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How To Overcome 8 Negative Perceptions That Tear Down Your Marketing Efforts

by Trey Ryder

Has this ever happened to you?

You and your prospect meet in your office. Everything goes well. Your prospect says he plans to move forward, but needs a little time. He leaves without hiring you -- and you never hear from him again.

What happened? You answered all his questions and everything seemed fine. Yet something your prospect saw, heard or felt caused him not to proceed. What could have made such a negative impression?

Often, your prospectís perceptions dictate his actions. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to rebut negative beliefs by providing facts to the contrary. But many lawyers donít, because they fail to realize how prospects perceive them.

Here are eight negative perceptions and steps you can take to rebut them:

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #1: Youíre too young.

If youíre fortunate enough to look young, make sure you overcome any negative conclusions about your age, such as a lack of knowledge or experience. Provide your prospect with a detailed biography, case histories about clients youíve helped, as well as testimonials and letters of recommendation from former clients and professional colleagues. (Not all bar associations allow lawyers to use testimonials, so make sure you check your rules of professional conduct.)

In addition, turn your youth into a competitive advantage. Point out that if your client has problems in the future, you will likely still be practicing law, where older attorneys may have retired. This means your client can return to you, rather than looking for a new attorney who knows nothing about him or his circumstances.

Further, explain that while you stay busy, you are more accessible than lawyers who have practiced 30 years and carry a huge client load. Emphasize that you continue to build your practice and that doing an excellent job for every client is important to establishing a good reputation.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #2: Youíre too old.

Overcome any negative perceptions about your age by reinforcing the value and depth of your experience. Discuss the many clients you have helped in situations similar to your prospectís. Identify strategies you have learned that allow you to achieve the best possible result, tactics a younger lawyer might not know. Emphasize the seriousness of the issue and how important it is for the prospect to hire a highly skilled, qualified attorney. Highlight the risks of hiring a lawyer who has too little experience.

Reinforce your competence, integrity and experience by providing your prospect with a detailed biography, summary of case histories, testimonials and letters of recommendation.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #3: Youíre too cheap.

Explain how youíre able to charge less than other lawyers. Explain factors that directly affect your fees, such as how efficiently you work on your clientís behalf, your low overhead, the small number of employees in your office, and so forth. Reinforce that the services you provide are sufficient to protect your clientís rights, but that they do not include the bells and whistles provided by other attorneys. Also, show testimonials from clients and letters of recommendation from colleagues to emphasize that they are pleased with your services.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #4: Youíre too expensive.

If your fees are higher than those of other lawyers, start by emphasizing your value. Explain the depth of your knowledge, background and qualifications, highlighting how youíre different from other lawyers. Discuss case histories about clients you have helped who are similar to your current prospect. Be careful about emphasizing items that increase your overhead, such as your large support staff or handsome offices. While some clients appreciate those things, others see them as unnecessary costs. At every opportunity, provide facts that help prospects conclude that your fees are based primarily on the depth of your knowledge, skill, and experience -- and your ability to get good results for your clients.

Further, to help put your fees in perspective, use the contrast principle, which says: You can change how a person perceives your fee by changing the information that comes before it.

Instead of saying, ďI can prepare your estate plan for $15,000,Ē which your prospect might perceive as high, say: ďI can prepare an estate plan that will save your family $300,000 in federal estate taxes -- for just $15,000.Ē By inserting the large savings earlier in the sentence, your prospect sees your fee as small by comparison.

In addition, provide testimonials and letters of recommendation to support the value of your services.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #5: Youíre too busy.

Some prospects think that youíre so busy that you will never have time to handle their case. As part of your marketing message, describe how you calendar work and set deadlines. Reassure your prospect that you will meet his deadline, just as you do for other clients. Then keep your client informed as you work on his matter so he knows you havenít forgotten him. Also, show testimonials and letters of recommendation that reassure your prospect about the good service you provide.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #6: Youíre too available.

Make sure prospects and clients perceive that youíre always busy. This doesnít mean you must be busy with client matters. You could be busy working on your marketing, office procedures, civic or charitable projects -- whatever. When a prospect wants to speak or meet with you, mention how busy you are then suggest two different times for your appointment. When prospects understand that you donít have many time slots available, they see your services as even more valuable. This is called the scarcity principle and it says: Prospects put a higher value on resources they perceive as scarce.

If your prospect canít see you at a time you suggest, then ask your prospect to name a convenient time. Then offer to shift appointments to accommodate your prospect.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #7: Youíre too specialized.

If a client or prospect wants legal services beyond the usual scope of your practice, offer to provide the service if itís in an area you feel competent. Or, offer to delegate the work to another lawyer in your firm -- or bring in a lawyer who can handle the project under your supervision. This way your client doesnít feel that you abandoned him. Instead, your client appreciates that youíre staying involved, even if only in a supervisory role.

NEGATIVE PERCEPTION #8: Youíre too generalized.

If a prospect thinks you donít have enough specific knowledge to handle his claim, then you need to increase your credibility in that field. You do this by educating your prospect about his problem and the solutions you can provide. The more you explain, the more your prospect realizes you know. The more case histories you describe, the more your prospect values your experience. In addition, show your prospect testimonials from clients you have represented in this area of law. Also, show letters of recommendation from professionals who refer clients needing these services.

Summary: You may never know why a prospect decided not to hire you. Still, you should look for holes in your marketing argument that could result in negative perceptions. Then do your best to compile facts and testimonials that rebut those conclusions. And, whenever possible, turn a perceived negative into a positive and explain how it works in your clientís favor.