Intake Call Misses

Listening In: The Client Prevention Department

By | Feb.06.14 | Business Development, Client Relations, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Management

Phone calls

During a recent intake call training session, the COO of a large PI firm in New England bragged, “We convert 90 percent of the cases we want.” An hour later, after we played four actual intake call recordings from their office … nobody was bragging.

While listening in, we heard three viable prospects hang up with no signs of further interest in the firm. In two out of three calls, qualified prospects who had been screened by the intake team were put on hold for more than two minutes while a lawyer was prodded onto the phone to “close the deal.” Once the lawyer finally picked up the call, both she and the caller were aggravated, and she was just plain unengaged.

To make it worse, the intake team had bobbled the hand-off with a “lukewarm transfer,” so by the time the lawyer picked up the call, crucial parts of the story were missing. A “warm transfer” is when your receptionist or intake team member accurately gathers and shares name information and key elements of the story before transferring calls.

Stranded Opportunities: Don’t Get It Wrong

During these calls, the tone and attitude heard from the intake team member was, “I’m not really confident what’s going to happen with you, Ms. Prospect. You are an annoying pest, but I’m going to do my job and ask you these screening questions and pass you down the line. Then I can get back to the other, more important things I’m supposed to be doing.”

Similarly, the tone and attitude heard from the attorney was, “I can’t be bothered with you, Ms. Prospect. I’m busy doing important lawyer stuff.”

Needless to say, opportunities to convert callers to paying clients were squandered.

The debrief on the call recordings was bone crushing, the COO turned gray, and fingers were pointing in every direction. After the initial shock and scapegoating, though, we drilled into the core issues and began fixing the problems that led to all those stranded opportunities.

Whether you want to know the truth or not, you likely have more than a few “sales prevention department” moments like this happening at your firm, too. So, before you say, “We convert 90 percent of the cases we want,” consider listening in on how prospective clients are actually being handled.

  1. Record prospect calls.
  2. Review and critique prospect calls together with staff.
  3. Identify what worked well on the call.
  4. Identify the opportunities and challenges presented.
  5. Identify the exact steps to take in the future to fix any problems.
  6. Implement the new changes.
  7. Regularly repeat the monitoring and coaching process to course correct.

It may be painful, but you’ll be glad you listened in.

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. Follow Ryan on Twitter @rpitz42.

More on Client Intake from Ryan Pitz

Don’t Make These Lead Intake Mistakes
Losing New Clients to Your Jaded Attitude?
Four Client Intake Mistakes to Avoid

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One Response to “Listening In: The Client Prevention Department”

  1. Mike O'Horo
    6 February 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Great stuff, Ryan. The perception that sales efforts are more successful than they really are is widespread. Humans have selective memories. We only remember the successes. Since law firms don’t typically track wins, losses and conversion rates, there’s no data to rebut inflated beliefs about closing ratios. Calculating cost-of-sales? No chance. Forget it.

    If firms actually measured those sales inputs and ratios, e.g., number of outreach call attempts, emails and voicemails required before actually speaking with a prospect; number of conversations, lunches, visits, etc. required to engage on a decision-worthy issue; number of calls, meetings, email, etc., required to identify and engage all the decision stakeholders; the number of such sales investments that turn into clients; the actual Year One fees paid by those clients; and, finally, the rate of year-to-year growth of those clients.

    If firms tracked and analyzed such data, they’d likely learn that much of the groundless sales activity and cost that they sanction as “relationship-building,” is actually wasted or, worse, counter-productive in the sense that, while the lawyers continue to drill deeper into that relationship dry hole, they’re not drilling elsewhere.

    Here’s a simple model:
    A lawyer who bills $500/hr develops a relationship with someone over three years. Let’s say that the calls, emails, lunches, office visits, social events, etc. total 2 hours/month, for a total of 72 hours. The opportunity cost at that point is $36,000, which means that, at representative gross profit levels, that client will have to pay your firm $100k in legal fees for you just to break even.

    Even if lawyers had this calculation in front of them, many would still justify the investment based on their belief that the $20k initial matter would serve as a beachhead from which they’d grow the client into a sizable one. If the firm actually knew what % of new clients actually grew to 5x or 10x, and how long it took when it happened, and what additional cost of sales would be required, they’d likely discover that it was a small percentage.

    It’s almost as if law firms operated like venture capitalists, i.e., they’re betting on the one big winner in ten that becomes a home run, and offsets the 9 losers.