In this episode’s discussion around the Community Table:
- Getting from “yes” to “signing the check.” How to accelerate and bullet-proof your sales cycle. Getting the client to go from agreeing to hire you to actually turning over that retainer.
- Vaccinating the recruiter. Preparing a third-party recruiter with responses to a prospective employee’s objections. How do you arm a recruiter for a prospect’s “Yeah, but I heard they …”
- Stalking a specific type of client? Go where they are. If you’re the best in a niche field, where do you find the clients who need you, and how is that different from asking for referrals? And, Facebook vs. LinkedIn, your marketing dollars.
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Male 1: The Un-Billable Hour Community Table, where real lawyers from all around the country with real issues they are dealing with right now meet together virtually to present their questions to Christopher T. Anderson, lawyer and law firm management consultant. New questions every episode and none of it scripted. The real conversations happen here. Today’s segments feature guest hosts Erik and Elliot Alicea, the cofounders of Empirical 360 Legal Marketing. Alongside Christopher Anderson, they will be helping provide expertise and insight into the marketing questions our participants have today. The first segment tackles the question of how to condense the sales cycle.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay, so welcome everybody. Have a couple of special guests because they were on the podcast and so they’ve agreed to be here to answer any marketing questions or quite honestly, they can pipe in on anything, but so I’ll be deferring to them and then I’ll be explaining why I think they’re completely wrong. But Erik and Elliot are here from Empirical 360. Empirical 360 helps law firms with attracting new clients. Full disclosure, they work with me. They’ve been on the show and I enjoy working with them and I think they get great results. So with all that preamble, I’ll just remind we do this every third Thursday of the month at 3:00 p.m., and you’re always welcome to join. So welcome to the Un-Billable-Hour Community Table.
Female 1: Thank you. My question today, well, I actually have two, but let’s start with the most important one, which is how do I condense my sales cycle? Because a lot of people are saying yes, but I’m not getting the retainers.
Christopher T. Anderson: So people are saying, yes, you’re sending retainer agreement, and then the retainer agreements were not coming back?
Female 1: Right. And I also feel like the process is very long. It’s a long process.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay, so I have a certain thought about that, but I like to ask our guests to speak to that issue. So getting a yes on the phone, then sending the retainer and then there either goes to or the retainer doesn’t come back for either a long time or at all. What are your thoughts?
Erik Alicea: One thing that I can think of it, you can take over because you deal with this more than probably I do is at the time when you get them to agree to sign the retainer, I would probably schedule or like even if they say, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to think about it and I’ll let you know.” Send over the retainer or send over the invoice. I would schedule a meeting to go over their decision. So we get that a lot where attorneys will agree to work with us. When we say just to make sure we touch base again, we can get a yes or no from you. Can we put another meeting on the calendar, even if it’s for tomorrow, later in the day, and that way you have a guaranteed date where you hopefully get to the next step with them. And then Elliot, you can give any other suggestions from there.
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. To Eric’s point, it gives you at least a yes or no. Keep following up or kill the lead if they no show you. But when you do it, are you on the phone with them or is it a Zoom?
Female 1: Zoom.
Elliot Alicea: So it’s at least face to face. And do they already know the price at which you’re on that Zoom?
Female 1: Yes.
Elliot Alicea: Prior to the Zoom do they know the price or on the Zoom they discover the price?
Female 1: On the Zoom they discover the price.
Elliot Alicea: Okay. So I’m not a hardcore pushy salesperson, but what others have done to me and they’ve closed me for large ticket items is they’ll ask me for a credit card on the spot. So they’ll go for the money pretty quickly, and they generally don’t say, “Do you want to pay?” They say, “So, like, what card are you putting this on? Is it going to be a Visa or Mastercard?” That’s like the old salesman trick, which I personally don’t like. It feels dirty to me, but some people do it. The other thing that was done to me recently on a high-ticket program, they said, “Look, I know you probably don’t want to commit to the full amount right now, but I don’t want you to walk away without getting the ball rolling. Can you put a deposit down?” And that actually closed me. So I’ve seen that work pretty well, is at least get some sort of commitment from them so we can lock in your spot, because especially you, you’re kind of like at capacity. Look, other people are coming in, you build a little bit of scarcity. I want to make sure that we can save your spot on my calendar so your caseload is fit into my schedule. Can we put a deposit down before you pay the full amount? That’s not a bad way to at least get a little bit of commitment. And that way you kind of know they’re serious. If they can’t deposit anything, maybe they’re not going to put anything down. So that’s been done to me. I’ve seen that work in other industries, but just a couple of thoughts there.
Christopher T. Anderson: So Elliot stole my thunder. That is exactly what I was going to suggest. If you’re going to be sending retainers out after you’ve got a yes, get a money with a yes. And that is actually a change that we’re implementing right now as well. It’s very, very effective. We take the money with the yes. If the retainer agreement doesn’t come back after a certain amount of time, we send the money back. But people will follow their own money. It just is a much deeper commitment than the yes, and they’re going to want to start getting value for that money more quickly, which means they’re more likely to engage faster.
Female 1: So I was with some colleagues, very well respected beautiful colleagues. And the discussion kind of went into if my non-attorney salesperson is on the phone leaving some time, if she gets a yes, if I get a yes, saying, okay, let me take your credit card now, process it now, because sometimes they fail. And then hand them over to somebody else who’s dedicated to walk through the retainer agreement with them. Like, we can send it on the spot. It’s all digital. Walk through the highlights of it so that they understand what the hell they’re signing, because that doesn’t happen. They’re like, “What do you mean you’re taking replenishments?” Like, “We get angry.” I’m like, “Did you read your retainer?” They’re like, “No.” I’m like, “Well–” so really walk through it with them. But that’s going to mean really condensing the sales conversation down to about 45 minutes, maybe even less, to allow enough time because I don’t want someone two-hour, nobody’s got that kind of time. So now the non-attorney salespersons got to hit those needs really quickly to allow time to do the back end if they say yes. And I guess I’m just struggling with how that’s all going to play out. And is it smooth, is it choppy?
Christopher T. Anderson: Right? So one of the things you might consider is rather than having that extra time to go through the fee agreement, which might feel — I don’t know, that might not be a great thing to be doing after you got the yes is to then go into the details at that very, very moment. One thing that you might consider is when you send the fee agreement to also to send a video from you walking through the fee agreement. The highlights of the fee agreement say, “Hey, you really should read the whole thing. But here are the things that most clients really want to know. Here’s how retainer works, here’s how replenishment works, here’s how whatever else you think is important works.” That I think can be a big game changer for you.
Female 1: Do you agree, though even if we can send the retainer, but we should take the credit card and process it on the spot and then send the retainer?
Christopher T. Anderson: Yes.
Female 1: Okay.
Christopher T. Anderson: And of course, depending on your jurisdiction, you might need to put that initial credit card into trust until they sign the retainer.
Female 1: I do that anyway.
Christopher T. Anderson: Good. Yeah. So, yeah, that’s right. You’re taking retainer altogether. So that makes sense.
Female 1: And we don’t let them off the line until I have a tentative meet and greet kickoff call scheduled with them on the spot and I slide it in tentatively into the calendar.
Christopher T. Anderson: Totally makes sense.
Erik Alicea: And then, of course, one thing which you might already be doing. So it may not be the best advice, but when they are pending engagement, continuing to follow up on those as if they’re new leads, like with phone calls and text message. Because honestly, those are probably more important to work than new leads because they know your price are already committed. So just a call and a text message, especially, again, most people call, but the text message, I think, would be one of the key things, because those get noticed much more than emails and just going to be just the better touch point.
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Male 1: Our second segment covers how much instruction is appropriate to give a third-party recruiter.
Female 1: How appropriate is it for me to ask somebody who’s recruiting talent for me to respond in a certain way should they get negative feedback about me or the firm? I have a very particular way I’d like them to handle it. Is that out of line? Is that not their role? Is it okay if I ask them to, “Hey, you hear this? Here’s how I would respond to it?”
Christopher T. Anderson: How I would handle that and even like general things where people give me smart answers or insulting things is I just let the personality kind of come through a little bit more. So if I fire back and they like that, then it’s probably somebody I want to work with, right? And so, I personally would — as long as not like public and your potential clients are going to see it. I might say something like I would combat it and hit it head on. I think how you would probably hit it, and they might actually like the fact that you batted it right back. That’s personally how I would probably handle it. If it’s like a smart response, I think that’s more of like a personality though question like, as long as potential clients aren’t seeing it and it can’t be damaging to you, then that’s fine. But if it could be potentially damaging, we generally will just take the high road on everything that comes our way. Like that meaning we’ll just lay over for it.
Female 1: No, but it’s more of like I feel like the recruiter like, let’s say the recruiter is talking to a potential candidate, and the potential candidate says something like, “No, I’ve heard bad things about that firm.” People say things, right? It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not true, but someone said something.
Christopher T. Anderson: Sorry, let me put some color on it because I think it helps. What I think I’m here is just basically like, “Hi, I’m Chris, the recruiter, and I was wondering if you might be interested in a position that’s available.” And Elliot says, “Well, yeah, maybe. I’m not really happy with my current boss sucks, so I’m not really happy, so I’d be willing to entertain it. But before we go any further, I need to know who you’re recruiting for.” And they’d say, “Oh, I’m recruiting for Erik and Elliot.” And then Elliot goes, “Oh, I would not work for those guys.” And then what Carrie wants is a follow up question to be like, “Oh, really?”
Female 1: Or depending on what the candidate says, a different kind of — I feel like the recruiter may just be kind of a deer cotton headlights, and I want to give them not only permission, but the way to respond because in my brain, if they can respond, like if someone says, “I’d never work for that firm because she has too many policies and procedures.”
Christopher T. Anderson: Or she eats small children.
Female 1: Or she eats small children, whatever it is, it would help — the recruiter having a very particular response would not only help the recruiter because maybe it changes the mindset of that candidate, not that I would hire that candidate anyway. But it also then starts to permeate. So it ultimately helps the recruiter. It ultimately helps me and whatever ridiculous optics are out there for one reason or the other.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Female 1: But I guess the question is, Chris, maybe you can, is it my place to say to the recruiter, “If you get that again, here’s how I would respond. I would like you to respond in this fashion.”
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay. So I wanted to give Erik and Elliot a shot at this. So my answer is, yeah, I would give them the script to say, listen, in the context of this recruiter, obviously this presents a challenge in our recruiting and our goals are still the same. We want to recruit this many people over this much time and want to continue doing that. And if this is out there in the marketplace, that’s going to hinder you and your ability to make money. And of course, it’s not good for me. So for both of us, I really like to drill down on that so we can find out what’s going on. And then once we find out what’s going on, we may also talk about some methods to mitigate or to put some affirmative information out there. But the first step is going to be to really understand what the issue is. So I would like you, if you get a question like that, or if you get a feedback like that, to ask these three questions or to follow this script. Absolutely appropriate, but I would put it in that context of why it’s important.
Female 1: Okay.
Erik Alicea: We have this philosophy for all vendor relationships, for any vendor call service specifically, because we get that question a lot. Like, the call service is messing this up. What can we do about that? I think a call service, any vendor should be managed just like an employee. So giving them feedback is great. And I would ask them, what are the specific objections? So you can just have rebuttals ready for those objections. So if they’re saying that we heard that she works us too hard, just have an objection in place and have a rebuttal in place for that. So figure out what they are, report the calls if possible, work them just like leads, pretty much record the calls, get the feedback, and figure out what we can do about the bad leads, is the way I’ve managed that.
Female 1: Yeah. Without the details, it just sounds like an excuse from the recruiter or whoever vendor as to why they’re not performing the way they need to perform.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And I think each one of the things you don’t want to argue with the candidates, right? You don’t want to say, “Oh, I don’t know who you heard that from, that’s nonsense.” Most of the good responses are going to be leaning into it, going like, “Oh, yeah, it is true. There are a lot of policies and procedures.” Because we find that our clients really like the consistency of service. And the lawyers that work here and are happy really like working within that system. We understand that some people, probably people who didn’t work out might be saying stuff like that, but it actually is a positive, not a negative. I’m making it up.
Female 1: Yeah, it’s a PR spin. Okay.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I mean, the alternative if she eats small children, you go like, “Well, yeah, that’s how you make gingerbread houses.” But whatever works out.
Female 1: Who doesn’t? You don’t.
Christopher T. Anderson: Seriously.
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Male 1: For our last segment, a lawyer wants to know the best way to market their niche practice.
Female 1: So my question is this I have felt for some time that I have advice that would be helpful to people that I want to share with the world, but I don’t want to do it just for an intellectual exercise. I want to do it for marketing purposes. So I would love to hear some suggestions about — so we have two basic channels direct to consumer and lawyer referrals. So for the lawyer referral, I had thought about writing something that would be more textbook oriented, which would be the complete text guide to Texas Medical malpractice or something like that which would, for people that don’t know us already, would establish us as the Texas Medical malpractice experts. For consumers, I didn’t know if it would be a good lead magnet to have a series of brochures kind of written like: What do you need to know to keep your loved ones safe in the hospital? How do you know how to hire a medical malpractice attorney? Et cetera, et cetera. And I’m just out of touch in terms of whether these kinds of whatever you call them, lead magnets or whatever, if those are still considered good marketing tactics. And if so, where would I even start?
Christopher T. Anderson: It’s a great question. Which one of you guys want to tackle that?
Elliot Alicea: Can I ask a couple of questions? So, is this to attract more attorneys to refer you business and also attract consumers? So you want to hit both channels?
Female 1: Correct.
Elliot Alicea: And so do you specialize in a particular subset of that practice area, or do you find any of the subsets hit for you harder?
Female 1: Well, birth injuries and things that are catastrophic in nature. There’s a lot of people that are victims of medical errors, but they’re temporary and they didn’t destroy your life. And we can’t take those cases for economic reasons, so they’re really catastrophic, life altering situations.
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. So unlike the D to C side, right. That’s a little bit more straightforward, just because there are going to be people in your audience. And what I would recommend on that side especially because I actually had an experience with this, it didn’t actually pan out to where I needed to hire a lawyer, but my son was in the NICU for three months and his nose started to erode a little bit, and so that was becoming an issue. Perhaps it could be something, but if you talk to a very specific audience on those lead magnets so it just can’t be medical malpractice. It has to be something like, your baby in the NICU, did this happen to their nose because they used prongs instead of whatever. It has to be really specific to catch that person’s attention and immediately, if you’re that specific, it’s going to establish you as, like, a category of one expert, because nobody else is going to be that specific. So that’s one way to go about a lead magnet. And then it would be the same thing for attorneys. How specific or how could you demonstrate really niche level knowledge to where they’re like, “Wow, she’s clearly got this squared away, I need to go to her.” So whenever we’ve done lead magnets for ourselves, whenever we display really niche specific knowledge, or we can display that, we really know what we’re talking about, it’s a whole lot better than just like, medical malpractice in Texas, right?
Like, how does the personal injury firm who’s only done car accidents get into birth injury specifically, or even more specific than that? So I find that the more specific you can be with that type of marketing, the results are going to be ten times better than just broad medical malpractice. It has to be really drilled down, and that is a lot more work because then you got to do birth injuries in the NICU, and then you have to do like, what happened when you got a C section and you were whatever. You have to really talk to somebody specifically, but it’s immediately going to build trust in like half a second because you spoke to a very specific person. So I don’t know if that answered it all the way, but that’s a good starting ground.
Female 1: No, it’s incredibly helpful. And just a quick follow up question. Is the print medium and making not just making it filled with search terms but incorporating some SEO and all of that to promote it, is that the way to go or is it a podcast?
Elliot Alicea: It would depend on where your people are. So, like — to go back to the NICU example, because I lived that for three months, right? If I had flyers and they’re probably not going to keep flyers in there to get sued, the NICU is not going to — but if you had a bunch of NICU moms hanging out in a spot or like on a Facebook group, you want to kind of go where your audience is. And so you have to probably figure out where they’re hanging out. And then you can hit those areas. And that might be Facebook, which in which case it would be digital. It might be print. If it was like a nursing home, for instance, like, the family is all hanging out in the nursing home, or they’re frequenting areas around that that you could technically geofence. So you would have to figure out where they’re at. And then that would kind of determine your medium. But the lead magnet could be the same essentially in all those different mediums. It would just be distribution of the lead magnet or of the topic, or to establish yourself as that person.
For lawyers, an easy thing would be like, hit the how to manage Facebook group and they’re all in there. You have your target audience all in there, and you talk to a very specific subset of that audience, it’s going to catch their attention. The rest of them, like family lawyers, are just going to breeze right by it because they don’t care about medical malpractice. But the people that you are hitting, if it’s a really dialed in message, is going to attract those people and pull them out of that broader audience. So it just depends on where they’re hanging out. But when you speak specifically, even if you ran Facebook ads to the entire United States and you said, NICU moms big bold text. All the NICU moms are going to get their attention called onto that. So calling out your audience helps, even if it’s in a broad pool of people.
Erik Alicea: Also, the nice thing about digital advertising versus print as a starting point is you can test a lot of things really quick and kill them really quick. Whereas going through the process of creating the print, creating the creative can take a little while. So you can throw out like, lead magnets on Facebook because that’s a good testing ground. Promote those whichever one’s kind of your uniport ad and takes off, that’s the one that you double down and use that for print. You syndicate that on your blog, YouTube, all those different places. So again, it’s probably not going to be you create one lead magnet, that first lead magnet hits. It’ll probably be testing. And at least with digital, you can test much faster than you can with print and with also more confidence just because of the tracking that you have.
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, that’s a great point to double down on that point. It’s called like just in time marketing. So to force yourself to do it, you schedule a live webinar. And now you got to show up for that webinar. You got to have something to talk about. And the webinar, if you did a live webinar on — I’ll just go back to the NICU example, And that thing knocks it out of the park, well, now you have your exact framework of how you’re going to branch it out into a bunch of different things. Like, for example, what we did a while back is we were really into probate advertising and I did a webinar on it. And that webinar hit really hard. So I created an ad, then I created a book, then I created a whole bunch of things around just one topic that I found hit on one specific avatar. And so, it helped us really dial in that messaging. And like Erik said, digital is nice because you can create 10 ads in 5 minutes and whatever gets the most clicked rate is going to give you that feedback immediately versus like a TV commercial could take three weeks to put into practice.
Female 1: Fabulous. And you just promote the live webinar on social?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. So you could just run like a Facebook ad or wherever your audience is again, you want it. If it’s B to B, like attorneys, Facebook is great because you can go into Facebook and say, hey, job description attorneys, and then you run the ad to attorneys, see who responds. So, yeah, definitely.
Erik Alicea: Another good testing round for the B to B is a Facebook group. So if you create a Facebook group for medical malpractice attorneys, you author that group. You encourage people to post in there. I think that’ll be good because then you can constantly post in there and see which of your ideas are being well received. Like, if you make a post about adding it on for money or adding it on as a complimentary service, whatever you do in there, you can at least get feedback really quick, because Facebook is very heavily geared towards groups right now. Whenever you post your group, almost everybody sees it. My timeline is now filled with group content, so just getting on board with that, I think would be a good way, again, just to test, you can build that group, nurture it, see what the interest is, see who’s joining. And it’s again, pretty minimal amount of spend to actually promote a Facebook group.
Female 1: But we wouldn’t want other med mal lawyers joining because then they’d be competing for the same people. It would be for victims of victims?
Erik Alicea: Yeah, you can have a victims group and then your B to B one where you want to track the attorney referrals so you can have two separate groups for your different priorities.
Female 1: Yeah, I was thinking I want to do for general, like general personal injury lawyers that think I can do a med mal case. How hard can it be? The one I want to do for them is, so you think you can handle a med mal case? Fine. Come here and I’ll tell you how you can do that without losing your law license. And then I’ll lead them to the ultimate answer, which is, “Hell no, I can’t do this without risking my law license.”
Erik Alicea: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I think that’s a great way to go. I noticed Erik and Elliot, when you were kind of going through some of the places to be and you were talking about B to B, you did not suggest LinkedIn. So I wanted to just kind of put that out there, why you didn’t, or whether you just forgot. And you think it’s a really great idea.
Elliot Alicea: So for ads on LinkedIn, or if you have a really strong personal network, then if you have a strong personal network, great. Generally, though, on ads on LinkedIn, the messaging is not as. It doesn’t move over from Facebook to LinkedIn as well. So I’ve had ads on Facebook that have done amazing. I take them over to LinkedIn, the exact same ad, creative attorney audience, and it doesn’t do as well. I think a lot of attorney pages on LinkedIn are managed by staff or companies. And so, I don’t know how active they actually are there. Unless, again, you have a strong personal network. And LinkedIn, I kind of view as like it’s like when you go to a trade show and it’s like salesman against salesmen. It’s like just by me. So if you’re a marketer and they kind of smell marketing, I don’t think LinkedIn is as good. Your benefit, though, is you’re an actual attorney. And so now it’s a little more like a common ground. Whereas for us, when we enter LinkedIn, it’s like there’s another marketing company, right? So it’s a little bit different. But I would say it’s something you could try. I think Facebook’s ad platform is superior. They just have more insight on people and they optimize quicker. I think their algorithm is better. So for feedback, I like Facebook. If you dial in a message there, then you could perhaps take that to LinkedIn to see how it does.
Christopher T. Anderson: Got it.
Elliot Alicea: And if it falls on — and LinkedIn, click cost is a lot higher than Facebook as well. So it’s almost like competitive to Google’s click cost on an interruption based medium. So it’s not as easy to test on or as cost effective.
Male 1: Thank you for listening. This has been the Un-Billable Hour Community Table on the Legal Talk Network.