You wouldn’t try to sell a car to someone without a license. So why do so many attorneys pitch prospects that will never become good clients for their law firm? The answer is simple: they probably aren’t qualifying leads (prospects who have provided their contact information).
Lead qualifying is the process of vetting contacts to determine their interest, intent, fit for the law firm, and odds of becoming a client. It enables legal practices to hone in on the most promising contacts and not waste time on looky-loos or leads that will turn into troublesome clients. Use this step-by-step guide to learn exactly how to qualify leads, so your law firm can build the right relationships.
Step 1: Define a Qualified Lead
You won’t be able to identify the most promising leads unless you know what you’re looking for. Define a qualified lead using your ideal client persona—the profile of your perfect client. This could include:

  • Demographics—gender, age, location, income, etc.
  • Psychographics—their preferences, personality type
  • Greatest challenges and fears
  • Job title (if applicable)

Combine all of these elements into a snapshot profile, like this example from Buffer.
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If you haven’t already developed an ideal client profile like the one above, analyze your best customers (interview them if possible) and create one for your law firm. It will help you identify common traits of qualified leads who could later transform into great clients.
Step 2: Connect With Leads Where They Are  
Find the ideal way to connect with your leads and gather more information. For instance, if your audience consists mostly of busy C-suite executives or in-house counsel lawyers, you may realize that they prefer to be contacted by email rather than telephone. If that is the case, then you can develop a few great email templates for your legal CRM (client relationship management system) to automatically send out once a lead makes contact.
Step 3: Reach Out Within 5 Minutes  
According to research conducted by James Oldroyd and, waiting 10 minutes to reach out to a contact decreases the odds of qualifying by 400%, compared to making contact within 5 minutes. Whether you make contact via email or telephone, be sure to do so quickly.
As mentioned above, you can set up your legal CRM to automatically send out email responses. If your leads tend to respond better to phone calls, use your CRM to send notifications to case managers or administrative staff when new leads come in, so they can jump on the phone to qualify them within five minutes. 
Step 4: Ask the Right Questions to Gather Information
While reaching out to qualify leads, utilize the BANT system as a guide. BANT, a lead qualifying system developed by IBM, stands for:

  • Budget—can the prospect afford your services?
  • Authority—does your prospect have decision-making power?
  • Need—does the prospect have a problem that you can solve?
  • Timeline—is your prospect planning to move forward in the near future?

These four elements can differentiate between promising and unfit prospects. While you might not be able to ask these questions outright without giving contacts the third degree, you can infer some answers while conversing with leads. Other strategies, such as employing a website opt-in form that asks about the visitor’s needs, can gather information necessary for lead qualification. 
Step 5: Track Touchpoints
Salesforce reports that it takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead. A CRM like the James Legal CRM can enable and track touchpoints by:

  • Automating prospect follow-up
  • Monitoring marketing efforts and telephone follow-up
  • Sending your prospects content to keep them engaged and lead them down the funnel

Your attorney team can view all touchpoints on one dashboard to determine whether a lead needs further nurturing, is ready to convert, or is unlikely to become a client. For instance, if a contact has opened the last three emails sent by your law firm, you know to keep sending similar content that can keep them engaged.
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Step 5: Disqualify Unfit Contacts
By this point in the process, you should have a good idea of which leads are a waste of time. Perhaps they failed to engage with your law firm after you reached out 7 times, or maybe you discovered that they cannot afford your services.
Whatever the case, don’t hesitate to disqualify these disengaged or unfit leads—they will simply distract you from more promising contacts.
Step 6: Prioritize Promising Leads  
Once you have removed unfit contacts, you will be left with only favorable leads. Prioritize this list based on your choice of factors, such as greatest potential revenue or ease of converting the lead into a client, and then dedicate your time and energy accordingly to land the most suitable clients for your law firm.
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