In the end, it’s the feeling of triumph that I remember most clearly.
My client had just signed on for my new $5,500 estate planning ‘package’.
I was ecstatic.
Little did I know that, 2 weeks later, the triumph would be replaced by a massive defeat.
My practice was new and I was just starting out on my own after leaving my associate position at Munger, Tolles & Olson.
I had no idea what to charge for my estate planning services – I hastily pulled $5,500 from the listserve I read, based on what other lawyers were charging.
Was that too high? Too low? I really had no idea. But it felt exciting to receive that much money, especially since I knew the high-quality relationship I could offer in my community-based practice was more valuable than what was offered at the big law firm.
Getting a “Yes” from the client wasn’t easy. The consultation meeting lasted four hours, and as I look back, it was as disorganized and overwhelming as you can imagine. It finally ended only when I nervously told them my fee…
Hearing their “Yes” was the validation I needed at that moment. Relief. Joy! Triumph!!!
However, it’s what happened next that burned the experience into my memory, turning this $5,500 triumph into a painful defeat that I vowed to never repeat.
And then, it all disappeared…
Two weeks later, the client called back to inform me they had found someone else who would do the “same plan” for less than half my fee – just $2,500.
They said they were excited to work with me, and they would have been happy to pay an extra $1000 for my services (because they liked my relationship-based approach), but they simply couldn’t justify such a high price.
I wanted to scream, kick and cry. I nearly quit right then.
I knew what I offered was different and much better, but I clearly had no idea how to communicate that value.
Fortunately, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay,” For some reason, I then asked a question that changed everything.
“Would you do me a favor and report back on your experience with the other lawyer who is only charging you $2,500?” They said they would.
Although I didn’t really believe they’d follow through, what else could I do? I KNEW they weren’t getting the same level of service from that other lawyer that they would get from me, but I didn’t know how to explain the difference.
So I let them go and refunded their money. Ouch.
They called six weeks later; the outcome stunned me
This is the call that literally changed my life. The lessons I learned turned my $5,500 failure into a multi-million dollar windfall and a significant shift in mindset, and my business has never been the same.
This experience birthed a Client Engagement System that has helped hundreds of lawyers go from struggling to doubling or even tripling their revenues.
Astonishingly, the client showed me a point-by-point comparison of my offer vs. the other guy. And then it hit me – I shouldn’t have lost these clients!
The problem wasn’t what I was offering. It was the way I quoted my fees and communicated my value.
The clients had already volunteered that they would pay an additional $1000 just to work with me – $1000 MORE than the other attorney, in fact. They just couldn’t justify doubling the fees.
The side-by-side comparison revealed that I would have only charged $3,500 for what the other lawyer was offering. In other words, EXACTLY what the clients said they were willing to pay. My $5,500 plan actually offered a lot more! So it wasn’t even an apples-to-apples comparison. No wonder mine seemed so much more expensive!
A confused mind will always say NO
If I had clear packages in place, linked with specific outcomes, and had not priced my services based on what I had heard other lawyers charge, I would never have lost this client. It also wouldn’t have taken 4 hours to win their agreement! I could have literally let my clients choose their own fees.
If I had known how to present my services in a clear, understandable way, my clients would have said yes to the $3,500 price tag (and may have even decided to pay me more) because they would have been empowered to choose additional services that suited their specific needs.
It was on that day that I realized the importance of moving away from billable hours and began to develop packages, and an entire client engagement and automatic marketing system were born.