Building a Profitable Conveyancing Practice
I’ll start this by saying that probably the chief benefit for residential conveyancing is the ability to form relationships with people which, if correctly managed, will help to secure the future of the firm. I’ll be talking in a later blog about how to do that (it is actually quite easy…I built my practice and we built our Words4Business and legalRSS businesses using the same principles), but for now we’ll talk about just about how to make residential conveyancing a profit centre for your firm in its own right.
The other thing I won’t talk about is all the stuff I know you’ll be doing now (except where this may be capable of being improved). You haven’t stayed in business all these years by not having the basics right: this is about things you can probably do better.
Secondly, it goes without saying that it is critical to push efficiency through the entire conveyancing process and I have no doubt that readers are aware of many of the tools available to do this.
An Efficiency Boost – Putting the Client at the Centre
One thing that aids both efficiency and helps you build a profitable practice is keeping clients informed.
Just ask yourself how much time you spend fielding calls by vendors/purchasers/ estate agents/Uncle Tom Cobley who want to know what is going on? While there is software that can let you update ‘status’ on the fly, mostly that depends on the end-user actually using it. Furthermore, a comment on a Monday that you hope to exchange contracts on Friday will calm a lot more nerves than the status being ‘awaiting exchange of contracts’ which is there Monday and still there Thursday morning.
People like to be informed and like to feel like they have some control over what is going on. When they don’t is when they start creating interruptions to your day, so be proactive.
The second reason for making sure you are efficient is that you simply must make the time to build relationships with influencers who can make recommendations to you. These are gold dust – and should be treated as such. If I had a pound for every time an agent has told me that they made referrals to a firm but got nothing back, so they started making referrals to other firms…
Know who is referring to you and look after them. Measure what you do and what you get back and concentrate on the relationships that are ‘working’. Gently make sure they know you measure how much of a two-way street it is. One tip here is to make sure that whatever you do for an introducer by way of incentive is done the right way. Find out what they really like and give them that…
Lastly, and this is important, when you have dealt with a conveyance referred to you, go back to the agent and ask if they have feedback for you. They will know things you don’t about what your clients think about the service you give and by being seen to give immaculate service and having a willingness to correct service deficiencies you’ll give them confidence other firms probably don’t. It isn’t all about the economics…agents also want their client to come back.
As Ciaran Digney of Connells told me, ‘We know things about the service the law firms give that they don’t.’
If you’ve done a great job for a client and they are happy as Larry, ASK THEM for a quotable referral and ASK THEM to refer you to other people (they will if you ask. They probably won’t if you don’t). Put the former on your website (preferably with a picture of the happy client clutching the flowers you sent them as a ‘welcome to your new home’ gesture. ASK THEM. ASK THEM. ASK THEM. Don’t rely on them doing it without being asked.
Never chase the market down. You can be cheap or good. Good is better. One of the best pricing models I ever saw was one pitched at a very large price premium. The difference was that the firm contacted the client daily to update them, organised all the utilities transfers, postal redirection, etc. (they even stopped the milk!), obtained the removals quotes and so on…allowing time poor but wealthy clients to de-stress as far as possible (and giving the firm more than £1000 extra profit per conveyance).
People who think the price/value equation is all about price are probably more trouble than they are worth. I know one firm that refuses to give quotes over the phone and requires potential clients to come in and talk it over…and they are glad they do.
Your marketers will just hate this, but the best returns on investment in BD activity is the stuff you can do that costs peanuts and which takes a minuscule amount of time.
Once you have a client – keep them. It is massively cheaper to do more work for an existing client than find a brand-new one. In fact, we’d argue that that’s what newsletters etc. are all about. Once they have finished, keep your name in front of them. It is extremely cheap to do, and (with the right software) take almost no time. Retaining clients long-term is easily the best value business development technique a firm can use. Building relationships with local influencers is the second, and again you can let your software manage this process (who you do this with and how you set these up is for another day). This culture should run right through the firm, with the relationships being preserved and providing.
If you aren’t getting a steady stream of instructions from Family (relationship break up) and Wills and Probate (deceased’s house sales) in particular, they really aren’t doing well for the firm. These departments should be required to mention that your firm can help those clients solve other problems they have, such as house sales. I would make this an assessment topic in doing staff reviews…
Lastly, stand for quality. As a firm. You may think your role is to build a personal relationship with the client. It is. But it is also to glue the client to the firm and quality of client experience is a prerequisite to that and maintaining the client in the future.