What You Should Know About the Client Intake Process

I’ve tweaked my intake process a bit over the years, trying to find what works. What I call “intake” others may call a pipeline, prospect management, or sales funnel. Whatever you call it, it’s the steps a prospective client takes from the first interaction with your firm to becoming a client.

After much trial and error, I feel good about where my intake process is, but by no means is my approach the only way to do it. There are hundreds of ways you could structure the process in your firm depending on your goals and needs. I simply provide my process so you can take what works and leave what doesn’t.

First and foremost, no matter what your intake process looks like, it’s critical to provide value at every step. Whenever I am considering making a change to the flow, I first ask myself, “Does this provide more value to the prospect?” If the answer is no, I better have another really, really good reason to make the change.

Here’s how my intake process goes:

  1. Reserve a Consultation Spot – Prospects can schedule a consultation right on my website. Not only does the scheduling software connect with my calendar, but I can also set limits like only allowing up to three consults a day. If a prospect contacts us by phone or email, we direct them to the scheduler. Once the consultation spot is reserved, the prospect receives an automatic email confirmation with next steps, which include completing an intake form. Adding Value: Value is added a couple of different ways here. First, the prospect is able to instantly reserve a consultation for a date and time that works best for them. Secondly, along with clear next steps in the confirmation email, they also receive a free digital download about protecting their digital life after a breakup.
  2. Complete an Intake Form – A consultation is not confirmed until the prospect completes an intake form. Once we get notice of the reservation, we create a matter in our CRM and send the appropriate intake form for the case type. The intake form must be completed at least one business day before the reserved consultation, otherwise, the consultation is canceled and the prospect has to reschedule. An automatic reminder is sent both three days and two days prior to the scheduled time. Adding Value: Having the prospect complete an intake form allows me to provide more value during the consultation. Because I’m not spending a majority of the time getting basic info, I can use the time to ask questions, provide information, and put together a customize a solution.
  3. Consultation – This is the heart of the intake process. It’s where I get to have a conversation with the prospect about their goals and needs. While my consults are done over the phone and are limited to 30 minutes, I answer as many questions about the process as I can during them. I don’t hide the ball. I don’t bait and switch folks. The more I can be a source of information, the better the job I’m doing. Only in the last few minutes do I talk about my services and offer a custom solution to fit their needs. Adding Value: The consultation is all about adding value. While I ask questions to get the information I need, I really use the time to share information. This allows the prospect to fully understand their options. I can’t tell you the number of times a prospect has said, “I feel so much better now that I’ve talked to you.” That’s what it’s all about.
  4. Follow-Up – While many prospects are ready to sign up on the spot, some need additional time to think things over. That’s always ok with me. I never pressure anyone into making such a personal and big decision. If the prospect needs more time, I schedule a follow-up email to send automatically, usually a week later. That way, I don’t have to think about it and it takes care of itself. Adding Value: Setting up the follow-up email takes me maybe 10 seconds, but it shows the prospect that I keep my word. If I say I’m going to follow up in a week, I do so. How many times have we heard clients complain about how they can’t get a hold of their lawyer? From the jump, I try to show folks I am responsive and will proactively follow-up.
  5. Engagement – When a prospect signs up, I draft an engagement letter using one of my templates in our CRM. This usually takes me about three minutes. Among other things, the engagement letter plainly defines the scope of work, total cost, milestones, and communication protocol. I send it to the prospect via email, and the prospect signs it electronically. Once the engagement letter is signed, I send an invoice to collect the deposit. Prospects understand my representation doesn’t begin until the engagement letter is signed and deposit collected. Adding Value: The engagement letter establishes clear expectations and objectives. It’s written in plain English and the terms are transparent. There are no surprises because everything is laid out clearly. Plus, being able to sign it online makes it easy for the prospect so they tend to sign quickly.

That’s it! To be clear, not every prospect makes it through all five steps. While there are always some who drop off after each step, more tend to do so in the beginning. Once they get to the consultation, the conversion rate is pretty high. Because there will always be unqualified leads who start the process, you’ll want to create a flow that gets them out sooner than later. You don’t want to waste time chatting with folks who are just kicking the tires.

Again, my flow may not be a perfect fit for your firm. Maybe you need to switch up some of the steps. Maybe you need to add a few. So long as you keep the focus on adding value and being efficient, you’ll have a full funnel in no time.

What does your intake process look like now? Are there ways you can make it more efficient? Are you adding value at every step?