While you probably don’t give it much thought, the value of answering your phone properly can be enormous. On the other end of a ringing phone may be a potential client worth thousands of dollars or someone who may be able to refer many new cases to you. How the phone is answered—assuming that someone actually answers!—has a big impact on how many of those calls develop into new business. In today’s immediate-response, competitive world, reaching a live person quickly is a critical decision criterion for a new potential client or referral source. But just answering the phone is not sufficient—how it is answered is equally as important.
Polishing Your Phone-Answering Skills
Here are the three most important elements of an effective phone presence:
1. Use a friendly, animated phone voice. Find and hire a person who naturally answers the phone in a friendly way, or dig down deep and train yourself to be friendly when you answer the phone. Those first few seconds set the tone and create a first impression with a potential client or referral source. Even if the caller doesn’t really know you, they will be more open and interested to speak with someone who is friendly. And, since the caller is probably intimidated to speak with a lawyer, a friendly voice helps disarm them and put them at some amount of ease.
2. Convey sincerity in your desire to help the caller. Nothing beats sincerity. Be empathetic about a potential client’s legal issue and show true interest in trying to help find a solution. Make sure the person answering the phone exudes sincerity and cares about helping people.
3. Display confidence to answer questions, suggest next steps, explain the process and close the business. Typically, people seeking legal assistance are intimidated and concerned that it will be a confusing, expensive process. They do not want to completely lose control, but want to be led by a trustworthy, caring professional. Be confident in your explanation of the situation, the process and how you can achieve resolution. Confidence, coupled with friendliness and sincerity, will convince many prospective clients that you are the lawyer they want to hire. (That said, be sure you are very clear with an unknown caller that a mere conversation does not mean you are now representing them.)
Successful lawyers recognize the significance of these three simple things and set up a system to support them. If it doesn’t go without saying in your law office, it should: Friendly, sincere and confident attorneys receive good referrals and develop strong client relationships.
Carey Ransom is an Internet marketer and software entrepreneur. He is currently CEO of RealPractice, a leading cloud-based client development and practice management software platform. Carey is a frequent speaker and author on legal technology topics and an active blogger and social media participant.