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I can hear the rumbling already…there he goes again with that “Lost Art” lead-in nonsense. How can everything be a “Lost Art?”

Okay, point taken.

Maybe it’s that the soft skills we used to take for granted are disappearing from the workplace. Or maybe, it’s the decreasing level of civility in business and personal interactions that I observe on a daily basis that causes me to see almost everything as a “Lost Art?”

Here’s an example of just that. My wife and I were looking for a specific product in one of those big box home improvement stores allegedly known throughout the industry for its high level of employee training. As we wandered aimlessly through the cavernous store, my wife spotted an employee in an adjacent aisle.

As a member of the male species I am precluded from asking for either directions, or help, and my wife understands that. Violating either one of those costs me a precious punch out of my “man card.”

She approached the employee and asked if he could help her. His response to her very specific question was: ‘WASSUP?’

My wife, who has the patience of a saint and is easily the most patient, kind, and understanding woman I have ever known, left the store angry after that interaction with the slacker employee.

Consider now your own law practice. Who is the first person a prospective client has contact with?

The person who answers the phone.

Usually, this person wears several hats in a law firm: first as a “gatekeeper” protecting the attorney from unwanted sales calls, secondly as the “intake” person for new clients and cases and, lastly, as the go-to person scheduling depositions, inspections, and even handling docketing in smaller firms.

Keep in mind that for the last 14 years, I have been calling in to law firms on a daily basis. If your gatekeeper answers the phone with the same vitriol that is usually reserved for sales calls and it’s a prospective client, the likelihood of landing that client are greatly diminished. Chances are they’ll be so turned off, they will immediately move on to the next attorney on their list.

Everybody in the legal profession, no matter what area and discipline, should have their practice “secret shopped.” This involves having potential clients call into the firm three times a day, always at different times, for a week. The secret shopper(s) then documents the results of these calls and makes recommendations.

(Spoiler Alert: Legal-Metrix, LLC provides this service – call for a price)

The results can be quite an eye opener. Instead of your gatekeeper, sometimes the issue can be a curmudgeonly attorney on your staff. The solution is scripting how to handle these incoming calls at several different levels of interaction. This can greatly increase your ability to capture and convert these calls into new business.

(Spoiler Alert: Legal-Metrix, LLC also provides this service)

Keep in mind that a person calling into a law firm for help is usually in a fragile state of mind. Many are unsophisticated and completely out of their comfort zone. How that initial call goes, greatly enhances your chances to turn this caller into a client.

The intake process is probably one of the biggest drawbacks to converting callers to clients and one of the easiest fixes in your sale funnel. Scripting is the key, BUT it requires buy-in from all those involved in the process and needs to be monitored to ensure compliance.

Here are two freebies I am going to leave you with to mull over during the weekend: If your phone is currently being answered by “LAW OFFICE” you need to stop that practice IMMEDIATELY. That greeting exudes no warmth, no charm, no degree of professionalism, and does nothing to capture the imagination of the caller. It sends the message that you have just become an instant “commodity” in the eyes of that lawyer/law firm.

Secondly, if you (the attorney) are on the phone with a prospective client STOP spending your entire conversation trying to strong-arm the caller to come into your office. Not only can this be a huge turnoff, this tactic is probably the second largest “leak” in your sales funnel.

(Refer to previous Legal-Metrix, LLC blogs: The Lost Art of Listening #1 and #2)

It is amazing what you can accomplish over the phone if you are patient and LISTEN. At the very least, you need to learn how to “sound” like you care to that client, ready to be his or her advocate, and it helps immensely if you genuinely do. No matter what, stay away from going for that quick close. You will have a better client if you show the proper respect for the client’s problem or predicament right up front. Good clients lead to future referrals. Respect goes a long way.

I am going to enjoy the predicted warm-up to the 50-degree mark this weekend. Feel free to send any questions you may have to kelleher@legal-metrix.com and try to get in some “quality time” this weekend.