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Telephone Calls From Prospects: How To Protect Yourself From This Two-Edged Sword

by Trey Ryder

If you're like most lawyers, you know the value of speaking with a prospective client over the telephone before your first meeting. This initial conversation allows you to introduce yourself, establish a cordial relationship, ask questions, and decide whether to invite this prospect for an in-person meeting. For these purposes, the telephone is a quick, efficient way of collecting information.

On the other hand, the telephone is the least effective way -- and the most problematic way -- of delivering your marketing message. Why? Because you can't see how your prospect responds.

You can't see the expression on his face, which alerts you to his understanding or bewilderment. You can't see whether he's nodding in agreement or shaking in fear. And when you quote your fee, you can't see whether his eyes convey "no problem," or whether they pop out of their sockets. Over the phone, you can evaluate only your prospect's voice. Often, this isn't enough.

Look at it this way: When you represent a client in an adversarial matter, you keep a written record of every communication to and from the other party's lawyer. Why? So you have written proof of everything you said -- and exactly how you said it.

Your marketing message deserves equal documentation. After all, you don't want a prospect to hire you based on what he thought you said, when you really said something else.

At times, it's downright scary. How often has a prospect repeated something that was exactly the opposite of what you said? How often has a prospect heard what he was listening for, rather than what you intended?

Regardless of whether your prospect is a na´ve consumer or a sophisticated executive, you'd do well to put your marketing message in writing. This becomes even more important if your message contains details your prospect might find confusing, such as dollar amounts, time periods, rules and exceptions, legal distinctions, and more.

When delivering your marketing message, here's the two-edged sword you face: You must provide complete details so your prospect can make an informed decision. But the more information you deliver, the more likely you are to create confusion.

To help make sure your prospect digests and understands your marketing message, follow these key steps:

Write your marketing message from the first word to the last. Anything you say during your initial meeting you can also say in writing. Put your message in the form of a personal letter, including answers to frequently asked questions. Discuss everything from the problem your prospect faces -- to how he hires you to provide the solution. The more complete your presentation, the more efficient and effective your marketing message will be.

When a prospect first calls to talk with you -- or schedule an appointment -- don't hesitate to speak with him briefly over the phone. After you introduce yourself and ask a few questions, explain that you have prepared helpful information you'd like your prospect to read and digest before your in-depth conversation. Then send your information by mail or e-mail, or explain where he can find it on your web site. At the end of this information, invite your prospect to call to schedule a phone appointment or an in-person meeting, whichever you prefer.

If your prospect calls after he reads your material, you can safely assume your prospect is much better informed about his problem and the ways you can help him. If your prospect doesn't call, then your marketing message has successfully screened out someone who does not fit your profile of a desirable client.

After your in-depth conversation, send a letter that restates important points, highlights your qualifications and experience, and explains why your prospect should act now. This gives you yet another opportunity to deliver key facts in writing, so the success of your marketing effort doesn't depend on your prospect's memory.

First contact: You make the best first impression with prospects -- and the most efficient use of your time -- when you use the telephone to (1) introduce yourself, (2) establish a cordial relation-ship, (3) ask questions, and (4) decide whether to invite your prospect for an in-person meeting.

Follow-up contact: You make the most efficient use of the telephone when you answer any questions that remain after your prospect has read your materials -- and when you invite your prospect to take action.

Do not use the telephone to deliver your marketing message. Instead, use phone calls with prospects to collect key facts, screen cases, and offer your written materials. This will save you a great deal of time -- focus your attention on desirable prospects -- and deliver your marketing message completely and effectively.

About The Author

Trey Ryder is a law-firm consultant who specializes in Education-Based Marketing for attorneys. He offers lawyers three free articles by e-mail: 7 Secrets of Dignified Marketing, 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, and 11 Ways to Turn Your Fee and Billing Policies into a Competitive Advantage. Send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free e-mail packet of articles.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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