Master Class: Lead Conversion Practices Every Legal and Financial Professional Should Know

Elizabeth Lockwood

For nearly every lawyer and financial advisor, converting leads is a top priority. Keeping clients interested, satisfied, and continually using your services is the only way to ensure the success of your firm or financial practice. But lead conversion practices aren't likely something you learned in your finance classes or in law school. So to help you gain a better understanding of how to continually attract and convert new clients, Maddy Martin of Smith.ai compiled her best lead conversion tactics all financial and legal professionals can use to set their practice up for success.

In a webinar recorded on October 31st, 2018, Maddy Martin, head of growth and education at Smith.ai, discusses the best practices that legal and financial professionals may not know can help them attract and convert more clients, from enabling business texting to creating a customized after-hours voicemail greeting. A combination of efficient communication tools and automated workflows can help you achieve a practical and efficient lead conversion process that'll keep new clients trickling in to your business. Maddy even shares expert examples of ideal new-client intake forms and questionnaires to give you an insider look into how these practices can be implemented in real life.

For more insight into how to grow your lead conversions as a financial or legal professional, read the full transcript of the video below, edited for readability. You can also watch the full webinar for free on YouTube by clicking the image below. To check out more videos like this one, with tons of free tips for soloprenuers, small business owners, and lawyers, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Speaker

Maddy Martin

Head of Growth and 

Education at Smith.ai

INTRODUCTION:

MODERATOR:

Welcome to today's live webinar, entitled best practices in converting more clients for legal and financial professionals. This webinar is brought to you by Smith.ai. 

At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to your host, Maddy Martin, please go ahead. 

MADDY MARTIN, HEAD OF GROWTH & EDUCATION AT SMITH.AI:

Thank you so much, everyone. Welcome to today's webinar.

We are going to be discussing best practices in converting more clients for legal and financial professional.

So before I begin, I just want to direct your attention to the first slide, where we do have a link at the bottom to the full slide deck. So you can review these slides at your leisure. Anytime after the webinar. There are several examples that are included in the slide that you may wish to review at a later time.

So I have made that desk available to you. 

Feel free, also, my email will be at the end and you will be able to contact me if you have any questions that we don't cover during today's webinar or the Q and A afterwards. 

So I'm Maddy Martin. I'm the head of marketing and partnerships for Smith.ai. We are a call routing and virtual receptionist service for small businesses with a particular focus on legal and financial professionals, specifically solo and small firm attorneys and financial advisors

Now, we're going to go through the golden objectives of today's webinar. What you will learn includes the following: how to manage response times to clients and potential clients more effectively, the best lead qualification questions and how to standardize and outsource them, the optimal workflow for new client intake using your CRM, which is a contact management system, CMS, and calendaring software, how to leverage virtual receptionist for inbound and outbound calls with potential clients. 

So who cares? Well, you should, according to the 2017 Clio Legal Trends Report. Many data from there were confirmed in the most recent 2018 report, by the way, and also the very soon to be released 2018 Kitces report

And what we find here is that, for attorneys— and I will get to financial advisors and planners and the in two slides later— but specifically for attorneys, there is this challenge between lawyering and laboring, if you're in a solo or small firm.

LAWYERING OR LABORING

Lawyers spend more time on admin tasks than on billable work

So we find that 1.9 hours out of every day is spent on billable work whereas almost three hours is spent on administrative tasks. And of those tasks the top three are administration invoicing and configuring technology. 

Now, two hours a day that are not spent on billable work or spent on business development, which really indicates the importance of generating new clients. Clearly it's important if two hours out of every day are being spent on it, just like administration, invoicing and technology, but the challenges in answering those new leads that are generated from that business development and marketing work. 

Lawyers experience more interruptions and collect less of their earned revenue

So on average attorneys are interrupted about six times a day, and that's a two hour loss or more every day because each interruption results in 23 minutes of recovery time.

On average, now two out of every three potential clients say that their decision is most based on an attorney's responsiveness to their first call or email. So there is a dilemma where you want to be responsive, but accepting those interruptions greatly impact your day and your productivity. 

Now, 86% is the average amount of attorney's earnings that is ever collected and 39% is how much faster law firms can get paid when they accept credit cards, debit cards, and each act. 

Time spent by financial advisors is largely on planning analyses and meeting preparation

Now, on the financial advising side, we find very similar data. 

So here's the average time consumed by the most common daily tasks of a lead financial advisor with particular focus on solo and small firms.

So 19% of every day is spent on time with clients, 17% is spent on time meeting with prospects and engaging in business development tasks, so generating new business, 26%. 

So a quarter of every day is spent on planning and needing preparation, 12% is spent on client service issues, and 8% is spent on administrative tasks.

DILEMMAS

So here are the dilemmas that we see as a result of these situations that solo and small firms are finding themselves in. 

DILEMMA ONE

Dilemma one says lawyers are regularly interrupted and their clients expect fast response times

So the first one that has to do with business growth versus productivity. 

So interruptions, as I mentioned, are killing productivity and you want to minimize them, but potential clients demand fast response times, and you want to maximize response in that.

DILEMMA TWO

Dilemma two says that lawyers deserve to get paid, but shouldn't have to chase down late payments

Now, the second dilemma is that revenue is in conflict with non-billable time. 

Now, invoicing and chasing down late payments drains time. And that time could be spent on billable work.

So you want to minimize time-consuming billing tasks.

At the same time, you need and deserve to get paid and not after working with a collections agency, which can take up to a 50% cut. Because obviously the whole point of collecting your payments is to get more revenue and not give up more of it.

So you want to maximize your revenue.

DILEMMA THREE

Dilemma three says that technology makes you more efficient, but with close to no IT support, lawyers struggle to configure it

The third dilemma has to do with technology. 

Now, technology makes you more efficient and it's particularly important to be efficient as a solo or small firm attorney or advisor. 

You want to automate tasks and processes and data as much as you can. And that has to do with phone calls as well as document automation and other tasks. 

Now, you want to minimize these routine tasks through the use of software, apps, and services

Now, the challenge of being in a solo or small firm is that few have advanced technical know-how and you're in a small practice with limited to zero IT support. If you are in a larger law firm or a financial planning company, then you would be able to hand-off those tests to the it support team. But that's not the case in a solo or small firm. 

DILEMMA FOUR

Dilemma four says advisors and lawyers struggle to provide the kind of responsiveness their clients demand

Now, the fourth dilemma has to do with client happiness and your own satisfaction. 

So clients need an attorney or advisor who is not only adept, but also reliable and responsive.

Less responsive attorneys receive more customer complaints and negative reviews and more responsive attorneys and advisors receive more referrals.

So you want to maximize your responsiveness to clients.

Now, at the same time, you and your assistant time is best spent on work that only you can do so whether that's financial planning or legal work, not intake, calendaring, and giving directions to your office.

And attorneys and advisors who spend more time on meaningful work actually report greater work satisfaction.

DILEMMA FIVE

Dilemma five says advisors and attorneys should have control over their practice, but should delegate more tasks

Now, one of the reasons why you may have started your own business is that you want more control over your work and your life. 

Control can relate to your work methods, the hours that you work, your different practice areas or areas of specialty. 

Now, you take pride in your work and your business is under your name so you want to maximize control to some extent, but controlling everything is exhausting

So when you're balancing work and life, you want to consider at least delegating some of those things that are not critical for you to do yourself. 

There's just going to come a point where, and you may already be facing this, where you can't do everything and do it well.

So you want to minimize your business's total reliance on you.

DILEMMA SIX

Dilemma six says that online exposure should be a priority and that engagement with unqualified leads should be limited

Now, the sixth dilemma is that you've got this contrast between lead quality and quantity, especially in regards to digital marketing. 

So you know that a well designed website, traffic driving content, local SEO, and marketing automations are essential to drive new leads.

So you want to maximize your business exposure online and to the right audience. Now, the problem is that online traffic can often be poor or of a lower quality than you're used to, if you're used to referrals and other traditional marketing channels.

So you want to minimize engagement with bad leads. You don't want to have consultations on your calendar with people who are not going to convert with a high likelihood to becoming paying clients. 

DILEMMA SEVEN

Dilemma seven says that you should get the most out of your receptionist

Now, the seventh dilemma is really about the receptionist skills themselves and the cost and flexibility associated with these services. 

So let's say you recognize the need to enlist help and you need a receptionist who is going to be smart and reliable and thorough and productive and professional and makes good decisions on your behalf.

You want to maximize what you get out of that receptionist you're going to hire, but at the same time, you need a lean business that is flexible and having a receptionist on salary, who you pay benefits for, they're going to expect job security. 

It's a lot of responsibility to have a new member of your team on salary and maybe you're not quite sure what your firm is going to look like in a year. 

So you want to be minimizing these fixed costs and commitment

These dilemmas show that advisors and attorneys spread themselves too thin and their business suffers as a result

So the big picture here is that you're obviously spread too thin, which can reduce responsiveness to new leads. 

And the lack of responsiveness here, really, we see with attorneys and also with financial advisors, it can lead to the most complaints. It is the most common reason for complaints to the bar and to CSP accrediting organization.

Now, you also have limited resources so you're spending your money on marketing and missing leads is very costly. 

And you're spending a lot of time on administrative tasks, like data entry, which is really not the best use of your time. It's not what you went to school for. It's not what you've spent all this time developing expertise for, but at the same time you want to run your business independently. 

Better processes and incorporating software and services can help you filter and offload work and get more return on investment— that's ROI— from your marketing efforts.

SOLUTION TO THESE DILEMMAS

A solution to these dilemmas is to adopt cost-effective and efficient systems
The recommendation here is that you can solve these problems by adopting cost effective and efficient systems for routing and tracking your calls and email, filtering out unqualified leads, and referring them also to other firms that you recommend, which can be a passive source of income, intake, which can be basic or complete, and scheduling, which can mean call backs or appointments, free or paid.

And when we look at these systems, we want to look at systems that are affordable, customizable, easy to use and monitor, and comprehensive. 

So there are multiple communication channels, maybe, that you're overseeing, that you're paying for. The fewer bills and less management that you have to deal with with those services, the better.

They should integrate with your processes, systems, and software, and if human, if we're talking about a receptionist service, then they should have reasonable discretion, as someone in-house would. 

COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

So let's just talk a little bit about the communication systems that we find within solo and small firms. Now, how do clients reach you? 

They reach you via phone, email, text, and on your website, and now your website, including things like your Facebook page, maybe a professional directory listing page, where people can contact you for more information about hiring you and on your website. We also find that communication methods can include web chat

So we'll talk about these different communications in the context of your business.

So, for phone, we've got, you know, the landline option. You may be using this still. 

Now, the benefit is that it's very consistent and almost never have dropped calls, but the challenge is that it's not mobile. There are limited carriers, which makes it oftentimes more expensive. You need hardware, you can't just run it off of your cell phone.

And typically there are contracts that are difficult to get out of. It's a fixed system that can be challenging to flex as your business grows. 

Now, many of you will probably have migrated already to an internet based phone service, which we call cloud or VoIP, the benefits is that there are many providers here, which keeps costs low.

They can be totally unbundled from your office security, whether it's your doorbell or your internet. 

Now, the challenge is that you do need a strong internet in order to have calls over the internet. Typically not a problem, but something to consider. 

The other option for your phones is also a softphone.

Now, fifth is a protocol that basically turned any internet connected device, namely a computer into a phone. And that means that with a softphone app on your computer, you can run an even more mobile practice because you can receive calls to that device where typically that's not possible. 

Really, you can only receive calls to phones, to date, but now because of softphones, you can receive and make calls from your computer, which allows you to take your business anywhere and more and more.

Solo and small businesses are working from home and out of the traditional office. 

CALL HANDLING & ROUTING

Call handling and routing systems include robots, semi-robots, humans, and optomized humans

Now, when it comes to routing and handling calls, there are a number of different options that are available and they can either be human or they can be automated through these systems, whether it's a call routing, IVR, which is basically a menu option for routing your calls.

And that can allow you to make sure that people have the access to you that you require. So you can have a menu that's set up for press one for new clients, two for existing clients, and different varieties on that theme.

And that can allow you to manage calls both to you and also to your receptionist or in-house staff that you may have associates or other partners in your business.

Maybe you say, “Press one for John, the attorney, and press two for Jane, the attorney.” 

Now, when we're talking about systems beyond just the automated greetings and menus and voicemails, there are answering services and then, there are also receptionist services. And I think there's a lot of myths around what these services can provide.

ANSWERING SERVICE VS RECEPTIONIST SERVICE

So keep in mind that when you're hiring an answering service, if it's just a basic call center and you're paying a very, very low fee, what you're going to get is typically answering, transferring, and messages for calls.

Now, with the receptionist service, typically what we find is more robust, broader services.

So that may mean inbound and outbound calls and maybe more customized call handling directions. It may also include lead qualification, calendaring, payment acceptance, and integration with your software. 

So obviously if someone is scheduling appointments for you, they're going to need access to your calendar.

But what we also find is that these services, now, like Smith.ai, can provide connection to your contact database to create new records with new callers who reach you, update existing records, and then also complete basic intake forms. 

So if you're using software like Lexicata, like Lawmatics, like WealthBox, where there are intake forms that you have hosted in that software, these receptionist services can have access to a blank intake form through you and following your lead qualification questions.

If in that process, you're enabling them to complete a new intake for you, they can complete those forms on behalf of the call or over the phone and that really takes more work off of your plate.

So a few things to consider here, you know, humans versus optimize humans. Well, what does this mean? 

It means that when you're looking at these services, one thing to consider is, are the receptionists domestic, or are they working from another perhaps English or Spanish speaking country around the world? 

So oftentimes the Philippines is tasked. There are many other English speaking countries or, you know, where there are English speaking representatives who may not be in the US. 

And what does that mean? Well, you're probably looking for an in-house experience where someone calls you and they sound like they at least could be in your office.

If you're hiring receptionist service, that is what I would recommend that you look for. 

So if you have a domestic service, they are going to be familiar with the American norms and business practices and with communicating with your clients, they will be more comfortable and put your clients at ease.

Now, in terms of dedicated versus distributed receptionists, what I mean there is dedicated receptionists are where you have a few people who are dedicated just to your account. 

Now, that may sound appealing at first, but it doesn't really scale that well if you have a marketing campaign that's running or if your business is growing.

Then you're going to need to inform your receptionist service to be training new people constantly. The nice thing about a distributed team where any receptionist in the service can answer your calls or even call back if they're doing outbound calls, is that anyone can follow your directions to handle your calls.

VIRTUAL VS. IN-HOUSE

Now, remote versus in-house.

Sure, you know, would it be wonderful to have an in-house receptionist? Possibly.

The challenge is that it is more expensive by far to have an in-house receptionist. You're responsible for their livelihood. 

Many people are moving towards the virtual office anyway, where they're working from home or for shared office spaces where there isn't room or the need for a dedicated in-house receptionist.

Now, the other challenge is that you have someone in-house and maybe you're repurposing a paralegal or another associate to handle the calls, that's still just one person and if they need to run an errand, or if they're on the other line, they don't have the ability to pick up. 

So then your calls are still going to voicemail.

COMMON COMPLAINTS

Common complaints with phone systems, routing and tracking services, and receptionists

Now, there are issues that we find with phone systems and after handling over half a million calls, this is something that we see very often, particularly ring delays. 

So there's latency in many people's phone systems, and I encourage you if you're not already doing so to do regular audits of your phone. 

And what I mean by that is have someone or yourself with your cell phone call your business number and see how many rings you hear before the ring picks up on the other end, so where you would pick up your business number. 

And what we find is that it can be the case where there are sometimes as many as eight rings that the caller hears before you even hear your phone ring and that can be resulting and misleading.

Regularly audit your phone system or have someone, you know, in your friend or family group help you audit it on a regular basis, at least quarterly so that you're on top of that.

If you don't already have a business phone number, that is the very first step. It's very important to not have your clients and leads have access to your personal cell phone number.

Now, another issue that's not mentioned on this slide is that people are probably texting your business, but you may not be receiving them because your phone system may not allow business texting. So I would really encourage you, to enable business texting through your phone system with any VIP phone.

It should be possible. 

There are also add on services like Zipwhip, that's Z I P W H I P. There are other services similar to that as well, very affordably allowing you to add business texting onto your phone. And that's particularly useful if you're still using a landline phone.

But I was just talking to an attorney the other day, who was shocked when she enabled business texting for her phone number and realized that all this time for years, she had actually been receiving text messages and wasn't receiving them because her phone wasn't set up to receive them. 

So just because you're not getting texts doesn't mean that people are texting you and they expect to, because texting is so commonplace, be able to text any number local or toll free these days. 

If you're not using texts, I highly recommend that you enable that with your phone.

Now, one of the things around receptionist services, make sure that you're just as you're auditing, you know, the latency with your rings and your phone system, also be aware that if you hire a receptionist service, you know, I do encourage you to do a little bit of secret shopping and make sure that they're consistently and accurately adhering to your directions.

That is something that you should expect and just make sure that they are, especially in a, you know, dedicated or distributed team. If it's more than one person, you want to make sure that your calls are handled the same way every time with the same level of quality because obviously that person's not in-house.

So it's important to monitor them the same way that you would with an in-house person. 

EMAIL SYSTEMS

Email systems can use advanced features that can drive efficiency

Now, with regards to email systems ‘cause they're pretty self-explanatory. Obviously you're already going to have your email signature set up. Maybe you have a link to your calendar in there. 

What I would recommend is that you also have certain automations set up.

So if you're considering using a receptionist service, one of the things that we recommend that our clients do any time, a contact form is completed on your website. Typically that triggers an email alert to you and you can forward those to a receptionist service and have them call back that lead immediately and that forward can be done on an automated basis.

So every time those come in, they're automatically forwarded. And then you know that that person is going to get a call back right at the time of intent, right after they've completed that form. 

And that helps you be more responsive and also sure capture that lead with greater chance of converting them into a client.

Now, you can also connect your records management and your marketing campaigns. 

So for example, with email, if someone does not immediately convert into a new client, one of the most successful things that we see both attorneys and advisors doing is instituting these lead nurture drifts, where basically you have captured the email and the contact information from a potential client.

They don't convert to a client right away, but you want to stay top of mind if they're evaluating whether or not they're going to hire you or another attorney or advisor. 

Now, you can set that up in various email systems drips that are triggered by a certain time sequence.

So let's say once a week, you can send me folks emails that share testimonials from clients, demonstrate your expertise, explain your feeds, link to your calendar, to book a consultation, and other ways to get them to make or take an action that leads them closer to hiring you.

Now, one of the other tools that I really like is Mailshake. That can be great for automating email to a group of people, maybe an email list that you've acquired through an event or other marketing initiatives. 

Yet Another Mail Merge connects to Gmail and it allows you also to send bulk emails. Let's say you're going to be out of the office for a period of time, and you want to email your clients, or you have a promotion that's going on a new service that you're offering.

You can use this mail merge program to set up a spreadsheet and add contact information to that, draft the email, let’s say in Gmail, and then click send and all of the merge fields populate. And you can send many emails at once. 

TEXT MESSAGING

Text messaging with a VoIP phone, an app, or software

In terms of text messaging, I described this earlier, there are apps and software that allow you to increase your earnings.

So Time Miner is one really beneficial app. I already mentioned ZipWhip, but what Time Miner can do is they can crawl your calls and texts and log the billable time spent with clients. 

So if you're still billing time, or if you simply want to know, at a flat rate, how much time you're actually spending with clients and what is your effective hourly rates, then you can use time or to crawl those calls and text messages, and even integrate it within your software to determine exactly how much time is being spent with each client. 

WEB CHAT

Human, robotic, and combination web chat can boost your response bandwidth

Now, in terms of web chats, there are two main options. It can be a bot or it can be human staffed.

Now, with the bot, those are low costs. They're very fast, but typically we're not finding that they're so effective. They can be very frustrating because at this stage, the technology is not quite there where it's a standalone solution, where people are getting the level of answers and the level of personalization, where they're getting the help that they need just through the bot alone.

Now, with human staffed chat on your website, you're going to pay a little bit more typically, but it's going to result in higher return on investment. You'll typically find that you're paying per contact, per chat, or per qualified lead, and you may pay an upfront monthly cost, or you just may pay per contact that comes to your website. 

Now, typically with these services, you can connect your calendar for online booking. You may even be able to connect an intake form or direct people to an intake form through the chat so that they can complete it online. 

There's also often an option to turn a chat into a call so that if someone has kind of reached the point in the conversation where you know that they're a good potential client and maybe it's easier to complete basic intake over the phone, then you can do that. 

You can escalate that to someone who's staffing the chat or within your office by phone as needed. 

So to recap, potential clients, you know, can be handled in house or out of house, and they can be handled through software, such as marketing automation software, practice management software, calendaring, and billing software.

LEAD CONVERSION FLOW

Lead conversion flow chart shows the steps from generation to conversion

Now, so far, we've already talked about the way that leads can communicate with you, but what are the different sources? 

So, they may be coming through online reviews, local listings on Google, paid search ads, social media, different content that maybe is on your website or on other websites that you may write for to help build your brand.

You may also find that they're coming through podcasts or other links that you've built online or it could be that you've developed your website and you have higher search ranking through technical SEO efforts, and people are reaching you through phone, email, texts, and chat. 

Now, the response methods are you, the attorney or advisor or planner, could be someone in-house who's an assistant or an associate.

It could be a receptionist service, or it could be a chat bot. And within the receptionist service, I'm considering both phone and chat as areas that can be staffed by those people. 

Now, in terms of qualification, which is the next step, that's all about determining whether or not these people who are contacting you are good leads, are good potential clients. 

Now, if they are good leads, then we move them to intake and scheduling, and that could mean instant or delays. 

So, if they are ready to schedule an appointment and they're feeling committed to hiring you or at least investigating it, and they know they're ready to spend the money on these services, then maybe you'll have a transfer to you from a receptionist service or a callback scheduled, or an appointment on your calendar, which can be free or paid— and we'll talk about that later— or it can be delayed, in which case you would institute that lead nurture drift that I mentioned earlier.

And maybe you also have a follow-up call to them to check in because email alone is not always sufficient. 

And if that person does convert to a client, then you complete the full intake and your conversion is complete.

Now, going back to qualification, if you determine that a lead is not good for your firm or for your advising business, you may wish to earn passive income by referring them to a firm that is better suited to serving them. 

So that may be the case where it's a different fee structure or different costs.

It may be the case where you don't serve that, you know, location or practice area or type of clients, but you know, someone who does. And that can build goodwill and it can also result in someone who may come back to you a later time when they do have a need that meets your, or that matches your, practice area.

So how do we put this together? Well, it's really combining human intelligence with machine intelligence

Responsiveness can be achieved through combined human and machine intelligence

So with receptionist services, you know, we're talking about lead qualifying questions and intake form composition. Well, that's something that a human being has to create. You have to create your own intake form and determine what information is essential within there.

The caller greeting, if you have an IVR or a phone system where you're greeting people on behalf of your business, the email content and those lead drips and how bad leads are handled, these are all things that a human has to do. That’s you or the receptionist service or someone in your office. 

Now in terms of machine intelligence, that may be where the intake form is hosted.

What software you use, how leads and clients are tracked and recorded, what automated workflows happen after qualification or intake, and then what happens if a lead doesn't convert, so does that email drip trigger? 

Now the best practices.

MANAGING RESPONSE TIMES

Manage response time to clients and potential clients

Let's talk about managing response time. 

Now, effective response management gets you PAID, and this is a very easy to remember acronym.

Effective response management includes responses that are predictable, accessible, individualized and directed. 

And what does that mean? It means that you're opening up the channels that people use in their daily life to communicate through your business. So you're calling and texting and opening up web chat.

You have a contact form on your website.

And if they've reached you through a certain form, as much as possible, reach them back through that form. So if they text you, they probably want a text in return. If they call you, they probably want to call in return. And these are things that are individualized.

So as much as possible, making sure that you are gathering information through that first point of contact through that contact form so you can respond to them based on what you know, their needs are at least at a basic level. 

Managing responses is also setting expectations.

So if you have a phone system that's set up, but you're going away on holiday or vacation, or you work certain hours, then make sure you communicate that and if you have a voicemail set up, it's a good practice to have your after-hours voicemail be different from your daytime voicemail so people know that if they leave you a message, you will get back to them the next business day and probably not that same day. 

And hopefully that means that they will wait for you.

Now, you can also with VoIP phone systems, block spam. So you're filtering out calls that are going to consume your time and reduce your responsiveness.

You can also block out on sales calls and wrong numbers by putting them on block number lists and you can direct transfer calls from VIP's or clients that you want to hear from directly, or judges, other people who you need to always get in touch with when they call you.

IDENTIFY NEW-CLIENT CRITERIA

Identify new-client criteria and standardize the qualification process

Now, once you've set up these communication channels effectively, the next step is really identifying your new client criteria. 

So how do you determine who is a great potential client? And this is the first step in handing off this process as well. 

So review the 10 potential clients that you wanted, but you missed, or your 10 favorite clients— really think about what qualities that they had in common and also determine what your goals are.

So are you looking to increase the fit of your clients and not necessarily the total volume or are you looking to accept as many claims as you can right now, because you're starting off solo and you're trying to build your business? 

And oftentimes we find with new businesses or ones that are in a big growth stage that you're looking to accept as many clients as we possibly can.

Determine what your goals are, because that's going to determine how tightly you filter out potential leads. 

And also, are you expanding or contracting? Are you opening a new office? Are you bringing on a new partner? Because that's going to affect how many people you want to come through this funnel that you're creating of leads to clients.

And lastly, but not least, what is the work-life balance that you want to achieve? So as you're growing, as you're bringing on maybe a new partner or a standing, then how do you want to set goals for your work-life balance? 

Now, based on these common qualities, you want to pick the 5 to 10, most essential filtering questions and determine what are the must-have qualities— so these are not nice to have. These are not things that you can learn at a later stage when you've had more conversations. These are the things that really determine is this person going to hire you and are you the right fit for them? 

So that means your fees, how you work, your availability and determine also how you're going to handle your unqualified leads. 

STANDARDIZE QUALIFICATION PROCESS

Example of a qualification process

So now that you have those questions, you're going to standardize them and you're going to put them into a form online. 

And what I recommend is that you are as specific as possible about gathering information. So I don't recommend open-ended fields, like your note or your message. Be specific.

Give people a dropdown menu or buttons or check boxes to check that say, “These are the different topics that I want to talk to you about,” that relate to your practice areas.

Because you can still filter people out this way as well. 

So if you say you're a planner and you really focus on people who are pre retirement or a number of different areas where you prefer to practice, put those in this form and have people check those boxes and it will light up an area on their brain that says to them, “Oh, I'm not finding the boxes that I want to check. Maybe this isn't the right firm for me,” or “Oh, these are definitely the boxes that I want to check. I really feel confident that this is the right firm for me.” 

Now, when someone passes your criteria, you also want to determine what happens. 

So are you getting an email and there's an immediate call back, are you scheduling an appointment, and what is your policy on consultation? So how long are they? What is the format? 

You know, I typically really don't recommend forcing people to download another app. So if you're only requiring that people are using Skype to contact you, for example, that can be an inconvenience and a barrier to new clients.

So try and use a format that's really accessible. 

And then is it free or paid? So if you have your form listed on your website, your calendar linked on your website, I would be very clear about the expectations and what is delivered during that consultation.

And I would encourage you to add a fee for a consultation if you're making it that publicly accessible, even if you have it in your email whereas if you have a gatekeeper, like a receptionist service, then maybe it's not as necessary to charge for consultations because there's more filtering that's happening and you have the gatekeeper who can say, “You know what? This person doesn't seem like the right fit. Maybe not a great idea to schedule an appointment for them.” 

You just want to reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations and bad leads to get on your calendar because your time is precious. You want to outsource this process as much as possible.

Inbound call can trigger a workflow where you or someone in your staff or a receptionist service is filtering those leads, then they know the next step is to schedule a call back, to take basic information, to put that on the calendar, and then both you and the potential client will get that calendar notification. 

And again, that helps reduce no-shows and cancellations. 

Now, if it's a contact form completion that can trigger an outbound call back to that person, and then that same workflow around lead qualification.

Now, there are some kind of innovative approaches here that I like to highlight. 

So from the legal standpoint, there are attorneys who are doing kind of clever lead capture by delivering a service first. 

So maybe if you're doing work on traffic tickets, then you can have a traffic ticket estimate request form.

And as I mentioned, the deck is going to be available after the webinar so you can click on these links and review the examples afterward.

But a traffic ticket request form is just a form on your website where someone enters their information and you can calculate the cost of resolving that traffic ticket.

And that information also includes their name, their phone number, their email, so that you can contact them because that may be a great potential lead for your law firm

Now, a landlord attorney in Chicago has this eviction notice on his website. It's Chi City Legal. And he has an eviction notice form that he has created and made available for download.

And all the person has to do with the landlord is complete that form and then it is submitted through the appropriate channel. 

Now, what does that do? It offers a service to that person without any costs or time spent by the attorney other than the initial time setting it up. And it also generates a new lead who may be very interested or qualified to be a potential client for your firm.

Now, one of the other things you can do as a financial advisor is great fitness surveys. 

So how fit are your finances? How are you looking for retirement?

And allowing people to add in information online on your website to determine their financial fitness, which may then allow you the ability to follow up with resources or maybe your newsletter, where you help educate people on improving their financial fitness.

You stay top of mind and when they are ready to hire a financial advisor, then you are who they think of. 

HAND OFF NEW-CLIENT INTAKE

Hand-off new client intake

So with intake again, or getting basic contact information, and then we're identifying those deal breaker questions. 

So have people not only provide their information, but also filter themselves out. If they see that your form, your intake form online, or whether they're talking to someone on the phone and talking about your services and what they need, maybe they can, with the right information, help filter themselves out. So they express interest in maybe not scheduling an appointment with you and wasting your time.

Now with these forms, you want to balance completeness with complexity

So it's really important that you don't ask for too much information upfront because that can result in people getting tired and not completing the information and giving up, which will result in that lead not completing the form.

And if they don't complete the form, then you don't get the contact information. 

I also encourage you to have a document upload option if people are really interested and they want to share more information with you, you can give them that opportunity.

If you are an attorney and they want to upload information about their case, then perhaps they can do that as well.

And always, always ask as part of your initial question, not later on, because people will forget, but ask, “How did you hear about that?” That is absolutely critical to ask as soon as possible because people do forget. They forget what they typed into Google. They forget how they heard about your firm or your financial advising company.

And it's really important that you capture that information either by phone or by email or by this form online. You can also do it obviously by chat

And then if you're outsourcing this, make sure that you provide really clear instructions, like, “These fields are mandatory and these other ones are nice to have.”

Automate new client intake

Now, in terms of hosting this information, you may be able to, within a project client portal online, or within a somewhat secret URL, share the intake form so only people who need access to them get access to them.

But also think about the form and accessibility. So are you using word docs or PDF? Well, that's going to make it a real challenge for people to complete that on their computer with compatible software. A lot of people don't have the software to complete a PDF on their computer, let alone their phone. 

So if you want people, when they're on the go, to be responsive in getting back to you with the information that you need to serve them and these are now really new clients, you can use online hosted forums, and that allows them to complete the form anywhere, not just when they remember when they get home, when the kids are asleep at night. 

So you can use Google Forms, you can use software that has posted forms, but keep in mind that the more accessible you make it, the better your responses from these new clients will be.

There are examples here for legal professionals, basic forms, and then complete intake forms. And there are also examples here for financial professionals, whether they are pre-meeting questionnaires, complete questionnaires with all supporting documents, and then one example, something that's not recommended.

STREAMLINE APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING

Streamline appointment scheduling

Now, when you are streamlining appointment scheduling, it's really important that you have given access, if you're using a receptionist service, to your calendar. 

And the nice thing is, with calendaring programs like Calendly and even ScheduleOnce and other solutions— first of all, they come way down in price so it's very, very cheap. 

Calendly actually is a free program for one appointment type and it allows you to give access to your calendar without giving access to editing or visibility into your appointment so only allowing people to see what time you're free based on their time zone and scheduling appointments in the block and, you know, with the availability that you have.

You can add more advanced features, use other services that are more robust. I typically recommend ScheduleOnce, but there are a lot of other services, Acuity, Appointy. You can feel free to look at the integrations that are online at Smith.ai. We integrate with a lot of different calendaring solutions.

And I say that only because those are the ones that are most easily connected to your other software and services. So I would encourage you to look at that.

And what you can do is you can help people, not only book appointments for new leads, but also existing clients can book appointments for you and when you have those two options available and you make it available to a receptionist service, or even to your receptionist, in-house, it allows for one more thing to come off your plate and to be done without your involvement. 

Now, you can embed your calendar links on your website, or you can make them just privately accessible. You can put them in your email signature, you can put them on, you know, maybe your Facebook page or other directory listings where you have online, your profile. But that is really up to you for your comfort level. 

Again, if you are allowing calendar booking and you have consultations, it's not so much a concern for existing clients, but for new clients, I really encourage you, if you make it that publicly available, to charge for them so you don't get people scheduling you and then flaking out. 

MINIMIZE WASTED TIME

Minimize wasted time and get paid for more-valuable tasks

So how do you minimize wasted time and get paid for your time, especially with regard to leads and clients? 

So it doesn't have to just do a free versus paid consultation, but it also has to do with collecting the earnings that you have from existing clients.

And clients say, now more than ever, that they do expect to be able to pay with their credit card with their debit card or with an eCheck, for any services, even if they're on the more expensive side, even if they are larger payments, even if they are traditionally paid by paper check, people expect it, and that will yield a more consistent and higher rate of collection for you. 

You can embed payment links on your website. And you can also send people updated invoices via email.

And lastly, you can also hand off payment collection to receptionists for inbound and outbound calls. 

So if you have a workflow that has a lead qualification step and intake step and appointment scheduling steps, and you're charging for consultations, the receptionist can take payment using your invoice form online to enter the credit card information.

It is not stored in that receptionist services software it's stored only in your payment software. And then that information is then triggered as a receipt for that person. And then you see it in your backend system as a payment that has come through as well.

For people who have regular retainers or you're hosting an event that's paid, or you have other invoices that are even past due, these services can follow up on those payments and make sure that the revenue is being captured and then people are paying on time and completely. 

MONETIZING BAD LEADS

Monetize "bad" leads through referrals

Now, how do you monetize these bad leads? 

So you want to be, first of all, very clear about the rules and regulation. 

So there are rules from maybe your state and local bar association, FCC, the first link here is for “Referral Fee Do's and Don'ts”.

Know what you're on the hook for if you're receiving referral fees, but you will get leads.

And if you're doing a lot of online marketing, you'll find that, unlike referrals from clients or other people in your community, other firms, maybe that are referring to you, you may find that as you increase your organic search traffic, the lead quality goes down and you really need to do something with these bad leads, more than just trying to improve your information on your website that says clearly what you do and what you don't do. 

There are still going to be people who've slipped through and who contact you, or maybe schedule a consultation, who are not qualified leads then.

Referring them means getting something out of that lead you're monetizing them, and that can be passive income for work that you're not having to do, but, as a indication of gratitude, as a gift of gratitude from the firm that you refer to.

There are always other businesses that you're friends with, or that you respect that compliment that don't compete with your services. 

And this could even mean that you are an estate lawyer, and you're working with a financial planner or vice versa. So it may even be, between these two industries that we're talking about on this call, where you have other related professionals and it's not just one law firm to another that's better suited to have all clients, but from one industry to another.

Maybe someone needs a notary or an accountant or a therapist or whatever the case may be, make sure that you're following the proper referral rules. And then you can earn, in some cases, especially in the legal industry, upwards of 40% of the fees that are being paid. 

Now, speaking back to that step six, with the criteria already indicated, you can hand that off to a receptionist service and get the income from those referrals without, even your involvement.

So if you have directions that are clear, that say “If this type of caller calls and they don't qualify for a new client for me, then I recommend this law firm, specifically, or this attorney or this financial advisor who is better suited.” 

And the nice thing is that not only are you building goodwill with that other firm and with also that person who calls, you're preventing them from going back to their Google search and starting from square one.

But you never know if that person is going to come back to you and because you built that goodwill and you did a service for them that is helpful and you spare them the extra research time, that maybe in the future, they will have a need for your services and they will become a client. 

So don't write people off and do take that extra effort to refer people. You may even want to do that when they're not potentially, you know, giving you referral fees and just out of goodwill.

INTEGRATE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS

Integrate your communications into your existing systems with record keeping

Now, you want to integrate your communications as much as possible.

And this is going back to not having the time to, or the resources to have an IT person on staff now. Oftentimes, there are API’s.

Now, an API just means that it connects automatically from one field to another field in different software. 

So if a name is entered in your calendar or on a form, then that name is entered in your contact database, or that email is entered in your calendar, then that emails entered in your email program, your marketing automation system. 

As much as possible, you want to look for services and systems that connect each other so that there's less work for you to do. 

For example, if you're receiving a receptionist services’ messages that you missed a call or that a call was handled well, is that new caller— is there contact information automatically getting added to your database or do you have to go and take that caller information and the call notes and copy and paste them into there? 

So this can be done for new contacts. This can also be done for document automation. Many software and business management tools allow you to automate these signatures.

And I would encourage you to automate as much of that as possible, so that you're not doing as much administrative work

Integrate into your existing systems with operations as well as marketing and new business growth tracking

Now, that can also be done operationally. There are services that will convene conference calls. They can also trigger notifications when your calls come in. So maybe your phone doesn't ring, but you get a text message when there's a caller on the line.

Anything that allows you to be more responsive and to see information related to your business in a fast and possibly even discreet way, and reduce the amount of administrative time that you're spending. 

So even if you're spending 20 minutes getting everyone on the line for a conference call, it may be worth the cost to you to have a conference call convening service that brings together everyone and it rings you as soon as everyone is on the line. 

You also want to be automating your emails, whether it's a newsletter or to new leads who haven't converted to clients. 

And you want to be tracking your performance. 

So as much as possible, if you're spending money on marketing, you want to know, especially if you're using a receptionist service, what is the total cost of generating someone to come to your website, calling or chatting with you or completing a contact form, and then following up with that person and getting them to become a client? 

How many clients does your marketing campaign yield and which are the channels that you should focus most of your time on to actually generate the best new business for you?

WHAT TO DO NEXT

So what is your game plan? 

So here's what to do next. 

You're going to identify those 5 to 10 must have qualities and questions to identify those qualities so that you can filter out leads good and bad. 

You're going to use software hopefully to build a basic shareable intake form. And you're going to make it available via a link that either you put on your website or you share with a gatekeeper, like a receptionist or receptionist service.

And then look at your qualification and intake processes. Where can you standardize? Where can you streamline? And then think about how to handle each step. 

So are you going to handle it yourself? Are you going to streamline it and simplify it? Can it be automated with software? And can it be outsourced with the service to free up your time?

And then I encourage you to prioritize these sixes because there may be multiple things that just feel like you can't tackle all of them or where do you start? So think about what takes the most time, what's most important and then— and in terms of importance, what requires you personally to do it wersus someone else who it can be handed off to? And then how urgent is it? 

And there's a link here to the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. This is just a helpful tool to use when determining the importance and urgency of the task and how to prioritize it. 

Now, lead qualification and payment collection are the most often easily outsourced and time consuming.

And data entry and lead follow up are the most easily automated. And by at least follow up, I mean, those email nurturing drips. 

Now, I recommend that you implement your new form and your process in the next 30 to 60 days, depending on the scope and the cost and the difficulty of doing so. 

And then once you've done that, just wait, you know, 60 days, maybe two months to restabilize and evaluate not only the impact on your bottom line, how much are you earning more? How, you know, good quality are your leads and your client volume, but also your work-life balance, your stress levels, your sleep quality, et cetera? What is your quality of life now that you've made these changes?

Hopefully it's much better. 

And then reevaluate and carry through this process one to four times a year, so that you're in the habit of constant improvement. 

So that is the full presentation. Thank you so much for joining me. 

I will also go through to the very first slide where you can see the link to the deck, and that will also be sent to you afterwards. 

Now, we have a few questions and feel free to be sending your questions right now. I will be reviewing them for the next few minutes. 

There was one person who said, “Will we have access to these slides after the live streaming?”

Yes, you will. They are right here. It's bit.ly/lorman-converting-more-clients

And again, if you're viewing this, then you will receive this link after the call as well. So if you don't capture it right here, if you're having trouble accessing those slides, then we will send them to you afterwards. So no worries there. 

Now, in response to the question about maintaining confidentiality with these services. So how do you maintain confidentiality? 

Well, in two ways. First of all, look at the service agreement with the receptionist service. So any software should have very strict security protocols using the best online security services. Now, that's absolutely important.

Now, with receptionist services, look through our agreement at Smith.ai. We are one of the only ones that requires a non-disclosure before we hire a receptionist service. And we very clearly outlined in the terms of service how protected your information is.

Also, oftentimes, these services are not talking about detailed case information.We're just doing the basic intake and lead qualification. 

So review the terms and service I encourage you to.

Also, we do make it mandatory at Smith.ai— can't speak for other services— to sign an NDA so that any information that is shared is under that nondisclosure. 

Now, maximum optimal response time for calls and emails. That's another question that I received. 

The optimal response time is within one hour. And I would say at the outer edge within 24 business hours. 

So if you are receiving a call from someone and you don't get back to them within 24 hours, I would say they've completely written you off. 

24 business hours so that means, you know, Friday to Monday is acceptable. 

But don't feel like you necessarily need to do it yourself. Again, it's more important to even have a single touch point where you're responsive to the person, even if you don't want your receptionist to do any of that lead qualification or intake.

If you're not yet comfortable with that, that is totally okay. But it's most important to just call someone back or to have that call answered and to get that call back on your calendar so that that person has the peace of mind that you are going to be responsive.

Because if you are not responsive at the outset, then what expectation does that set for that person when they actually hire you? 

Because what they're looking for is someone who is going to be responsive to their needs, and especially once they're already paying you, that you're going to get back to them quickly. 

So that is all for today's webinar. Again, if you have any other questions or I will let the moderator interrupt me if there are any questions by phone— that is it for today's webinar though.

And feel free to get in touch with me. I'd love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments or concerns, please reach out. I am a real person. I know that you can't see me, but I would be happy to talk to you about making improvements in your legal or financial practice.

And I will, again, put that first slide up so you have access to the slides in the deck, where there's a lot more information that you can review at your leisure. 

So, thank you so much.

Questions? Contact Us.

Have any questions about Smith.ai's virtual receptionists services or anything else mentioned in this webinar? Call us at (650) 727-6484 or email us at support@smith.ai.

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To watch more webinars like this one, check out our YouTube channel or access articles, guest blog posts, and other resources on the Smith.ai blog.

Elizabeth Lockwood

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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