they’ll send you referrals