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Understanding and influencing the client decision-making process, or CDP.

This exclusive content was written by PracticeProfs President Dave Slovin for Lawyernomics by Avvo.

It’s a very common tale. You meet with a prospective client and leave the meeting with a positive feeling that you’ve done all the right things – developed a relationship, differentiated your firm, and created some logical next steps that should lead to a signed contract. Then nothing. No calls, emails, or other contact from the prospect. When you follow up a few weeks later, you phone calls and email messages are not returned. Or even worse, you find out that the client decision-making process is over and the prospect has decided to pursue another option. What happened?

What is your law firm’s CDP?

A prospective client is your firm’s most valuable marketing asset. You’ve already spent a lot of (time and money to acquire the prospect. You need to maintain this effort during the critical time frame between the initial prospect contact or meeting and the final client decision. This is your client decision-making process, or CDP.

You may be able to calculate your CDP through your practice management software, or by manually sampling client notes and comparing the time frame between contact and contract. Your CDP may be a few days for highly transactional situations, like DUI clients who are under a response deadline. For more highly contemplated situations, like a change in a corporation’s outside counsel, the CDP may be months or even years.

Regardless of the time frame, this is your window of opportunity to succeed – or fail – in your efforts to land the client. Take a few extra steps during the CDP to ensure a positive outcome.

How to influence the client decision-making process

At the point your prospect is ready to make a decision, you want your firm to be top-of-mind. Unfortunately, you never know when that magic moment will occur. While the prospect may remember that great initial meeting six months ago, do you really want to take that risk? You need to keep communicating throughout the CDP. In addition to your “just touching base” calls and emails, here are eight constructive communication ideas that will build your credibility and chances of success:

  1. Thank you note – Sending a brief thank-you email message (within 1 day) will probably differentiate you from 75% of your competitors. You can even split this into a couple of messages, one from you and one from a boss, partner, or other principal.
  2. Next steps confirmation – Hopefully, your initial consultation involved some next steps other than waiting for a call back. Confirm those in another follow-up message from you or an account manager and keep the productive dialog moving forward.
  3. Additional thoughts – As you review the prospect’s unique situation and communicate internally, you may identify additional information, questions, or ideas. Use this as an opportunity to follow up and re-engage the prospect.
  4. Relevant content – Look through your blog posts or search online for an educational article relevant to your prospective client’s interests or needs. Forward it to show that you’re continually looking out for the prospect’s best interests.
  5. Connect via LinkedIn – Send a personal invitation, rather than the generic message. If you are worried about confidentiality issues, block visibility to your connections and let your prospect know you have a private network.
  6. Newsletter – Add the prospect to your email feed or newsletter list. I’m sure you are using a CAN-SPAM Act compliant tool, but depending on your practice area you may also want to build an opt-out option into your initial paperwork.
  7. Special offer – No, you don’t need to send a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. How about offering some free or discounted background research, or waive some one-time fees in order to land a recurring revenue account?
  8. Testimonial – Send a relevant success story or client testimonial to show that you have a track record of success. Depending on your practice area and applicable rules, make an introduction to a client with a similar background or situation.

How often should I communicate?

The communication frequency depends on your estimate of the CDP time frame. If prospects normally make a very quick decision, do something each day to educate and stand out from your competitors. If your CDP is measured in months, maybe one communication every week or two is sufficient to educate without overwhelming the prospect with information.

Measuring CDP results

Once you understand your client decision-making process, you can measure results and improvement over time. In almost all cases your goal will be to reduce the time frame and improve your close ratio (percentage of consults/meetings that convert to clients). Share tactics and results within your firm, so everyone can learn from the team’s experiences.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.SM

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