Posted by Tom Lyes, key relationship manager at Legal Futures Associate Lawyer Checker 
The month of January will see law firms formulate their plans, look at new processes or technology and set some clear objectives for both individuals and the firm over the 12 months that lie ahead.
One of the biggest questions facing lots of firms will no doubt be: ‘How do we grow our conveyancing department?’
Firstly, rather than jumping straight into looking at marketing spends, buying leads or joining low-profit panels, surely it makes sense to drill down into what volumes of incoming enquiries are coming into the business, what is their conversion rate and what would a different conversion rate make to the profit column?
Research carried out by Professor Ian Cooper, law firm skills trainer and consultant, and author of the Financial Times Guide To Business Development, suggests that 91% of firms make no attempt to differentiate themselves from competitors, either during the telephone enquiry, or in any follow-up email.
Having spent my earlier years working in and then managing quote conversion in a conveyancing focused business, I can’t stress enough how key this is to winning business.
In January, why not get everyone involved in the firm’s quote conversion around a table, get them to write down what they think are the benefits of instructing the firm and then present that to colleagues.
Ultimately, the objective is to take those attributes away and ensure they become embedded into calls. Don’t fall into the trap of making the same call five, 10 or 20 times a day though; try and get the clients to talk to you about their wants, fears and expectations and then individualise the appropriate benefits to the client’s circumstances.
You might also want to consider whether the right people are handling the calls? If you’ve got non-fee-earning staff quoting, have you got some that are consistently winning more conversions than others? If so, then it’s worth looking at how you can maximise that individual’s skill set.
The financial ramifications of this can be game changing. Let’s say you have three members of staff quoting and you receive 100 inbound enquiries a month. One of those members of staff is converting at 60% and the other two are converting at 40%; your average net profit is £300 + VAT.
That makes the firm’s current conversion rate 46% and you are making £13,800 net profit a month. If you ensured your top performing ‘quoter’ was dealing with all inbound enquiries, then you would make an extra £4,200 a month and £50,400 a year.
But what happens if you have not got the skillset within the business to make those changes?
In reality, you’ve actually got a couple of options. Firstly, you can look to identify and upskill current staff members by training them. Some 85% of firms provide no genuine training for their call handlers on ‘soft conversational’ sales skills and how to engage and influence those who call for a quote.
Training usually centres around administrative tasks, such as how to calculate the quote, stamp duty or how to get an email template sent out. This is very different from ensuring that call handlers have the right techniques, personal skills and confidence to engage a potential client and win the business. Sometimes it really can be as simple as asking for the business and then letting the client speak.
Secondly, why not look at outsourcing to experts in the field; let them get to know your business and its strengths before considering the difference they can make to you. Potentially, this can unlock a 15-20% difference in your conversion rate. Additionally, you may want to reduce the amount of time your fee-earners spend on administrative tasks or you might want to deploy your current call handlers into other areas of the business.
Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: price.
The race to the bottom and the anxious pessimistic epidemic of feeling that every client that picks up the phone to you or emails you will only ever choose the cheapest is a myth.
If that is your perception or experience, then I would ask you to contemplate whether it is because your firm is only offering the price when making a quote. Or, for whatever reason, the firm is not maximising the opportunity.
A Customer 2020 report states that consumers will view experience as more important than product and price by next year. This should be critical in your January conversations.