31 steps you can take to increase your credibility

friday, 17 july of 2009

31 steps you can take to increase your credibility

by Trey Ryder

Credibility is everything. If prospects don't trust you, they won't hire your services (except in extreme cases). Everything you do either helps or hurts your credibility. Make sure your actions build your credibility, ideally, to the point where your clients trust you without question. Here are 31 steps you can take -- and facts you can provide -- to increase your credibility.

STEP #1: Treat every prospect as if he's the most important person in the world. When you give your prospect your undivided attention, you build a stronger relationship because your prospect knows you sincerely want to help them.

STEP #2: Ask your prospect what problem he wants to solve or what goal he wants to achieve. The sooner you focus on your prospect's needs, the sooner he trusts you -- and the sooner he concludes the two of you are working toward a common goal.

STEP #3: Listen carefully so you can determine which points are most important to your prospect. One of the biggest complaints about lawyers is that they offer boilerplate solutions before they have listened to their prospect's problem. Even if their stories are nearly the same, prospects want to tell you their story so you appreciate the weight they carry on their shoulders.

STEP #4: Offer information about your prospect's problem and the solution you recommend. The more you educate your prospect, the more your prospect believes that you understand his problem and have the qualifications and skills to solve it.

STEP #5: Explain how your prospect will benefit from your solution. First, your prospect needs to understand the solution you recommend. Second, your prospect needs to know how he will benefit from that solution.

STEP #6: Admit a negative to vastly increase your credibility. When you make a statement that seems to be against your interest, your credibility soars. In fact, this method is so powerful that one highly successful copywriter uses the technique in almost every print ad he writes. Near the beginning of the ad, he admits a weakness in his product. Consumers know that no product is perfect, so this writer's admission immediately increases his credibility.

STEP #7: Swim upstream and your marketing message will rise above the rest. If you're in a practice area where most lawyers recommend the same solutions, write and offer an educational article that identifies problems with the often-suggested solution. Within your document, you can explain how to avoid those problems. But on first impression, your materials appear to argue against your own self interest, which dramatically increases your credibility. And when you explain how to avoid those problems, you reassure your reader that you have the skill and experience to make sure those problems don't affect your client.

STEP #8: Give your prospect a copy of your biography because it proves that you have the education, background and qualifications to solve your prospect's problem or help him achieve his goal. Your prospect wants to trust you, but most prospects don't have much, if any, information about your education and qualifications. When you provide biographical information, your credibility increases immediately.

STEP #9: Add power to your biography with a good marketing photograph. In the photo, you should be looking directly into the camera and have a warm, engaging smile. An attractive photo -- closely cropped for strong eye contact -- serves as proof that you are kind, pleasant and friendly.

STEP #10: Tell your prospect how you have helped other clients in similar situations. Every time you explain a case history, your prospect sees that his is not the first case of this type that you have handled. The more case histories you describe that are similar to your prospect's, the more your credibility increases in his eyes.

STEP #11: Offer information and advice in plain English. Your prospect finds it hard to trust a lawyer who uses words he doesn't understand. When you talk with your prospect, speak in simple terms. The more your prospect understands, the higher your level of credibility.

STEP #12: Package your solution so it is attractive to your prospect. When you offer your prospect a solution he likes, you increase your credibility and make it easy for your prospect to accept your offer.

STEP #13: Allow your prospect to make his own decision without pressure from you. All of us have learned to distrust the salesperson who tries to pressure us into making a decision. To increase your credibility, tell your prospect that you will provide information and recommend the solution you believe is in his best interests. At the same time, make sure your prospect knows that you will never try to pressure him into making a decision.

STEP #14: Make sure your prospect knows that you are happy to answer his questions now and in the future. The way to build trust and respect is to keep the lines of communication open. If your prospect isn't ready to make a decision, invite your prospect to call you any time he has a question or when he is ready to move forward.

STEP #15: Show your prospect comments from clients who have provided written testimonials about you and your services. Prospects attach more credibility to comments from third parties than on comments from you. To emphasize the importance of testimonials, I tell lawyers that each testimonial from a consumer client is worth $30,000 in legal fees; each testimonial from a business client is worth $50,000 in fees. (A few jurisdictions do not allow lawyers to use testimonials, so make sure you check your bar's rules of professional conduct.)

STEP #16: Show your prospect letters of recommendation from colleagues and professionals. These letters attest to the depth of your knowledge, skill, judgment and experience -- and prove that your colleagues trust you. The more letters you have, the more they persuade. (As with testimonials, check your rules of professional conduct to see if you are allowed to use letters of recommendation in your jurisdiction.)

STEP #17: Provide your prospect with a list of references. Testimonials and letters of recommendation are better than references because the comments are already on paper. Even so, references increase credibility -- and the more, the better. Include the person's name, profession, phone number and e-mail address. Often, prospects won't actually call your references. The mere fact that you list them increases your credibility.

STEP #18: Provide your prospect with copies of articles that support the depth of his problem, reinforce the solution you recommend, or both. Generic articles -- which you did not write and in which you are not quoted -- prove that the problems and solutions you discuss are true. The more respected the publication, the more credibility attaches to what you say.

STEP #19: Give your prospect copies of published articles you've written. Even if the article's subject is not directly on point, a published article proves that editors respect and trust you as a reliable source of information. Published articles build instant credibility and reinforce that you are an authority in your field of law. The more well-known and respected the publications, the more positively they reflect on you. The more articles you have, the better.

STEP #20: Give your prospect a list of results you have achieved or transactions you have completed for your clients. This list serves as proof that you are good at what you do. Whatever service you offer, create a list of 10 to 20 results and describe each case or transaction in two or three sentences. You don't need to include clients' names, but the results are more believable when you do.

STEP #21: Before your first meeting, send your prospect a short letter (1) offering information about the service you want to market, (2) answering frequently asked questions, (3) discussing what takes place during your initial meeting, and (4) outlining your fees. When you put your prospect's mind at ease, he is more willing to meet with you. What's more, you can quickly get down to specifics because you don't have to explain your services to each prospect.

STEP #22: Provide your prospect with a list of your competitive advantages -- the many positive ways you differ from other lawyers. This list usually relates to the depth of your knowledge, skill, qualifications and experience.

STEP #23: Give your prospect a written schedule of services and fees. Prospects trust what they see in print more than what they hear. When you talk about fees, you leave room for misunderstanding. But when you give your prospect a written schedule of services and fees, prospects grow more comfortable and you increase your credibility because prospects have your information in writing.

STEP #24: Make sure your documents look attractive and contain NO typos. Even before your prospect reads the words, your lines, borders, white space, fonts and photographs create the document's first impression on your prospect's brain. And when your prospect starts reading your words, make sure your documents do not contains typos. Few things hurt your credibility as much as typing mistakes, allowing your reader to conclude that you don't pay attention to detail.

STEP #25: Use understated graphics. I've seen lawyers' documents that looked as if the lawyer bought a new graphics program, then used one of everything: A star--a lightning bolt--an arrow. Before long, the document looked like a bad newspaper ad. Graphics should support your message, not interfere with it.

STEP #26: Consider buying engraved stationery. When properly designed, engraved stationery is clean, neat, elegant and high-end. When a lawyer sends me a letter on engraved stationery, I immediately conclude that he is an experienced, skilled attorney.


STEP #27: Make sure your address label and envelope look clean and crisp. Prospects instantly and subconsciously evaluate what they see, even before they open the envelope.

STEP #28: Make sure your fees seem fair and reasonable. In practice areas where contingent fees are common, they are generally accepted by clients. Now, lawyers in other areas of law are offering to work on contingency. Watch how prospects respond to your discussion of fees. You must be able to explain how you charge so it makes sense and seems fair to your prospect.

STEP #29: Get powerful phone numbers. When the phone company opened a new exchange in Payson, I quickly secured 928-468 1000 and 928-468 2000. You look more stable, important and influential when you have good phone numbers.

STEP #30: Set up a web site. Today, if you don't have a web site, prospects and clients wonder what's wrong with you. If you still haven't built a web site, choose a provider, hire a marketing person, and get busy.

STEP #31: Get your own law firm domain name for your web site and e mail addresses. Lawyers who do not have their own domain names appear to be lightweights. Often, prospects and clients infer that the lawyer is "between assignments" and will get a his own domain name when he gets a job.

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© Trey Ryder

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