The fastest growing law firms are the ones who excel at marketing and sales. It doesn’t matter if you are smarter, went to a better law school, or are a better lawyer than the next guy. At the end of the day, your clients won’t necessarily know the difference. It all comes down to how effectively you can generate interest from prospective clients and convince them to hire you. In other words, your sales process. Lawyers usually don’t think of themselves as salespeople, but to succeed at building a law firm, you absolutely need to get good at selling your services. As is the case with most other aspects of running a law practice, the more systematic your approach is, the better. In this post, we’ll explain why you need a law firm sales process and show you what a good sales process might look like to help you implement one.
Why You Need A Law Firm Sales Process
So why do you need a formal process for selling legal services? Why can’t you just keep doing it the way it has always been done? Well you can, but it’s definitely not in your best interest, and here’s why…
The Market Is Changing
It’s uncertain times for the legal industry. Clients have an increasingly wide range of options available to them for legal services and more free information at their fingertips than ever before.
This is precisely why the law firms that excel at marketing and sales are so successful – because they stand out amongst the crowd, and they convert prospects into paying clients at a high rate.
You Will Get More Conversions
If you lack a structured sales process, things can slip through the cracks very easily, leading to wasted marketing dollars and lost business. Creating structure improves organization and can help you identify bottlenecks in your process, enabling you to optimize over time.
Better organization and ongoing optimization will drastically improve your conversion rate, which equates to more revenue and better ROI for your marketing dollars.
You Will Have Better Data
We have written before about the importance of collecting and analyzing law firm data on a regular basis. Having this data is critical for measuring your success and identifying potential problems or inhibitors to growth.
But without a structured sales process, you will often end up with inaccurate, missing, or incomplete data, which makes it impossible to get any meaningful insights. A structured sales process provides rules about which data to collect, when to collect it, and why you need it, meaning you will be much more likely to have the important data you need to help grow your business in the future.
What Does A Good Law Firm Sales Process Look Like?
Now that you understand some of the reasons why having a structured sales process is beneficial, let’s get into the details of what makes a law firm sales process effective and how you can implement better processes at your firm.
Your Process Should Fit Your Practice Area
The needs and expectations of clients vary drastically from one type of law to the next, so it’s critical that you keep this in mind when designing your sales process, as well as your marketing strategy.
For example, if you do criminal defense, there is often a higher level of urgency compared to other practice areas, and your responsiveness and follow up is critical. Other areas such as estate planning are less urgent, and a longer-term, more educational approach is often effective.
Think carefully about the types of clients you prefer to work with, and keep this in the back of your mind when laying out every aspect of your sales process. Every decision you make should be to better meet their needs.
Focus on Building Trust and Adding Value
Trust is the most critical aspect of the relationship with a potential client. Most people think of sales as being pushy and aggressive and convincing people to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, but this is certainly not how you should look at selling legal services.
Effective legal sales is a process of understanding the person’s needs and then presenting them with a solution that is carefully tailored to solve their problems and stay within their budget. It should be a win-win relationship where your services add tangible value and make the client feel like they are coming out ahead, despite the financial cost of the services.
Break It Up into Stages
The legal sales cycle can be long sometimes, so it’s extremely helpful to divide up your sales process into discrete stages and track each potential client as they progress through each stage. Otherwise, you just end up with a cluttered list or spreadsheet of names, and it’s really difficult to know what the next steps are or who to follow up with at any given time.
Think about all the steps a client would take from their initial contact with you, all the way up until the point of retention. Each meaningful step should be considered a stage in your sales process, e.g. “initial contact,” “pending intake form,” “upcoming consult,” etc.
And it’s also smart to have certain stages designed for people who get stuck or become unresponsive at any step. The idea is to keep people constantly moving through the sales process. If they get stuck, you should remove them from that stage and put them into an “unresponsive” category for follow up later on.
Check out Lexicata’s matter pipeline for an example of how this might work – it’s designed for this very purpose.
Capture Key Data Points at Each Stage
As mentioned above, you should be strategically capturing data throughout your sales process. There should specific data points that you collect for every potential client at each stage.
For instance, when a client makes initial contact with you, the primary data to collect would be their basic contact information, how they found your law firm, and a general sense of their legal needs.
Assuming they pass your initial qualifications, then you might send a more detailed intake form to capture the next set of data you need. This could be things specifically related to their legal matter such as important dates, times, and key contacts.
It’s a good idea to collect this data with an online intake form so that you can use the data later on without having to re-transcribe it into a database.
Finally, you will want to track what percentage of those people ended up becoming clients to get an idea of your overall conversion rate and your ROI from marketing expenses. And if they end up not hiring you, you should do your best to identify and track the reason why, e.g. too expensive, hired another firm, not the right type of client, etc.
Be Proactive about Keeping in Touch and Following Up
One of the biggest mistakes that lawyers tend to make in their sales process is not following up enough. There is probably no better way to improve your conversion rate than to make follow up a bigger priority.
Purchasing legal services is often an intimidating experience for clients, and it’s easy to get cold feet. The more you check in with these people, the more likely you will be to establish their trust and assure them that your services will in fact benefit them and solve their problems.
One technique that can be highly effective is to use automated drip emails. These can be triggered at any stage in the sales process, and they can be written specifically to address the needs of a person in that stage.
For example, if someone expresses that they aren’t ready to move forward yet, you might send them a series of emails with articles from your website to continue educating them about the benefits of your services or the risks of foregoing them.
Lawyers may not think they’re in the business of sales, but the surest path to a successful law practice is based heavily on your ability to market and sell your services. Without a structured sales process in place, it’s easy for potential clients to slip through the cracks, resulting in wasted marketing dollars and lost business.
Implementing a law firm sales process should be one of the first steps you take to grow your law firm. By organizing your sales process and designing it to carefully meet your clients’ needs, you will increase your conversion rate, better meet the needs of your clients, and capture the data you need to gain insights into the health of your business and make better decisions for the future.