Thursday, May 11, 2006
Don't Give Away Your Hard-Earned Expertise
An expert who's been working with attorneys for 30 plus years shared some fascinating stories with me this week. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the best stories can't be told : )
But one tale about handling the initial inquiry from a prospective client really struck me because it is a hazard I frequently encounter myself. In one of his "if I'd known then what I know now" vignettes, he lamented sometimes giving out too much information in that very first call from an attorney regarding a specific case. "They call you, give the basics of the case, then proceed to pick your brain for half an hour or more. Then, at the end of the phone call, it's, 'Thank you so much. I'll be in touch.' And you never hear from them again."
Too often, in an effort to demonstrate competence, credentials, and overall expertise, consultants 'give away the store' on that initial contact. Usually, you hear a distant warning bell indicating this, but the desire to close the prospect and work on the case prevails, and you keep talking, especially with encouragement from the attorney, who of course is encouraging - he's getting valuable information!
The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to compose a set of standard responses to choose from so you do not have to scramble on the spur of the moment. For example, after you've heard the basics of the case -- "Mr. Smith, based on the information you've given me, it sounds as though you have a legitimate claim of liability. To fully and completely evaluate the specifics of this case, I would need to see the documents, evidence, etc." You could then add a statement such as, "How would you like to proceed?" but I find that silence is truly golden. Wait for a response.
If you continue to feel pushed to provide free consulting, don't hesitate to say, "Mr. Smith, the fee for my expert consulting services is $XXX an hour. I can fax or email an agreement if you would like to retain my services on this case."
Play around with possible scenarios, responses you might get back, and different things you could possibly say to create goodwill with the prospect while not giving away your services and expertise.