How Can We Help More Clients To Agree After Enquiring?
enquiries do not necessarily lead to instructions.
Your Development Challenge:
How to revise your Client-Attracting Pathway
to best help your potential clients agree to instruct: ethically, cheaply and quickly.
1. Ease Progress From Enquiry To Instruction
This what both clients and you want.
(In other more commercial business environments, this is often referred to as the sales process.)
Various figures are quoted for the 'conversion rate' for professional firms - 50% and 75% are mentioned. This shows that significant numbers of people enquiring do not agree to instruct.
To gain instructions, every step towards that decision must be as easy as possible for clients.
- First-time potential clients for professional services need more guidance than customers asking about more familiar products and services. Written or spoken, this needs a careful choice of words to be truly helpful andbuild trust in an authentic way.
- They may find other advice on how to plan their search, which is worth incorporating into the information you provide because a small difference may confuse, dismay and derail a visitor's intentions to contact you.
- But services – especially professional services – are invisible and are very difficult to describe convincingly to inform and reassure potential clients. This means that 'Normal Marketing' Won't Work For Professionals'.
But how can outsiders know enough to comment on our business?
It's an understandable question.
However, this is not about professional training.
It is marketing - ie describing your practice to the people you want to work with....
...using communications psychology to ensure the best outcomes.
Client-Friendly Marketing Overtakes 'Normal'
It is important to design a process that clients will find easy and appealing.
Client's experience of your process is THE major determining factor for their decision to instruct you - their objective need may come second.
Solicitors find this difficult as new research says:
"... a focus on client experience is new to many law firms, especially in the light of past research that shows persistent disconnects between them and their clients. The repositioning [is] not easy."
Accountants are recognising this too:
"...the quality of services offered, alone, is no longer enough of a differentiator. Clients want a deeper, richer relationship with their accounting professional. [ ]
"Client experience is at the heart of successful firms. And those that have mastered it will win every time."
And similarly architects are discussing the importance of developing "the essential relationship":
"For an architect, getting these soft skills right brings lasting relationships, repeat business and a stronger reputation."
In health it's a long-standing issue. American news 'Why Nice Doctors Are Better Doctors' says:
"Going to the doctor is an exercise in brisk communication, trust and vulnerability – talking about your health concerns isn’t easy. [ ] A good bedside manner...could mean the difference between illness and health, according to experts, and with a growing focus on patient satisfaction, many doctors are taking note."
Insurance is another area where the relationship with customers has problems.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that insurance customers:
• found language confusing;
• had difficulty comparing policies and the different elements of cover;
• and often had poor understanding of products.
In the words of one insurer, the language is often “officious, dry and unimaginative”.
The FCA points the finger at: the ‘maze’ of complex and bureaucratic processes; the ‘fog’ of industry jargon and difficulties in making comparisons; the ‘void’ that can be faced by consumers unable to engage through modern channels.
How to make Progress From Enquiry To Instruction Easier For clients
A focus on developing the 'working relationship' with potential clients will help everyone.
Many professionals entered the profession because they were interested in the technicalities of that profession. Law, finances, medicine, teaching, building design, machines, etc are all complex endeavors with their own intricacies...
But the client is a pre-occupied and perhaps vulnerable human being.
Take time with the client
Developing a good feeling of mutual understanding will make everything easier:
- This does not require clients to understand professional issues, nor for the professional to understand the whole of the client's experience of life.
- But a 'good-enough' understanding will help the client feel cared-for and comfortable in this foreign territory of the professional processes required.
- And it will help the professional relate the progress of the service they provide so that the client can understand the value of the service (to them individually) they are receiving.
This can require some encouraging for professionals who are already busy working at getting the professional task done properly. But the point is that the organisation as as whole will benefit from happier clients (see also below)- and each professional will benefit from that.
2. Tune-Up Your Client-Attracting Pathway For BEST Results
Gaining an instruction is More Than a single-step event
Designing your process to attract more clients is best tackled by considering all the small 'touch points' where people receive information from you. Each is a stepping stone, and you need all of them to work well.
We identify a set of stepping stones to take people from first enquiry through to instructing you.
It is worth stepping slowly through this sequence to check its effectiveness from a client's-eye-perspective:
- how your website/leaflet/advert performs (as previously mentioned: How To Get More Enquiries)
- First Response
– to confirm relevance, welcome queries and provide initial information
- Early Explanations
– to confirm the match between what clients want and what you provide
- Services Listing
- make specific enquiries as easy as possible
- Offer to Meet
- invitation to private face-to-face discussion
- Suitable Space
- surroundings to confirm your caring and value
- Deciding Assistance
- give the best answers to natural questions
- Engagement Process
- systematise your 'contracting' process
...and continuing for another four more steps which are the most important for your business health. They influence repeat business, recommendations and reviews and timely fee payments to encourage clients to return again.
How to get the best from this Client-Attracting Pathway
A senior manager can review and revise the design of the firm's Pathway to develop it's performance.
Develop a Pathway Tracking Model
The productivity of your Client-Flow depends on every step - there is only one key point and that is the first. If potential clients don't make that first contact, none of the rest of the Pathway applies to them.
After that point, it is a useful exercise to analyse client movements along the Pathway. If you can identify one or two steps where a higher number of people stop, you have a priority target to work on.
The most accurate method is to develop numerical monitoring: "what is measured can be managed".
All the same, intuitive analysis may be better than none:
- An informative approach is to compare departments to see if their specialties demand variations in the overall Pathway that might improve results.
- Another opportunity is to investigate high-profile 'disasters' for clues. NOT in the professional matter, but in the progression of clients along the Pathway.
- Or you can survey colleagues within the firm and ask for their Ideal Admin system...
The implications of the eight steps above may be a lot to absorb quickly. A slower read will give you the background story about 'How Every Stepping Stone Helps Your Firm Gain More Clients'.
Even when all these steps are present and functioning OK, you can review the whole process to uncover many places where you can quietly tune them for even better performance on your priority objectives.
3. Design Your First Responses To Make Clients Happy
Let's look at one step as an example - the second step: Your First Response.
It is those first few sentences that follow a contact by phone, email or in person -
whether inspired by your website, leaflet or advert (ie whatever their first step was).
Your aim is to confirm relevance, build trust and encourage discussions.
This paves the way to opening helpful discussions that enable both client and firm to move toward agreement.
BUT this step can be a stopper.
People put their toe in the water in this initial conversation
They are at their most hesitant and can quickly be put off. Then they can too-easily say “I'll get back to you” and depart forever.
This is a tragedy!
The best-qualified professional firm may lose an interested client.
And perhaps the biggest problem is that the firm may not even realise it. The nearly-client will often decide to back off before you have even taken their name, so you cannot trace their progress with your organisation.
Nervous people start with a toe
The loss is not recognised. These no-shows are invisible. And it is difficult to manage what you don't measure!
How to Design Your First Responses To Make Clients Happy
This is Optimising for Human Choice (which I call HCO).
Make Attendance More Likely
One small pause (in the right place!) can increase the likelihood that those on the edge of backing off will arrive for the appointment. This tiny micro-second change can reduce your lost enquiries.
So providing a caring welcome can reassure the enquirer and calm their nerves.
This makes it likely they will continue to the next step. Then you have the opportunity to understand their situation and propose a plan of action to them. And the logical outcome of that is gainingmore instructions.
Make Instruction more likely
You can also tune this simple conversation to MULTIPLY the power of the next few steps shown above:
Very useful research from well-qualified behavioural scientists shows that just one sentence (yes, one!) can substantially change the potential client's impression of the next step - for the better!
We are using a vital lesson from Systems Analysis here:
the early stages of any process have greatest long-term impact.
(BUT NOTE: the last few stages can have most impact on profitability!)
These recommendations will require some training of various staff. It works best with some coaching on these skills to prevent accidental return to the old familiar patterns.
PS Once Instructed, your next priority is to encourage loyalty
Repeat custom is vital For the well-being of all businesses!
Begin the most cost-effective business-building stage: Encourage them to return for your services again later.
Tuning your greeting greatly improves the likelihood that the enquirer will agree to instruct.
And it may also widen the scope of the work discussed.
So it may be the most cost-effective sentence you could ever design!
Each following stepping stone can be tuned up to help you to Overtake Normal Marketing with small-but-powerful shifts in style.
your firm will have different opportunities to others, which means a unique-to-you proposal must follow a careful assessment of your priorities and procedures.
do you want To Encourage More Clients To Agree After Enquiring?
Each of your eight steps (see above) for receiving and working with your client enquiries must work well together.
It is worth reviewing these areas for possible development:
- Offering accurate information to the most likely questions would-be clients will ask you
- Making every environment as welcoming and supportive as possible at every step
- Confirming and strengthening people's initial motivations to encourage decision-making
- Reassuring people as much as possible, addressing their natural reservations
- Bonding with people by answering questions as soon as possible as helpfully as possible