By Philip J. Kavesh, J.D., LL.M. (Taxation), CFP®, ChFC, California State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
I recently conducted not one, not two, but three different coaching consultations in a single week with fellow colleagues who all expressed to me the same major challenge in their practice. If three firms, in such a short period of time, happened to share this same issue with me, then I thought there must be others out there who must be grappling with it too! Hence, this article.
All of these firms complained about spending far too much time of the lead attorney, associate attorneys or other staff members bringing in prospects and turning them into clients. Since all their time costs money, that seriously impacts their bottom line.
Interestingly, although each firm’s prospect engagement process was different, the solution isn’t.
SCENARIO #1: Taking Every Tom, Dick or Harry That Comes In.
In one firm that I spoke with, the lead attorney (or his associates) meets with every single person that requested a free initial consultation. This attorney schedules an in-person or Zoom consultation with a prospect regardless of where they came from or how, with no other information than their name and their interest in getting their estate planning done. The result is that this attorney ends up giving them a lot of solid (gratis) legal advice and they then take it “under advisement”. They are either price-shopping or merely looking for free legal advice, or not really in a position to afford the attorney’s fees, or not convinced for some reason that this attorney’s fees were worth it. An hour (or more!) of attorney time wasted on each prospect, not counting the potential follow-up by him or his staff to try and convert this prospect to a paying client.
SCENARIO #2: Attorney Screening Calls Prior to an Initial Meeting.
Another firm goes a step further to protect the attorney from giving away too much free time. The staff schedules a 10 to 15-minute “pre-screening” call with the prospect and attorney. This call allows the attorney to explain (very quickly, obviously) how she works and then she tells the prospective client the range of her fees and finds out if that prospect wants to schedule a longer meeting to go over their particular circumstances. The problem with this approach is that the prospective lead hasn’t been given enough information to really be shown the value of what they’re getting versus the fee. Most prospects either walked away after only hearing the higher end of that fee range or they came in to hear what the attorney had to say and again focused only on the lower end of the fee range (which as it turns out didn’t apply), and decided not to move forward (the result not really much different than Scenario #1, with too much attorney time being taken up by non-serious candidates).
SCENARIO #3: Staff Members Filtering Leads.
Another attorney employs a different method to sift out and hopefully close the best qualified leads. He has not one, not two, but three people that he calls “Intake Specialists” (sometimes cold calls into the firm or sometimes after an internet “chat” service does an initial screening). These staff members spend a great deal of time on the phone (or Zoom) gathering information and data on these prospects, explaining to them how the firm works and trying to, in effect, give a mini-seminar to motivate and “close” these leads on the next step, which is to schedule a design meeting with the attorney. This firm has a little bit more success than the other two because there’s more time being invested in separating and grooming the leads by staff members who have been properly trained to handle this. But, how successful is it really? (This firm is closing about 40% of its prospects, which seems high, while the solution we’ll discuss closes about 60%.) The process is done entirely by telephone (or Zoom) and with a staff person, rather than in-person with the attorney herself. There has been no interaction which builds trusts and rapport with the attorney before the prospect comes in. What if that prospect comes in and doesn’t care for the attorney they meet? What if after all of that information gathering and one-on-one staff time with that lead, the individual doesn’t show up to their appointment or move forward? Meetings that don’t show or don’t engage cost the attorney time and money, plus three staff salaries devoted to wasting time fielding every single lead one by one.
Here’s the Tested and Proven, More Cost-Effective and Efficient Solution!
WARNING: Keep your mind open for a few more minutes, because I’m about to use the “S” word.
As most people know, seminars have been my firm’s lifeblood for four decades. It’s how I have driven tens of thousands of clients into my firm. It has become the process every prospect goes through, regardless of how they hear about us, before they become a client of my firm.
Here are just a few reasons to have all prospects (even referrals from professionals and clients) go through a seminar before taking up individual phone, Zoom or in-person meeting time on the staff’s or attorney’s calendar:
- Efficiently using your time. Would you rather be talking to every lead one-on-one to go over the same basic stuff or take a couple of hours and speak to 5, 10 or more leads instead? The seminar helps you limit your client face-time and shortens the entire planning and signing to just two meetings. At the initial consultation you gather the information necessary to design their plan (they actually bring a filled out Questionnaire, as instructed at the seminar), you get a signed engagement letter and payment at the conclusion of that first meeting, then schedule the document review and signing appointment for a few weeks out.
- Spend enough time to substantiate your fee before they come in. Many people, particularly prospects from the internet, are price-shopping and looking for the cheapest estate plan around. Unless you’re the cheapest estate plan around (and would like to go down the tubes in a price war), the moment you quote your fees in-person without having spent enough time explaining the value of what you and your services bring to the table, you will lose that prospect. A seminar gives you enough time to show how your process and planning are different from your competitors and worth your fee.
- Weed out the unqualified prospects. At the end of a seminar, you will have established value and be able to quote your fees. Those prospects who may not have the financial ability or desire to pay your fee, or perhaps not even qualify or need your services, will self-select themselves out of your process by not making an appointment.
- Prospects invest more of their time and are well-prepared before wasting YOUR time. A seminar, especially if held in-person, will require a prospect to invest more of their time just getting there and make a commitment to learning about your services and your whole process, before taking up your time with a free initial consultation. Prospects further invest their time and effort in completing a fairly lengthy questionnaire which they bring to that free attorney consultation. All this prospective client investment results in an…
- Increase in your closing/engagement rate. The seminar already addresses the elephant in the room, which is your price. And with enough time to substantiate the price and present your unique client service proposition before you quote it. By holding a seminar and only taking appointments with people who have sat through it, already know your pricing, and have taken the time to complete their questionnaire, you will find that you will close 75% or more of those leads you meet with.
- Proactive way to generate more leads and appointments. If your pipeline is consistently, fully filled with prospective clients, that’s a beautiful thing. Holding seminars every month is the easiest and most effective way to drive prospects to your firm, including referrals from professionals and clients.
Don’t Like (or Want to Do) Seminars?
A lot of attorneys object to the amount of time or cost to do seminars. The fact is, seminars can be done time-efficiently, such as by using a video for most of it (then coming in to wrap it up and secure appointments). And they can be done cost-effectively, such as by using an office conference room. But, they should be held in-person for a number of reasons that I already discussed in a prior article (see “In-Person Seminars Are Back and Working!”).
Keep in mind that other three attorneys’ processes for converting prospects leads into paying clients also come with a significant cost that must also be weighed. A full calendar may make one feel productive and “busy”, but if it’s dependent on a great deal of staff and attorney time working unqualified leads, that’s far more expensive than conducting seminars!
Being busy does not mean you’re being productive and it pays off to work smarter, not harder!
Need Help Getting Seminars Up and Running Successfully?
If you are an estate planning attorney and are new to seminar marketing or have tried seminars (or webinars) and are interested in learning more about how to successfully do in-person seminars, our following resources might be helpful to you:
- The Ultimate Estate Planning Seminar Starter Kit, which comes with:
- 60-Minute Seminar Marketing Consultation
- The Ultimate Level: REIMAGINEDTM
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Philip J. Kavesh is the principal of one of the largest estate planning firms in California – – Kavesh, Minor and Otis – – with over 40+ years in business. He is also the President of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc., which provides a variety of training, marketing and practice-building products and services for estate planning professionals. If you would like more information or have a question for him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-866-754-6477.