Initial consultations are a crapshoot. The simplest prospective matters can take hours to discuss, and even if there is a case to pursue, the prospective client might not select you. But that unpredictability is also precisely why you should treat every initial consultation as both an immediate and a long-term opportunity. The case evaluation and intake processes are part of marketing and client service for law firms.
I don’t extrapolate general rules from a single data point, but a lawyer friend recently described a situation where, as a business development training exercise for himself, he invested a considerable amount of time into a free consultation that he expected would lead nowhere. It was an employment case for a university employee who had contacted him, and indeed, the matter did not move forward. But not long after the original consultation, that same prospective client referred a colleague to the lawyer, also on an employment matter, and it led to him being hired for the case.
Sales coach and author Andy Paul recently wrote:
“For the small or medium-sized business (SMB), every inbound sales lead has the potential to become not only a customer, but also to transform itself into a satisfied customer that represents a dependable stream of repeat revenue year after year.
“The primary obstacle that stands between an SMB and converting an inbound sales lead into a repeat customer is the task of lead follow-up. On the surface, lead follow-up would appear to be quite straightforward, but this simple concept is fraught with difficulties for most companies. Industry research on sales estimates that 40-50% of all inbound sales leads are never followed up. And when the leads are followed up, common mistakes are made that unwittingly doom the SMB to lose the opportunity to convert that lead into a customer.”
Paul posits four mandatories for successful inbound marketing:
- Follow up with 100 percent of inbound leads – Every inbound sales lead is like a scratch-off lottery ticket. You don’t know what you have until you scratch the wax off the face of it and see what you have won. How many people buy a lottery ticket and then wait until the next day to see if they’re a winner? None. Inbound sales leads should be treated the same way.
- Be speedy – Companies that try to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly 7 times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers as firms that try to contact prospects even an hour later.
- Provide complete answers quickly – It is not enough to be the first to respond to the customer. You must also be the first to answer their questions. The first seller to respond to an inbound sales lead with the complete answer in zero time will build trust, credibility, and dramatically increase their chances of winning the customer.
- Measure, improve and measure again – You must continually work to improve your sales lead follow-up process. As the old saying goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Do you follow up on every inbound inquiry, or do you apply a filter before you begin the consultation process.