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Ed Poll
  Week of June 3, 2008

Who's Calling, Please?

Several years ago, I participated in an exchange between bloggers concerning a young partner who always returned calls and emails—the following day. This partner felt such a level of service was acceptable, and that it increased his efficiency by avoiding interruptions. The debate about this practice raised the question of whether clients would really be happy with a lawyer who places his efficiency first. Those who defended the lawyer observed that sometimes an absence from the office or deadline pressure makes it impossible to immediately take or return a call.
I was reminded of this exchange recently when, in consecutive phone calls, I was hired for two separate, large engagements. Following my initial excitement, the teachings of my father many years ago came to mind. His simple advice: stay by the phone. When the phone rings and you respond, you will be hired. If you don't respond, you won't be hired. This is similar to the adage that if you don't swing the bat, you can't hit the ball.
Any professional's marketing efforts are designed to make people aware of you and to encourage them to call. If they have a need and they know who you are, they will contact you to discuss whether your skills match their needs. In the end, it is invariably the buyer who makes the decision to reach out, not the seller.
Any marketing effort will prove meaningless without a clear idea of what you have to offer when the time comes to present and propose ideas on how you can be of professional help to your prospect. The corollary is that you have to be available to make the offer when a call comes in. If you are busy and employ one or more staff members, have the staff person who takes a call set up an appointment for you when you will be available. That might be later that day, in the evening, or even the following day. The fact that the prospect knows you will call back at a time certain is most often sufficient. If you have a true solo practice and lack a staff person, don't just rely on voicemail. Engage a virtual assistant, also known as a VA. The phone company can forward calls to the VA who answers your phones, and you return the calls at your convenience. VAs are especially useful for small firms, and are more effective than mechanical devices.
All the effective marketing in the world won't make up for missed or unreturned calls, or unresponsive service. Service is fundamental. If clients want you, it's because of the quality service you can and should provide. Be sure you do so, right from the start.

Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
I recently experienced two auto accidents within an eight-day period—the first to my new (2006) car was hit and run, the second to my old (1983 classic) car was a rear-ender. Couple these with three "major" insurance (non-auto) incidents in the previous five months, and I begin to wonder if someone has pulled out a voodoo doll somewhere. In none of these cases, however, was anyone hurt—it's only a matter of insurance and money—which reminds me of my wife's commentary: "We could be living in Beirut." Or the cartoon I saw in the paper that says, with veterans' tombstones in the background, "I don't think I'll ever complain again."
In other words, don't sweat the small stuff. Live life. Enjoy life. Deal with the berms and challenges along the way—though some have it better, many have it worse than we do.
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

What Readers Are Saying...
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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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