Every attorney understands how crucial a strong intake process can be for your law firm’s growth.
Typically the first point of contact between a potential client who might need your help and your team, intake can either be a seamless process streamlined for a consistent, optimal experience — or an untracked, untrained mess and a major source of stress for you as a law firm owner.
By understanding the multi-faceted role your intake team plays, equipping them with standardized systems and processes to keep them on track, and ensuring the right prospects make their way through your pipeline to the intake stage, you can transform your team from a group of people who just answer the phone and hope for the best into a well-oiled conversion machine.
Let’s get started.
- What does a legal intake team do?
- Providing your intake team with the right kind of prospects
- Testing and optimizing your intake processes
What does a legal intake team do?
Intake is an essential part of your law firm’s sales funnel — the period between a prospective client reaching out to express interest in having you represent them and them speaking with a partner or attorney.
An intake team acts as a buffer between leads generated by your firm’s marketing and advertising campaigns and the attorneys that would handle their cases.
Their primary responsibility is to act as a gatekeeper — a liaison that protects your time as the firm owner and ensures quality leads are being queued up to be converted into clients.
But with the right team and the proper training, your intake personnel can be so much more than gatekeepers, and the days of “lost leads” can be behind you.
The key roles of a high-converting intake team
If you want to turn your intake team into a conversion machine, it’s not enough to just have them playing middleman.
Instead, start thinking of them as an essential component of your firm’s growth machine.
Beyond just answering the phone and using accurate verbiage to describe what your firm does, next-level intake specialists should fulfill the following 4 roles with ease.
1. Communicating your unique value proposition to all potential clients
Your intake team must be intimately familiar with your firm’s UVP, and they should be excellent at communicating it in conversation with prospective clients.
They need to understand the “why” behind your practice:
- Why did you start your practice?
- What values guide you?
- What do those values mean for the client?
And, once they understand that, they need to understand how that “why” translates to a unique differentiator — a reason the prospect should choose you over any other firm out there.
Your intake specialists essentially serve a sales role in your law firm. While it’s not every attorney’s favorite way to think about their intake, if you want to capture and convert the highest quality leads, your intake team must make it clear to potential clients that not only are you the best choice — you’re also the obvious choice.
Your firm’s intake must effectively communicate and persuade each prospective client that they would be foolish not to choose you to represent them.
If you haven’t figured out your firm’s UVP yet, check out our free ebook, “The Law Firm’s Guide to Determining Your Unique Value Proposition.”
2. Ensuring prospects fit your firm’s ideal cases
It might sound counterintuitive, but you’ll have a much harder time growing your law firm if you accept every case that comes at you.
If you spread your team thin on a huge caseload (especially cases outside of your area of expertise), your firm won’t be able to provide each claimant the attention and support they deserve.
Over time, this approach decreases trust and leads to fewer direct referrals and positive reviews.
However, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t be trying to reach as many prospective clients as possible.
As Crisp Founder & CEO Michael Mogill said in his legendary keynote at the 2019 Game Changers Summit, “best known beats best.”
When growing your firm, awareness is everything.
That’s why an excellent intake team is so vital to your firm’s growth: if you’re implementing the awareness-driving social media advertising and video marketing strategies we recommend, you’ll be getting so much traffic that without an intake team you’ll quickly be overwhelmed.
So ensure they know what your ideal client is and are able to say, “Not the right fit” as effectively as they say, “Yes, let’s talk.”
It’s also important that your intake team is always oriented toward helping, providing value, and solving problems, even to those contacts who might not be the best fit for your firm’s ideal cases. You can be constantly building a solid referral network of people you have helped or provided a positive experience — they will remember you helped them, even if not directly.
3. Answering basic legal questions from educated buyers
Just as with any other service industry, the legal industry has its fair share of comparison shoppers and “educated buyers.”
In the past few years, the legal sales funnel has changed:
Perhaps your marketing campaigns used to be solely responsible for driving awareness and communicating why prospective clients needed help (Awareness and Consideration, above). Then sales (or intake) would take over and provide the “why” someone should choose you as well as get the client to sign with your firm (helping them to make the Decision, above).
Now, however, your prospective clients are more educated. They’re doing their own research and using your marketing and intake team as a source of information. With the introduction of the Interest and Evaluation stages, what was once simple Consideration has become more complicated.
For instance, in 2019, LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report found that the most important thing to a prospective buyer was a company being informed about their industry and unique needs.
In the legal industry, that translates to knowing about your prospective client’s issues: anticipating what they’re going through and addressing it.
A well-trained intake specialist isn’t just someone who reads from a script and writes down contact information. They need to also be able to answer questions related to your practice area. They need to build trust with their own knowledge.
4. Preparing prospects for an easy consultation/closing call
After the intake team has identified a lead as the right fit, communicated your firm’s unique differentiators, and answered any questions they might have, it’s their responsibility to hand that person off to one of your attorneys to get a commitment.
Intake specialists should prepare the attorney for smooth sailing by setting clear expectations, asking qualifying questions, and selling the client on the firm’s unique ability to solve their legal problem.
By the time they reach a consult or closing call with an attorney, both the prospect and the attorney should feel that the case is a good match for the firm.
Providing your intake team with the right kind of prospects
There’s a necessary balance your marketing team needs to find. They need to be driving massive awareness of your brand while also exclusively targeting people who are right for your firm.
We said it above, but it bears repeating: “Best known beats best.”
But there’s a caveat: “Best known” needs to be within your target audience.
If you want to elevate your stature as a premier catastrophic personal injury firm, you need to be the law firm that everyone unfortunate enough to be the victim of a catastrophic accident in your area thinks of immediately.
Imagine you were able to create a viral marketing campaign. You pull some stunt or create a video hilarious or ridiculous or shocking enough that it gets on the news. It gets a million views on YouTube, and suddenly your firm is skyrocketed into the public eye.
Does that awareness translate to more clients? Does it translate to your firm’s growth?
No. It translates to your intake team taking thousands of calls from people who have no true interest in you representing them.
Instead, you need to be leveraging a multichannel marketing approach that utilizes the power of social media advertising and video to drive awareness within your target market and drive your ideal clients towards the consultation.
For instance, Gracia & Mintz, Attorneys at Law, leverage a Facebook ad campaign that targets prospective clients in Prince George County, Maryland:
Campaigns like this one drive awareness — they make firms like Gracia and Mintz “best known.”
But they also generate leads for your intake team that are high quality: people who you can help and who are interested in being helped.
Awareness is all well and good, but without strategic targeting and an effective intake team to turn that awareness into a worthwhile investment of your time, it’s just noise.
Testing and optimizing your intake processes
To build your intake team into a conversion machine — an individual or group dedicated to moving your ideal clients from first touchpoint to closed deal — you need to create an intake process that supports their success in conversion.
That means optimizing the way they work.
This section will cover a few essential processes to test and optimize what’s working and what’s not.
1. Determine your ideal client
With the success you’ll find from social media advertising and video, you’ll need your intake team to focus solely on your ideal client.
That means defining your ideal client for them.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What defined criteria can we utilize to determine who is our ideal clients and cases? What types of cases do we want more of? What are the patterns and early indicators that reveal if this will be an ideal case vs. an average case?
- Where are we getting most of our leads? Is there one source (Facebook Ads, perhaps) that is driving higher-quality leads than any other? If so, let’s invest in that campaign.
- What information do we need to get from prospective clients in the initial stage? Can we use this information to identify which of our contacts will be ideal prospects?
Once you know the answers to these questions, your intake team will be armed with everything they need to evaluate the quality of each prospective case. Consider categorizing cases into which are the highest priority and which would be the most effective use of your time and resources. This will influence how you contact them in the future, how you let them go, and what kind of investment needs to be made in each.
2. Test the process your team uses
It is, of course, essential that your prospective clients receive personalized communication from your intake team.
But doing it from scratch every time isn’t scalable or replicable. You can’t bring on a new member to your intake team and expect them to deliver automatically.
Instead, create a consistent and replicable intake process, and then test it.
- In order to determine if this person is an ideal client, what questions are essential to vet for quality leads?
- How can you best communicate your firm’s unique value? What exact words and ideas resonate best with your target clients?
Here are a few intake process best practices:
- Intersperse your necessary questions throughout the call, rather than checking them off at the beginning. This makes the conversation feel more natural and less stilted.
- The best intake and sales specialists are 10x more likely to use “collaborative” words like “we,” “us,” “our,” and “together.”
- Without promising a win for your prospective client, try to introduce words that inspire confidence: “absolutely,” “definitely,” “certainly,” etc.
Top Tip: To get a real in-depth view of your existing process, consider incorporating call recording and auditing into your intake process. Not only can your team review common challenges and develop best practices, but having these practices in place can be hugely beneficial to testing and training your team consistently as your firm grows.
3. Follow up and track prospective clients
A lot of prospects end up not turning into clients simply because of a lack of follow-up. Instead of calling valuable leads until they get through, most intake specialists give up after the second attempt.
And that’s a mistake:
50% of all sales happen after the fifth contact.
So, if your intake team has a lead who looks like they could be an ideal client, they might need to touch base with that person at least five times — likely more.
But of course, not every lead is created equal.
Some leads will submit information that indicates they’re not your firm’s ideal client and (as we said above) contacting them even five times would be a waste of your intake team’s time.
That’s why tracking is so incredibly important. You need to know where your leads have come from, how often they’ve been followed up with, how quickly they moved through the intake process, what process the intake team followed to convert them, and so on.
In short, you need a CRM — a tool that enables you to tag leads as high quality or low, as contacted or not, as hot (converted in the past 24 hours) or cold (contacted previously but have gone dark).
You need to move away from the Excel spreadsheet and into 2020.
Here are a few great tools to consider:
By removing any barriers to YES, driving home your firm’s UVP, developing and testing better processes, and tracking your successes or failures, you can land a lot more of your ideal clients.
But if you are genuinely dedicated to the growth and longevity of your law firm, it’s not enough to just read a blog post.
You need to invest in professional training for your intake team.