A lot of lawyers spend good money to generate leads for new business through marketing, advertising, promotions and networking, in both online or offline venues. But much of that money is lost because of inconsistent and unsystematic intake when one of those leads actually contacts the firm to express interest.
Lead intake is what you do when you’re in front of, on the phone or online with a lead or prospect—which, to be clear, includes, or should include, the act of qualifying and converting the prospect to a client. Unfortunately, way too many lawyers get it wrong.
How Not to Handle Intake
Here are four common client intake mistakes—along with tips on how you can avoid making the same ones. Get it right and you’ll succeed in converting more leads to clients.
1. Using reaction-based intake vs. response-based intake. A reaction is sporadic, emotional and unsystematic. You’re reactive if:
- The quality of leads you get is contingent on the quality of your mood that day.
- You’re inconsistent in your availability to engage with prospective intakes.
- You don’t have a formal intake process in place for yourself or staff to engage with prospects, or to consistently convert browsers to buyers.
Reaction-based intake is an inflexible, inefficient, “me too” approach that allows good leads to fall through the cracks and sends viable cases to your competitors on your marketing dime.
A response, in contrast, is active, logical and engaging. You’re responsive to intake calls if:
- You’re available to respond to every quality intake call on your terms.
- You and your staff maximize every inbound lead to further your practice growth goals, whether the calls are qualified cases or not.
- You control the tone, pace and direction of every inquiry call.
Response-based intake allows you to make the most of every lead opportunity, uncover needs and wants to provide the best possible recommendation, and cement those case opportunities that qualify.
2. Answering unscheduled intake phone calls yourself. Sometimes lawyers have to answer the first-inquiry call, but this is not a scalable approach to developing your practice. So stop it, as soon as possible. If you take every intake call as it comes in, you are stopping work on a known priority in favor of an unknown priority. This turns control of your time over to the unknown. By personally taking intake calls in an effort to make sure every lead and inquiry call is taken care of, you’re setting yourself up for lost opportunities.
You’re much better off training someone else to qualify callers and then schedule an appointment with you. Ironically, having a barrier to entry actually helps rather than hinders when securing new clients. Prospects and clients will respect your time, advice and assistance more when you create a structure like this, and you will be able to serve far more clients.
3. Jumping to conclusions about the quality of a lead. For most small to midsize law firms, lead generation is the second most expensive business activity, preceded only by payroll. Knowing the cost of marketing and advertising to generate leads should force you to carefully consider how lead calls are being handled. Most lawyers believe they do a “pretty good job” of intake, but our research shows most lose good leads because of untrained staff, lackadaisical phone protocol or an inability to consistently qualify callers over the phone. To accurately qualify an intake phone call, you must control the direction of the call and allow callers to tell you their complete story before making any recommendation or jumping to a conclusion about the quality of the lead.
4. Becoming jaded or insensitive to callers because of routine. At some point or another, you may find yourself spacing out as callers continue to rehash their stories. But remember, for most of your prospects, this is the first time they’ve ever had to deal with this particular legal matter, even though for you it’s the 337th time. It’s very easy for lawyers or staff members taking intake calls to start feeling jaded and become insensitive to the needs and wants of callers. This, however, has a direct impact on your ability to engage with prospects to convert them to clients. So try this: Put the letters F T F T—shorthand for “First Time For Them”—on a big piece of paper or posterboard and place it on your wall or beside the phone. This will help you make a conscious effort to engage at a deeper level with every prospect.
Ryan Pitz is the founder of the Intake Academy, a legal intake training and accountability firm focused on helping law firms improve lead conversion. The Intake Academy delivers unique training and coaching programs to law firms to screen, select, train, develop and coach legal intake teams.