How Can We Help More Clients To Agree After Enquiring?
Hello. It seems an obvious fact of life:
An enquiry does not necessarily lead to an instruction.
For example, 9 out of 10 people who need a solicitor do not contact one, the Solicitors Regulation Authority says.
Rather than let that take its own course, you can revise your Client-Attracting Pathway to make everything help your potential clients agree to instruct: ethically, cheaply and quickly.
1. Progressing from enquiry: what both clients and you want
- First-time potential clients need more guidance than customers asking about more familiar products and services. Written or spoken, this needs a careful choice of words to build 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:
This is not about professional training.
It's about describing your practice to the people you want to work with....
...using communications psychology
in professional practice.
Consequently, it is difficult to design a process that clients will find easy and appealing. Their 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 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.
2. Your Client-Attracting Pathway Untangled Step-By-Step
We identify eight subsequent stepping stones to take people from first enquiry stage through to instructing you. It is worth stepping slowly through this sequence to check its effectiveness from a client's-eye-perspective:
- Website/leaflet/advert Performance
(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
- Product Offerings
– to make it easy for people to know which services to ask about
- Explaining Prices
– to ensure clients understand the great value-for-money you provide
- Offer to Meet
– to build a trusting relationship, discuss details and encourage agreement
- Suitable Ambience
– to reflect your value message to ideal clients to reassure them
- Deciding Assistance
– to answer clients' questions if they want reassurances before agreeing
- Engagement Process
– to systematise your 'contracting' process to increase its success rate
...and continuing for another three 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.
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 functioning OK, there are many places you can tune up to get better performance.
3. Your First Response To Enquiries Is A Vital Step
Let's look at one step as an example - the second step that follows contact by question by phone, email or in person, whether inspired by your website, leaflet or advert.
Your aim is to confirm relevance, build trust and encourage discussions.
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 you can't manage what you don't measure!
But one 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.
This is Optimising for Human Choice (HCO).
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 change the potential client's impression of the next step.
This 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
4.Once Instructed, your next stage is...
...to begin the most cost-effective business-building stage: Encourage them to return for your services again later.
Because you are no longer working on an active matter with them, this stage means you have to stay in touch.