Turn 80% of your appointments into clients with Jake Parent’s “Irresistible Bankruptcy Sales Script”
In this episode of Bankruptcy Law Success, I interview Jake Parent, a sales genius who developed a sales script that’s so effective that it can convert 80% of appointments into retained bankruptcy clients. In fact, it’s so effective that I call it the “Irresistible Bankruptcy Sales Script.”
If you’re a bankruptcy lawyer that’s not converting 80% of your appointments, you need to stop what you’re doing and listen to this podcast. Then you need to listen to it again. And then you need to practice the sales script obsessively and use it for every bankruptcy consultation.
In fact, to help bankruptcy attorneys retain more clients, Jake has generously agreed to let me offer four things for you to download for free:
- the exact word-for-word sales script he developed that converts 80% of appointments into bankruptcy clients
- his highly effective sales script outline that helps you land clients without sounding canned
- the one-page Powerpoint slide that he uses to get prospects to sign on the line that is dotted, and
- his comprehensive list of services involved in a bankruptcy that makes clients understand your price is justified, as well as justifying “reasonableness” for any US Trustee.
Some of the highlights in this interview include:
- The exact word-for-word script you can use to retain 80% of the appointments that come into your bankruptcy law office.
- How to get prospects to sell themselves on filing bankruptcy ASAP (so you don’t have to).
- Which legal questions repel clients—and the questions you should be asking instead.
- Why it’s actually a positive sign when your clients break down crying while talking to you.
- And a whole lot more, including exactly what to say to make prospects understand that filing cases pro se is not the way to go.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above, or read a full transcript below.
You can also subscribe to get an email when we release new episodes of the Bankruptcy Law Success podcast.
Bob Hiler: Hi, this is Bob Hiler of the Bankruptcy Law Success podcast where we introduce you to successful bankruptcy lawyers, as well as powerful ideas that can transform your bankruptcy practice. Today, I’m speaking with Jake Parent who currently is the Head Sales at Fresh Start Funding in Tempe, Arizona.
Jake, welcome to the podcast.
Jake Parent: Great. Thanks, Bob. Appreciate the invitation.
Bob: Wait. First, did I get that right? Is that your title, Head of Sales at Fresh Start Funding?
Jake: Yes. I’m the Director of Sales and Marketing here.
Bob: Okay. Awesome.
Jake, I have actually been very eager to get you on the podcast ever since we were talking the other day. You mentioned that in your last job before Fresh Start Funding, you used to work for– Why don’t you describe the company that you used to work for?
Jake: I worked for a business services provider that provided the back-end business services to a law firm. We did their marketing, we handled their calls, we handled their business operations, but we didn’t do any of the practice of law. Anytime an attorney was talking to a client, the attorney was responsible for that but any of the other business operations, the marketing and the logistics, we handled that part of it for them.
Bob: Was that a law firm that primarily did bankruptcy law or-
Jake: Yes. We only worked with bankruptcy attorneys so we worked with four or five different bankruptcy attorneys in different metros that we had in here in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Utah, Colorado. We worked with different attorneys in different areas to help streamline their practice so that they could do what they did best which was the practice of law. Then, we focused on the business operations side of it.
Bob: My understanding is that you were doing sales and you were helping to get prospects to retain, is that right?
Jake: Yes. That’s one of the things that we would help them with. It’s because we looked at this as a business that we did all the marketing, we did all the online marketing, the scheduling of appointments and then would work with the attorneys to make sure that they were getting the best retention rates possible in the clients that they were meeting with.
We were going there and giving them basically sales support, sales assistance, sales training on how they could provide the best consults to their clients to get the best outcomes for everybody involved.
Bob: The stat that you told me that blew me away was that for every hundred sales appointments that you did you would close, was it– It sounded like a huge number to me. For every hundred sales appointments, how many would you close?
Jake: For every hundred consults that we had, we generally retained about 80. On a week to week basis, it would vary but 80% was usually the number that we were looking for. Some weeks it would be a little bit higher because you have clients who come in that just aren’t– Chapter 7 isn’t going to be a solution for them. Either they have IRS debts or student loan debts and they really don’t have any other debts. It’s like, “Well, that’s certainly an insurmountable amount of debt in your situation but unfortunately Chapter 7’s not going to be the solution for that.”
Outside of those parameters, we generally were closing between 70-80% with 80% being the number that we’re always driving for and hit fairly often.
Bob: Some portion of them– About what percentage of people were ineligible for Chapter 7?
Jake: It would vary. Probably 25 to 15% on a week to week basis which is normally how we looked at the numbers. Just like, “I met with this many people this week. Here’s where we fall.” I’ve never looked at it over a yearly basis or a really large number basis but that’s where the numbers are flowing between those two.
Occasionally you have other people that come in where this may be the greatest financial hardship that they’ve ever faced in their life and it’s still– You could file bankruptcy for them, but it’s like “you’re going to pay more for this bankruptcy than you’re going to get a relief of debt and it just doesn’t make sense.” So you have to provide them different options and different avenues and maybe you can guide them along on that path.
I’ve certainly occasionally had people come in that had less debt than the cost of bankruptcy. It’s like that’s not going to work out for you long-term. Let’s find something else.
Bob: Sure. The 80% close rate, that was for a zero down Chapter 7, is that right?
Jake: Correct. That’s a zero down bankruptcy that has an 80% retention rate. If we were doing where the client had what we call a layaway program where they had to pay somewhere between $100 to $300 down, and then they would make payments to us and then we wouldn’t file them until they’ve paid in full… The retention rate on that varied between 65 and 75% over long terms. But that 65-75% also gets spread out, meaning that you’ll meet with somebody on Tuesday and I’ll say, ”Yes, I want to retain you but it’s going to be a week and a half before I get paid before I can give you the $100.” It’s never as clean and it usually has a little bit more work in trying to get them to retain and that you’re having to do more follow up to get them onboard and then again you have to do more follow up to collect all the payments.
Bob: Plus, I would imagine that some portion of those people that start the layaway plan just don’t finish it. Is that something that you saw, too?
Jake: Yes. It’s something we saw. I never had really good– Well, it’s hard to quantify because some of those layaway programs take so long that clients will ghost you. You’ll have ghost filers where somebody was really consistent, made payments for six months and then just disappears. They don’t answer their emails, their phone’s turned off and they don’t make any payments, and they disappear for a year and then they call back a year later and go, “All right. I’m ready to file bankruptcy. Let me give you some more money.”
I think the longest payment plan that I saw was a little bit over four years where the guy was a serial ghoster and that he would make payments for a while and be nice and steady, and then disappear for a while and come back. But we also had people that asked for refunds years after they had stopped making payments and had never gotten all the way through. Then the attorney has to do accounting. We have to figure out how many creditor calls we’ve taken, everybody has to document how much work they’ve done to determine how much of a refund is approved…
Bob: Yes. A huge pain.
Bob: Okay. I’m really grateful because you’re coming here and you’re going to tell us exactly how someone could close 80% of their sales appointments if they’re selling zero down Chapter 7.
Bob: I’m very excited about that. Before we go into that, can you pull up and take a step back and tell us what your sales process was? So maybe we can start with somebody calling into your old firm… So who would pick up the phone, how was that handled?
Jake: We had a small phone room full of customer service reps. They would answer the phone, we train them the best as possible to be as empathetic as they could with the clients. They had a series of questions they would go through just to make sure that they were minimally qualified for bankruptcy. You don’t want to over qualify them when they call. So that lowers your appointment setting but you want to make sure that they indeed do have debt, what kind of debt they have and just, “Hey, what’s going on in your situation? What made you call today?”
Then we would schedule an appointment with the appropriate attorney as soon as possible. If we could get them scheduled the same day, that would be great but sometimes either based on the debtor’s issue or the attorney’s calendar, it might be two or three days before we could get them in. The empathy is really a big part in that you don’t want to tell them, “it’s OK,” but you do want to tell them that you understand and that you’re there to help and we’re going to get you the relief that you need when they’ve told you about the situation.
Bob: I think I understand where you’re coming from. I think you’re saying you don’t want to make them feel so relieved that they don’t finish the bankruptcy process.
Jake: Correct. There’s two ends of that spectrum. The first end of the spectrum—and it’s as true for the attorneys and for me, and for everybody else involved in the process—in that the debtor who’s calling us, this is pretty close to one of the worst days of their life that they’re in financial hardship, they’ve overcome the social stigma of bankruptcy and they’re finally willing to reach out to somebody and say, “I need help. I need this to stop.” They’re going through a fair amount of distress.
On our end, to me, this is just a Thursday. I’ve taken 50 calls today from people who are as broke or broker than you. This is not a big deal and to us, it’s unfortunately not a big deal. It is literally a Thursday where I’ve talked to 50 bankrupt people. But unfortunately for that person on the other end, hopefully not always, this is the only time in their life they’ve had to make that call and say that, “I need assistance. I need help.”
We need to balance the empathy of understanding their situation without trying to let them out of their situation, that you called us for a reason, you do need relief, you do need support. But it is really easy for people to use that initial phone call as almost like psychology counselor session in which they’re going to vent all their problems and then they go, “Right, I feel a lot better now. I don’t need to come in.”
Jake: It’s like, “When you wake up tomorrow those creditors are still going to be calling you. You need to go ahead and come in.” We are trying to balance those two ends of the spectrum of being understanding without giving them complete and total relief just on the phone call.
Bob: I hear you. OK, someone picks up the phone for in your phone room and they set an appointment. You said they set an appointment with an attorney, but at what point would you get involved in this process? Would they ever set an appointment directly with you?
Jake: By and large, they would not set up an appointment with me directly in all situations. The ideal scenario is that they do meet with an attorney. I am a paralegal, I have a degree as a paralegal. I’ve done some work as that, but the majority of my professional experience is in sales and marketing. I usually work with the attorneys on coaching them through doing best consultations. But there are other times where an attorneys, he’s got other meetings, he’s got other appointments, he’s out of town and you don’t want the cash register to stop just because the person who’s doing the in takes has left the office for the day. We were doing fairly high volume and most of our attorneys did anywhere from 30 to 50 cases per month, so they were meeting with quite a few people. If they weren’t available, they needed to have somebody else that was available to meet with the client initially to walk them through the process, make sure that bankruptcy was going to be a good fit for them, and get them started.
Bob: That’s where you got involved.
Jake: That’s where I would come in. It wasn’t my full-time job to meet with clients, but if an attorney wasn’t available or an attorney was on vacation… If you’re filing 40 or 50 cases a month, you’re doing pretty well and you can afford to take a month off. We’d have an attorney that would say, “hey, I’m going to Italy for a month.” All right, well, we’re not going to shut the practice down for a month. We’re going to do the consults and retain other outsourced, other attorneys to do the 341s, and some of the other issues that need to be taken care of while he was gone.
Bob: Oh, wow, OK. So they would pick up the phone and they would do the first appointment… Was that first appointment, it was with the attorney, would that be in person? And if he was with you, it would be over the phone? Or how would that work…
Jake: We always tried to schedule the appointments in person so that the end person… So when I give you an 80% number, that is assuming that we are meeting in the office with that client. There are clients that we would do consults with over the phone. Usually, it was they were bedridden. They had transportation issues where they couldn’t get to the office. Or in some of the locations–Arizona’s a really big one–that there’s some really remote areas of Arizona where even though we had three or four different offices throughout the state, that person might be an hour and a half away from our nearest office. We would go ahead and meet with them over the phone.
The retention rate by phone was usually closer to 50%. It was not ideal that… The CSRs had to justify why they had set up a phone consult instead of having them come in to meet us in person. And no show rate is… Again, I don’t have specific numbers, but the no show rates on phone consults were incredibly high, to the point that we had a limited window of when we allowed phone consults. And then when we had phone consults, we would double book off all of them because we just figured they weren’t going to show.
Bob: I have an attorney who just started using Ruby Receptionist to set [appointments] and we were just looking at some stats and 7 out of 8 showed up for their phone appointments.
Bob: I generate the leads with Google AdWords. Maybe that was a difference for that particular client who does do phone appointments, I don’t know.
Jake: That’s really good, it’s outstanding. The more bankruptcy attorneys I talk to and I see the different… How they organize things… Every once in a while, when it comes to scheduling consults that… I’ll talk to one attorney and say he legitimately schedules… 90% of the people that call his office schedule a consult and another attorney who is only scheduling appointments with 70% of the people that call his office. I’m always curious as to how they, like… It’s difficult to quantify all of the variables, but it’s like: all right, is his staff that much better, is his advertising different, are the people that that are calling, are the words on the website so different that it qualifies them better? What is going in on that process that’s from a marketing point of view?
The difference between 70 and 90 is enormous. I’m always curious as to why those things happen. I don’t necessarily always have good reasons but that’s an outstanding result. That’s awesome. I wish I could have done that.
Bob: Well, I do have an opinion that I can’t justify but I’ve listened to several thousand bankruptcy phone calls. Well, I haven’t listened to them all. I have listened to hundreds of them. The biggest thing is that bankruptcy lawyers forget that when a prospect calls with a question, whatever that question is, that’s often the only way that they know how to talk about bankruptcy, or taking a step back, they’ll have a very specific question and if you answer that question, it will alleviate all pressure on them to take another step.
They’ll be like, “If someone sues me for a debt, what’s going to happen?” If you answer that question, they’re not going to set their appointment. You’re taking all the winds out of their sails in terms of them trying to take the next step. Really what you need to do is, you need to push them to take the next step, and almost always, in my opinion, you should give a high-level answer that always say, “But it always depends on your particular situation. Let’s get you in here. You can tell me what situation you’re facing, and I can give you a more detailed answer.”
What do you think about that?
Jake: That’s sounds outstanding. Now that you put it that way, that is an issue that our customer service reps would face, where they would ask them a specific legal question and they would say, “That’s a really good question, and you would have to speak to an attorney to get the answer to that. Let’s get you scheduled.”
If people pushed on it, the ultimate fallback was, “that’s legitimately starting to become the practice of law which makes it illegal for me to answer that question. I would love to answer that question, but the attorney would need to give you the answer to that.” I would have the same… Just to cover my own bases, I would have the same issues when I was doing an intake with somebody.
There were certain specific scenarios but as soon as they said something, I’d be like, “Well, this call’s over. I have to go get an attorney now. I can’t answer your questions anymore. This is becoming a practice of law and I can’t advise you on that.” A really common one is if their income was too high and they didn’t qualify for a Chapter 7, I could literally only do Chapter 7 consults but as soon as it became a Chapter 13 consultation, I was like, “Well, it’s been nice talking to you. I’ve enjoyed meeting you. I have to get an attorney now.”
Bob: Sure. Is that true, even if they were just a little bit above the means test, they could probably do a budget and get back under?
Jake: If they could do a budget and get back under, I would tell them that but I would also tell them that I couldn’t tell them to answer to that, that the attorney would do that with them, and that I wouldn’t. That was one of the drawbacks of having me do the intake as I couldn’t do the math with them. They go right out, and how much are you spending, and go through even if did know the math, I couldn’t do that with them.
Bob: I want to get into the sales call itself, butbefore we do that, I just have to ask, where did you learn the importance of knowing your numbers? Because I was trying to think about this before we record this podcast, and I think you’re only one of two people that I have met in the bankruptcy industry that really measures all their actions and knows their numbers with anything more than just a vague [chuckles] you know the very, on a granular level, that’s not something I see, where did you learn that?
Jake: It really boils down to business practices, coming from a sales background that I got out of college and went to work for a legal publisher as an inside sales rep for a legal publisher. Then got promoted to outside sales rep for a legal publisher and then just kept going down the sales and marketing route, got into technology, and always trying to figure out as a basic sales guy like, “All right, how many cold calls do I have to make to get an attorney on the phone? How many attorneys do I have to talk to get an appointment? How many appointments do I have to get to make a sale?” so that when you get up in the morning and you’ve got to put your hard heart on and you’re picking up that phone to make cold calls, you know how many you have to make that day in order to hit your numbers.
You start to experiment with different techniques: “Hey, I’ve read this book, and this guy says this works. All right, let me try that and see if it actually changes the numbers.”
Then in the mid-90s, I started selling technology. I was selling website development in 1996 when the most common objection I got from people when I would call them about setting up a website was, “Why would I want one of those for my company?” The difference between ’96 and ’99 when people were like, “Why would I even bother talking to you?” ’99 they’re like, “Hey, how much money do I have to throw at you to build me a website?” It was pretty awesome, but that’s really where I learned the granular nature of marketing response, and the different metrics, and walking people through the sales funnel knowing the metrics for each step of the process. I think the goal was 2001, 2002, and then we started with SEO and AdWords. The difference between a 1.5% response rate and a 2.1% response rate on a general ad was like: we’re taking off our shirt and running around the office doing the horsey dance because we moved the needle. That’s really where I got that from. Like, “Hey, let’s measure what we’re doing.” And “If you don’t know the score you can’t improve the score.”
Bob: We’re about to talk about a sales process and an outline of a sales script but would you say before you do that the bankruptcy lawyers out there listening need to use a CRM and start recording all these… logging all these phone calls and next steps, in order to know their numbers? Or what would you say?
Jake: Yes. If they’re looking at it as a business person and they want to improve. If you want to lose weight you get on the scale every day and look at the number. If they’re just a pig in mud and they’re happy with what they’re doing and everything’s going great in their life and they don’t want to change anything, hey ,don’t change anything. Keep doing what you’re doing.
But if you’re looking around going, “I think life could be better than this,” that’s certainly one of the big first steps to take and it does take a fair amount of sitting down and thinking about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and the process.
I’m in Phoenix, Arizona, and Joe Polish is one of the big marketing gurus nationwide but he happens to be here in Phoenix. We’ve met a couple of times and his big mantra is “what is the conversation that’s already going on in your client’s mind?”
Bob: “And how do you join it?”
Jake: “How do you join that conversation.” Absolutely, and it’s one of those things that we always talk about what’s important to us, not realizing that what’s important to us isn’t important to the person that we’re trying to do business with. What is it that they’re going through… When I take you through this process, it’ll highlight the differences between the way that I’ve seen attorneys normally do it versus this approach.
Bob: Okay. Let’s dive right in. Maybe you can start by giving us a rough outline of your sales pitch? Or you could just do the first section, whichever you prefer.
Jake: Okay. I’m going to do one other thing first just to have a compare and contrast, which is most of the attorneys- when an attorney calls me up and says hey I need help with my practice. Would you come in and take a look?
OK, step one, sit down with their receptionist. Step two, sit down with them while they’re dealing with the client and what I see from attorneys by and large is that when they are talking to clients or when they’re doing an intake with the client—or it’s not discovery but in sales it would be discovery and legally it’s not discovery—but when they’re having that investigative conversation with them, they’re trying to figure out how to come up with the best legal answer and they’re framing it in legal terms like they have to answer to a law professor about “I came up with the right legal answer.” When they’re talking to their client, they’re just looking for what is the best legal answer and it doesn’t really answer most of the client’s questions but it answers the attorney’s questions but it doesn’t answer the client’s.
This is a fairly client-focused intake consultation that we’re going to walk them through. The first thing I do when I walk in, obviously, I introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Jake. I’m a paralegal. The attorney is out today. I’m going to be meeting with you. I’ve been doing this for five years. I’ve been a paralegal for 20 years. I have extensive experience in the bankruptcy industry, so you’re in good hands. I’d like to thank you for coming in today. I realize how difficult this is for you to come here today. I know that nobody is happy about having to file bankruptcy. I appreciate what you’re going through and how difficult it was for you to drive down here and I appreciate that.”
The next step is, “I’m going to walk you through what is going to happen today. What’s going to happen in our meeting is that I’m going to ask you what your situation is. How you’re dealing with your debts. How it’s affecting you and then I’m going to explain the different types of bankruptcies that are available. I’m going to explain what we offer as a service and then I’m going to go through your financial situation with you in detail. Then after we go through your financial situation in detail, I’m going to let you know whether bankruptcy is actually a good solution for you or not. 20% of the people that I meet with, bankruptcy is not a good solution for them. I’ll tell you that and then we’ll try and find if there are any other solutions available to you and what could happen there. Then I’ll go through what services we’re going to provide you and how much those cost and what the best solution for you will be in providing for those services, OK?”
Bob: Okay. Let’s just stop right there.
Jake: Sure thing.
Bob: I’ve done sales for years. I can clearly see what you’re doing which is– You’re taking control of the conversation. Certainly, at this point, you’re not going to have a two-hour consultation where someone’s talking about how his ex-wife screwed him or some long story. You’re taking– Well, you’ve certainly heard that, right?
Jake: I have taken some ear beatings in my time from people who have been done wrong, yes.
Bob: You’re mapping out how this is going to go. From a sales perspective, not only are you setting expectations but you’re also being the alpha in that scenario and saying, “This is how it’s going to be. Does that make sense? Are you cool with it?” You’re getting their buy-in. They can’t be like… 30 minutes, 20 minutes in, they can’t be like, “This is not what I expected.” You explain that upfront and you get their buy-in for the rest of the pitch which-
Bob: -is a great thing.
Jake: The first thing I’m doing is recognizing how much pain that they’re in so that emotionally we’re on the same wavelength like, “Hey, this is an open and safe place. I realize how difficult this is.” The second thing I’m doing is I’m framing the conversation. At the end of that—when I tell them that 20% of the people don’t qualify—I’m doing a pre-takeaway and also taking the pressure off of them feeling like they’re being sold by somebody. Because in this scenario I’m legitimately not trying to sell someone a bankruptcy if it’s not going to fix their situation. (I don’t know how somebody would sleep with that.)
But it’s doing a lot of things in that it does like, “Hey, I’m in charge, and I’m in charge because I know where we’re going. I know what’s happening. I know what’s going on. I’m going to walk you through this process and that I do this entire thing in 30 minutes.” I know every time this is going to take me between 25 and 30 minutes unless we get to one question where they’re like they tell me they’ve got $100,000 cash laying around somewhere and I’m like, “Well, this is going to be the solution for you. You have too much money go to pay your debt.” They just disqualify themselves. That’s how long it takes. It gives them comfort and allows them to relax that they don’t have to be uptight worrying about what happens next because they know exactly what’s going to happen next.
Bob: The one other thing that I just want to say not to you, Jake, but to the bankruptcy attorneys out there listening, is that when you take the job of sales seriously, you’re really helping people make the best decision for them. By using this approach that Jake is outlining, or an approach that’s similar to it, you’re really… It’s about making the prospect feel comfortable talking to you and coming to a meeting of the minds. You’re understanding their problems and you’re applying their solutions and introducing those solutions to the prospect.
The prospect feels like they’re in good hands. It’s a lot better for the prospect to take I think an explicit sales-centric approach which is a prospect-centric approach than to take a self-centered, a lawyer-centered approach and maybe give legal answers that don’t really talk to their problem and mitigate their concerns. Are we on the same page there?
Jake: Yeah, we are. We are. There certainly are times that it’s appropriate where somebody needs to give them, “Hey, you’ve got a choice here to make legally.” I wouldn’t be the person to have that conversation with them. I never really had to worry about that but there are times when that happens.
One of the examples I use is if your doctor came into you and said, “Hey, you can take propofinol and it’s got this side effect, this side effect, this side effect but it’ll give you this benefit or you can take Zololofafol and it’s going to have these different side effects and this different benefit. Which one do you think you should take?”
You’d look at the doctor and go, “What the heck man? I’m not a doctor. Give me a prescription and get me out of here.” That is– I don’t think I said it this time but one of the phrases that I would use is, “when we get to the end, either you will know you need a bankruptcy or I will know you don’t.”
Bob: OK. That’s a good one.
Jake: “And both of those are okay. It’s going to be clear cut when we get to the end of this conversation what your best solutions are going to be.” It didn’t bother me at all… I never got to the end and said, “What do you think? ” I got to the end and said, “You need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.” or I got to the end and said, “You don’t need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.” The other things I would see attorneys do all the time as they get to the end that they would explain bankruptcy in detail from a legal point of view and then get to the end and go, “What do you think?” It’s like: “Well, they don’t know what to think. They’re not attorneys.”
Bob: Yes. Okay. At this point are you ready for the next section? Is there anything else you want to mention?
Jake: Yes. Sure. Yes. I’m ready for the next section.
Bob: Okay. Great.
Jake: The next thing that I would do is I would say, “OK, Bob, nobody shows up at my office because they’ve missed one credit card payment and they’re feeling a little financially shaky so they want to talk to a bankruptcy attorney. Something happened six months ago, something happened a year ago, something happened 18 months ago, maybe even longer, and it’s kinda snowballed out of control on you and it brought you here today. What happened?”
Bob: Great. That’s a great question.
Jake: Yeah. Usually, it’s what gives me a 30,000 foot overview of their financial situation, which is information that I need, but it also creates an emotional tension in them that you talked about earlier and that I am… Emotionally, this conversation is going to get worse and worse and worse and worse for them until the very end. The only way they get released is if they file bankruptcy.
Bob: Well, let me just put my cards on the table and say that I think bankruptcy is a great solution for a lot of people, in a lot of situations. As you intimated, it’s not always the best solution.
Bob: But I feel like bankruptcy is a great solution for a lot of people. So I think where you are going here is this idea that if you can identify that bankruptcy is the right solution, you actually want them to dwell in the pain that they’re experiencing to encourage them to take action to take the next step.
Jake: Correct. The pain of inaction needs to be greater than the pain of going through a bankruptcy because that’s the first thing I’ve told them is: “I realize the pain of bankruptcy is difficult.” There’s a social stigma, their shame involved, people don’t want to do it. I’m not trying to push someone’s emotions into buying a new car, it’s, are you facing real financial hardship? If you’re not facing real financial hardship, it’s, “Hey, we need to have that honesty and integrity that we say this isn’t a good solution for you.” That I’m not trying to get them to do something that’s not in their best interest, but I am trying to get them to see a very stark contrast between where they are now and where they’ll be after bankruptcy.
Bob: You had mentioned before that you do sales trainings with attorneys, have you had attorneys that have difficulty with this part? The dwelling in the pain part? Because I have.
Jake: People, in general, seem to have a problem with this. I’m working with an attorney currently, who I tease him that if we were watching a scary movie, every time there was about to be a scary scene, he would tell everybody it’s coming.
Like, “Hey, man, you’re stepping on a movie… A story creates emotional tension that has a payoff at the end, and if you are not letting that emotional tension build, and then there’s no payoff at the end. You’ve stepped on the lead. You’ve ruined what’s coming next, but if someone blurts out the punch line in the middle of the joke like, nobody likes that guy. Don’t be that guy.
I would say the biggest struggle that I have with attorneys and I tease them about this, like, I’ll write an email and say, “Hey, this is a sales email that we should send out.” They rewrite it and I’m like, “Well, I understand you corrected my grammar, which it’s a downfall. I grew up in Arkansas, so I don’t have great grammar, but you also took out all of the emotion and I will take the Pepsi challenge split-test every day that we send these emails out to different groups of people and your perfectly-worded, perfect-grammar email is not going to sell as, as well as this one with the mistakes in it.”
That’s something that Robert Kiyosaki talks about is he was being interviewed by a journalist and the journalist was talking to him and looking down at him, because the journalist was saying, “I’m a better writer than you.” Robert shook his head and said, “Yes, you are, I’m a bestselling author. You’re a best-writing author.” That’s one of the conversations that I have with attorneys is: do you want to be a bestselling writer or a best-writing writer? Because if you just want to do best writing, I can’t help you. That’s not what we’re focusing on here.
But if you want the accolades of your peers and other attorneys, if you care what they think about you more than what you care that your clients think about you, it’s going to be difficult to have extreme financial success with this because what the other people who aren’t paying you, you care about what they think more.
Bob: Sure, of course, it’s my experience in the emails that attorneys are sending to clients or prospects, they’re not getting forward to the state bar or to other attorneys. It’s like they’re worried about nothing.
Jake: Well, the other thing is, it’s… And we all do it, we care about what our peer group thinks about us, not necessarily what our clients think about us. That the number of blog posts that I’ve seen written on attorneys websites that are clearly written for other attorneys. Personal horror story of mine that I spent eight hours rewriting a blog post with a thesaurus because I needed to take all the big words out like, “Hey, you wrote this at a collegiate-level and I’m sorry I’m going to rewrite this for a third or a fifth-grade level because that’s where we have the responses, at that level.
Bob: OK, so at this point, you’ve started building the emotional tension. But maybe you could walk us through what happens next.
Jake: I asked them what happened. It usually takes them anywhere from 30 seconds to 5-7 minutes to get their story out of their particular tale of woe and hardship and then they are usually pretty hard luck cases. Every once and while you look at someone and go, “Hey man, you’re just not making good choices.” But most of the time they got a dealt a bad hand at cards and they’re trying to deal with it. Once they get done telling me that…
Bob: Well, actually before they finish getting done… How are you expressing empathy with their situation as they tell the story?
Jake: Just being present. Being engaged. I almost never interrupt. I don’t really ask for clarifications. I’m just assuming that they’re going to walk me through… If there’s plot holes, I’m not going back and asking them questions on the plot holes of their story. Just being a hundred percent engaged, a hundred percent present. Sometimes I’m taking notes but usually, it’s just nodding the head and being there with them.
Showing the appropriate emotions because you’re feeling those emotions. I sat through a counsel with an attorney where I finally got to ask this question to a woman. Of course, the woman broke down crying halfway through her story. He might as well been an Easter Island head. Zero emotion. Finally, I was like, “Hey, how about we offer her a tissue or something like this. I don’t know. Let’s reach out and show her a little bit of care and kindness.”
I don’t know how to tell someone to be aware or present but being aware or present is what they need to be during that. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t look at your watch. Preferably don’t wear a wristwatch. Don’t have your phone in there with you. Don’t have things that will distract me. Don’t be looking around. You’re engaged. You’re there.
Bob: I’m half Japanese and there’s this thing I learned. In Japanese, it’s called “aizuchi” which is just a phrase for any word that’s like, “Uh-huh. Mm-hmm.” It’s like you’re not really saying anything but you’re letting the other person know that you’re talking. That’s the part I take in a sales situation like that where I’m just like, “Mm-hmm. Uh-huh.” I can see it actually. The podcast when I audio edit. Every 10 seconds, 14 seconds you see a little bump in my side where I say, “Mm-hmm. Uh-huh. Totally.” something like that. That’s how I do it.
OK, so they’re telling the story 5-7 minutes and then?
Jake: I’m actually going to back up one step that I forgot to cover something at the very beginning which is establishing rapport when we come in. When I shake their hand, tell them who I am, tell them how difficult I know it was that for them to come in today… There are hundreds of book building about rapport that they’re trying to give you techniques to get people to like you, but the easiest way to get people to like you is for you to like them.
If someone came in and sat down and talked to me and I legitimately didn’t like them, it was certainly very difficult for me to get them to retain because we were not– The number of people who I legitimately don’t like is pretty small. I generally like everybody. Occasionally, we all meet people where they just rub you the wrong way but you should be able to get along with 95% of the people or more, like 97, 98% of the people that walk into your office.
You should be able to look at them and you may not want them to be your fishing buddy and to come over to your house for drinks, but you should at least to look at them and go, “I like this person. I care about this person. I want what’s best for them.” And that if you can have that level of concern and like for them, if you can establish in your own mind why you like them, you don’t have to come out and tell them verbally, “Hey, this is why I like you.” They’ll have that sense. They’ll have that feeling that you have care and compassion and that you do like them and that you really want what’s best for them, and that automatically, in large numbers of the time, establishes that rapport that you need with the person that’s coming into your office.
Bob: I always go back to Dale Carnegie who says that you need to take a genuine interest in the person that you’re speaking to. I could see how that would play in here where they’re telling their story and if you’re taking a genuine interest and you’re really, as he says, present and you’re leaning forward and you’re listening to their story… Not consciously leaning forward as a rapport trick, but because you want to hear what happens next in the story. Do you think that’s a useful tip for people? Or…
Jake: Absolutely. Dale Carnegie’s books are great on that, but being that type of person who is interested, if someone comes into your office and you’re just checked out, the techniques aren’t going to change the fact that the person can tell you’re checked out. But being aware of those certainly does help.
Bob: So keep on going now…
Jake: We’ve asked him what happened that brought them here today. Once they finish telling me their story about how they ended up at our office, I ask, “How are you dealing with your debt currently?” Again, that creates another emotional response, and that they tell me everything they’re doing to try and overcome whatever it is they’re dealing with. They are borrowing money from family, they’re selling assets, if they’re going into their 401k for money, like what is it that they’re doing to try and get by? It gives me more insight into their situation but it also creates a greater level of emotional investment on their part.
Which leads into the next question, very along on the same line, does this exact same thing: How is that affecting you? You’ve told me your story, you’re telling me what you’re doing with it, how are you being affected? Their stories of staying up late at night, losing sleep, they’re stressed out, they’re anxious at work, they can’t focus, whatever. How it is they’re dealing with it, they’ll tell you that portion of the story.
Bob: Now, let me just pause right here because normally I take notes but I have a new microphone and it’s very sensitive, so I don’t want to be pounding on the keyboard. I can’t remember if at any point prior to this, you’ve asked people to explain what all their debts are and their income and stuff like that. Or is that not even important?
Jake: We haven’t gotten to that part yet. We’re 10 minutes into that.
Bob: Okay. All right, so that’s later. OK.
Jake: Yeah. When you asked him what happened sometimes they’ll give you, “My truck broke down and I’m another $5,000 in debt or I got evicted from an apartment and that’s $2,000. My car was repo’ed and they sold it at auction, and there’s an $8,000 deficit that I owe on that.” Sometimes they’ll throw out some of the details, but I certainly haven’t gotten to anything that would involve what a lawyer needs to know to be able to file a bankruptcy.
Bob: This is really almost the anti-lawyer sales script. This is almost– or the George Costanza sales script.
Jake: I am going to ask those questions because we do legitimately need to know if they do qualify for Chapter 7, but we’ll get to that in three more sections.
Bob: OK, so keep on going.
Jake: Okay, next I explained the different types of bankruptcy to them and the different qualifications that are involved. First, I explain Chapter 13 bankruptcy because I can’t help them with the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, so I don’t want them to do that. Although many attorneys are more than happy to have their client file a Chapter 13. I walk through the, “hey, this is the payment plan to the state, three to five years blah, blah, blah, blah,” all about Chapter 13. And then I say, “We’re generally trying to avoid Chapter 13, because you are making a payment plan to the state for three to five years, and most people don’t want that, they want a clean start which is Chapter 7 bankruptcy.”
I then explain Chapter 7 bankruptcy, how it works, which is that the state wants to take your assets so that they can sell those assets and then they keep a 10% of that sale, and then they give the rest of it to their debtors. Then I say, the benefit of using an attorney—and this was the next section after I described the different types of bankruptcy—is how we help, is we protect your assets from the state and that we make sure this process goes smoothly. This is the first time where I’m trying to plant a seed for them so that they know they don’t want to file pro se.
I’m giving them the benefits of what an attorney is going to do for them that they can’t do for themselves, and that they don’t want to do it themselves, and that they’re largely not qualified. I’ll tell them that 30% of the people who try to do this on their own end up getting denied. There’s another portion of those people, when they do file the bankruptcy on their own, the trustee is going to end up seizing a portion of their assets because they weren’t aware of how to protect their estate from the state from being seized. That’s what I explain there. That’s the benefit of using an attorney.
Next up is the part that all the lawyers have been fidgeting in their chairs about. We’re actually going to ask them legal questions.
So now, I’m going to ask them about their income. How much do you make? Where do you get it from? How do you receive it? How often do you get paid? How much are you making? Making sure that they have some income, they don’t always.
Next up, I asked them about their assets. Where I’m going through the assets in that first, I start, do you own a home? In Arizona, there’s $150,000 exemption on a home.
Jake: It’s a homestead exemption but on equity in your home. I don’t know why my brain seized up. You’re allowed to have $150,000 in equity in your home. Do you own your home? Yes. What’s it worth? How much do you owe on it?
This is where I start walking them through everything they own and what it’s worth, what the state allows them to have, and if the attorney is going to need to talk to them about how to best structure that or if they need to divest themselves of assets. We go through their asset talk.
Bob: You’re a non-attorney doing an intake or meeting with them. Now I can see how you wouldn’t– If it’s clear that they need to do a Chapter 13, I would imagine that you would want to finish taking in all this information so you give it to their attorney to follow up with. You wouldn’t just say I can’t talk to anymore. Just wanted to make sure that that’s how you’re handling it. Or you tell me how you handle that.
Jake: It would depend on the attorney that I was working with. Some of them, they wanted to do that portion themselves because some of the questions are different, certainly how the assets are handled are different and I usually have an intake form. I would go through the intake form and make sure that all their income, assets and debts were included on there that he would need. And then I would either reschedule them to meet with the attorney or go get the attorney for a Chapter 13.
The final thing is, again, I’m doing this on a specific order. They’re happy to talk about their income. Emotionally they want to protect their assets. That whatever stuff it is you own you want to keep your stuff, even if your stuff isn’t worth that much. At least it’s yours.
Then finally, we talk about their debts. What do you owe? Who do you owe it to? How long has it been delinquent? Going through all the questions on that trying to get an accurate picture there but also trying to get as much…
They’re trying to not think about this debt as much as possible and we’ve got to pull all this debt out into the sunshine and put a light on it and go: “all right, here it is.” You’re making this much money. You have this level of debt. The likelihood that you’re going to get right side up on this is pretty much nil if that’s the case. Certainly done this with people where I talked to them we went through the debts and it was like have you called anybody about, “Hey, let’s restructure this a little bit.”
At that point, we would offer not necessarily debt settlement, but “how about you retain us for $500 and we’ll have the attorney make some phone calls to these debtors and see if we can restructure this so that you can actually make it through without filing a bankruptcy because you got decent income you may qualify for a Chapter 7”. If we can just negotiate some of these onerous terms that you’re under, maybe we can create a better situation for you without a bankruptcy.
Bob: OK. I’m a little confused. I understand the concept of what you’re saying. I don’t necessarily understand the exact scenario. Can you give me an example of a scenario?
Jake: An example of a scenario is, so a lot of times when a debt defaults, they demand full payment and they don’t want to accept anything less than full payment. “You owe us $2,000 right now.” They have $12,000 in debt. They’ve got a bunch of other debts that they’re managing fairly well, but this $2,000 debt is about to take a garnishment and they’re going to lose 25% of their paycheck. If they lose 25% of their paycheck now, that’s going to create a snowball on all their other debts.
Why don’t we pay the attorney $250, he’ll call this person, we’ll try to renegotiate that debt for you so that we can get you on a payment plan that instead of this default going through and putting you into a financial tailspin, we’ll get this whole thing worked out and you don’t have to file a bankruptcy. If on the other hand, they say no, the attorney has the ultimate hammer of going, “Hey you’re going to get $0 because as soon as I hang up this phone, I’m going to file Chapter 7 for this person.”
Not all companies see the light of that but usually, they’re like, “You’re an actual Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney, this is all you do. So this is what’s going to happen next, we are going to get $0.” They’re a little easier to negotiate with a bankruptcy attorney than if you called them yourself and said “Hey, can we work this out?”
Bob: Yeah, totally.
Jake: So I’ve gone through their income, their assets, and their debts. This is the part that the attorneys spend the majority of their time on. They want to know all that because they do need those details to find out do they qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how am I going to structure this.
At this point, I’ve asked them those three questions. My next question to them is “what happens if this doesn’t change? What’s your life going to be like if you walk out of here and everything’s exactly as it has been?”
And then after they answer that question, my final question is “Why now? Why is today the day that you finally had enough and just finally decided to do something about this?”
Bob: What are some of the answers that you’ve done for that question?
Jake: I hate to say that they’re all generic but they do blend together like, “Well, my paychecks going to get garnished, I’m getting 60 phone calls a day. I can’t answer my phone anymore, I’ve had 15 phone calls while I’m in here in this appointment of debtors collectors trying to collect on me, they’re calling me at work, they’re calling friends.”
I had someone that told me that a debt collector tracks them down at Walmart and had them paged over the intercom at Walmart like, “Hey, you’ve got an emergency call at the front desk.” They go to the front desk and it’s a debt collector. They’re like,” I can’t deal with this anymore.” That’s certainly not a generic one.
Most of them boil down to just the emotional pain of having the gravity of that debt weighing on them all the time. Anytime that they think they’re going to have a moment of happiness or joy in their life, some financial hardship comes along and kicks them in the shin and if I have to guide them, it’s like, well, this has been spiraling down. Do you think you’re at a flatline point or do you think this is going to continue to go downhill? That may be the first time that they realize “This isn’t the bottom, there’s more bottom, this can get even worse.” Some people don’t come in until they’ve been garnished or they’re facing foreclosure the next day. It’s like, “Hey,, my house is going to be sold on the courthouse starts tomorrow at 3:00. What can we do?” We better file bankruptcy today.
Bob: Yeah, what’s fascinating about what you’ve said is you’ve explained to people the general difference between the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 but besides that everything’s been about the prospect and none of them have been about the lawyer legal lease. Except for that brief description of 13 versus 7, it’s all been about the debtor, is that fair to say?
Jake: It is. It’s the conversation that’s already taking place in their mind. It’s the concerns that they have, it’s what they’re worried about. It’s the problems that they need to address, the conversation we’re having with them, like, what was the pain that they’re in and how can we get them out of it.
Bob: At some point, though, you have to present your offer and I believe that’s going to be the next step, but why don’t you fill us in.
Jake: It’s coming right up. The next thing I do is I do tell them at this point, if they’ve got student loan debt, if they’ve got IRS debt, if they’ve got back child support, if they’ve got a criminal fine that they have to pay: “Hey, these debts are going to be yours. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not going to wipe those debts out, you’re still going to be accountable for these things, you’re still going to have to pay those debts. I’m sorry, there’s nothing that can be done about that.”
Now, some people are educated enough that they’ll come back and they’ll say, “Hey, I heard in certain situations you can get student loan debt discharged, IRS debt can be discharged.”
My answer to that usually is, “Yes, there are certain situations in which those debts can be discharged. The likelihood that you are in one of the situations is about the same as you winning the lottery. I would recommend you buy a lottery ticket and if you win, that will fix it as well but the chances of discharging this in bankruptcy court are about that slim.”
I’ve heard your situation, you’re not completely incapacitated, you do have some level of income. The IRS, it’s a little bit trickier. There’s some sort of three-year rule and you have to file and there are some other things that I don’t want to get into with them but it’s like, you’re not going to qualify for that. Those things aren’t going to happen.
The first thing I want them to know is, here’s the bad news. The bad news is, if you’re in any of these situations, you still have that, nobody can help you with that, I’m sorry. Then I go through all the debts that we are going to be able to discharge that all of these balances are going to be at zero, and that if it’s appropriate to tell them that they’re going to be able to keep most of their assets and I would say most of the people that I spoke to, just because of the situation that we’re in, it was pretty clear cut they were going to be able to keep their assets.
I wasn’t going into really complicated legal scenarios with them about what they owned. It was usually pretty clear cut. You’re going to be able– these debts stay, these debts go away, and you get to keep these assets.
So I’ve gone from worse to best. Here’s a terrible part, here’s a pretty good part, here’s the best part: you get to keep your stuff. I go: “If we’re able to wipe these debts out for you , is that going to have a pretty big impact on your life?” Again, putting it back on them, “if you don’t have to deal with this anymore, is that going to make a difference?” And if the answer is yes, well, we’ve got a winner here.
If I had talking to a girl who has $7,500 in student loan debt, $7,500 in IRS debt, and she’s $18,000 in debt total, well, this is not going to work out for you. You have enough debt total, but we’re only going to wipe out $2,000 in debt. We need to find a different solution for you. So that would be one of the situations where we get to the end and I’m like, “Chapter 7 is not going to be a good fit for you.” But that was a minority of cases, like I said, somewhere between 15 to 25% per year, where there’s just not going to be enough relief that it makes this worthwhile.
At a very high level, I would explain credit to them, that this actually… If you take care of your finances going here on forward, you are going to have a faster credit recovery through bankruptcy than you would with trying to deal with these debts on your own. That your credit will recover quicker. Most of the people that had credit concerns like– Your credit’s probably not a very good place right now anyway.
And then I would go through what we provide. We’re going to do all the documentation, we’re going to collate it, we’re going to gather it, we’re going to put it together in a format that the US Trustees are most comfortable seeing it in, so that there are no questions from the US Trustee.
We’re going to represent you at the 341 meeting. All of the services that we would provide as an attorney, and again these are all things that the attorney never thinks about, or generally doesn’t seem to think about detailing to the client what he’s actually doing on his side. He just wants to come up with the best legal answer, the legal brief, but you need to walk them through the services that you’re offering, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, when it happens. That like, “Hey, you’re… I’m going to give you a complete list of the documentation we need, you to gather that up. I’m going to put that in a format for the court. Generally, it takes me 30 days to do that.”
You walk them through, “Then we’re going to go to the 341 meeting. You’re going to take this class before I file, you take another class after I file.” And everything that’s included, so that you’re detailing what it is that we are doing for them.
Bob: You didn’t mention the automatic state of the fact that they’ll stop giving phone calls, I presume that you would mention that.
Jake: Absolutely, I generally don’t mention that until we get to the point where I’m actually talking about the price, and then I would include that in the benefits of what’s being done then. This first part I’m just going to be doing, “Here’s the services that we offer.” I have a spreadsheet of the line items of services that like, “Hey, here is everything we do on an hourly time that we could spend on that. Not every bankruptcy requires all of the services, but when you sign a flat fee service, it has to include all of those line items in it.”
Then I would give them an option. I would say, “For us to provide all of those services for you, if you wanted to pay for that today by cash, debit card, money order or cashier’s check, it’s $1,500 for the attorney’s fee and there is a $335 court fee that’s paid to the court. We collect that. We only collect the $335 by either money order or cashier’s check. The $335 is separate because we’re giving that straight to the court whenever we file the paperwork.”
Most people, their reaction is, when you tell them that: “where you’re not here for the rest of this conversation? I’m bankrupt, I don’t have any money.”
They look at you like, “Really?” Then we’d say, “Well, we do have another option. We have zero down bankruptcy. It’s obviously zero down. It would be $2,400 instead of $1,835 the total price is $2,400, there’s additional work that we have to do on our side. There will be an additional appointment with the attorney, and we do have to file additional paperwork. You can do it for $1,835 and make payments to us, or you can do it for $2,400 and we’ll get you started today. Which do you prefer?”
We want to get them complete and total disclosure on what’s happening there, and then it is up to them.
Bob: You’ve actually shown me the piece of paper you slide, like a Powerpoint slide that you print out and slide over to them.
Jake: Yes. I give them option one, option two. On that piece of paper. It also shows them what their payment would be based on how often they get paid, whether they get paid weekly, every two weeks, twice a month, or monthly. If, when I slide that across the table to them, they pick it up and look at it, I know they’re interested. If I slide it across the table and they don’t touch it, they’re not signing up. That’s just the way it goes. Whatever it was that happened in that consult that they weren’t picking up what I was putting down, but I’m not going to convince them or persuade them at that point.
But when I slide across the table I ask them, it’s divided in half. On the left side of the page is paid in full price, on the right side of the page is the financing price. I asked them to sign and date which one they want. They’re usually pretty clear they want the zero down one. They sign that and date that. I asked them to put a checkmark next to how often they get paid and what their payment will be. Then I ask them to the right of that, to date it for what their next payday is so that we can schedule their payment plan to line up with their payday so that there won’t be any difficulties. The other good news is when you sign up for this payment plan, all of those payments are recorded to the credit agency as an installment plan, so it immediately starts to rebuild your credit.
Then we do a pre-petition fee agreement. They’re not going to do that with me. They are going to do that with the attorney.
Bob: Let me just pause you there, because I mean excuse me from knowing what I do about contracts, that signing a piece of paper that has option one and option two and dating it, is not legally binding at all. But it is a way of getting people to make a spiritual commitment. Is that fair?
Jake: Yeah, once people have made that commitment internally and then they’ve committed that to paper. That’s not a binding document, that doesn’t commit them to anything, it isn’t over by any sense of the imagination. All right, that’s it you’re done. Give him a smack on the button and send him out the door and say “Hey, good luck out there.” Like there’s still more paperwork that we have to do to walk them through the process. But at that point, my role for doing the intake is largely over, that the attorney is going to do the rest of the paperwork because he to, one, sign the agreements with them, and then he also has to file the paperwork so that portion would be up to him.
Bob: Do the prospects ever ask you why they have to sign option one and option two and why that they date it?
Jake: Not really.
Jake: Again, if we get to that point , the only reason I’m presenting the price to them is because they need a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Like, if I get to the point where I get to the income, the assets, and the debts, we’ve gone through those questions and Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not going to be a good solution for them, that’s where I’m ending the consult and saying, “Hey, this is not going to be a good option for you. We need to explore something else.”
They would never even get the paperwork slid across the table to them where I’ve asked the question. People do ask other questions like, “Well, is this only good today. What happens if I go get money from my family. What happens if I make other financial arrangements.” They’re still exploring options.
We go through all of those that to us it really didn’t matter which option they chose. At the end of the day, it’s about the same income for us and it is a little bit more work to do the zero down but the income ended up being pretty much a wash. They were fairly even.
Bob: Have you ever just used this sales approach and just by that doubled or tripled an attorneys’ practice?
Jake: Yes, from what I’ve seen from attorneys… Like a good middle of the road attorney who doesn’t really have any business or sales experience, they’re generally closing around 50%. And if you ask them, they’ll tell you that 50% is a good number that if they meet with 10 clients and five of them sign up, they did a good job. Which to someone like you and I would come from a sales background where this is a pre-selected, pre-screened group of people that literally everybody who shows up to talk to you about bankruptcy is facing some financial hardship. That they don’t schedule this appointment lightly…
So if you only retain 50% of the people who desperately need what you’re offering, there’s a problem somewhere. And I’ve seen people with as low as like 30% where attorney was… I’ve even seen 10% but it was like, “Hey, man, you need a personality injection. Your problem… I don’t know where you lost your personality, but you misplaced it somewhere, we need to go back and find it.”
If you move someone from 30% retention to 60% retention, or you move somewhere from 30 to 70… That makes an enormous difference in their practice.
I just talked to a guy who closed… He retained two out of six people and I was like, “We wouldn’t work with you. We wouldn’t continue a relationship going forward if we put six people in front of you and can only retain two.”
Bob: Did he learn?
Jake: He did. He got better. None of this is based off of… So when I developed this process, I didn’t want this to be like personality dependent in that “hey, you have to be bit of a super extrovert who is really great around people and you’re the life of the party and everybody loves you everywhere you go.” I knew that was not a sales strategy that I could copy and paste across to other firms and have that work. When I first started doing this, I went in as flat as possible that I wasn’t using any personality, I wasn’t using anything at all.
It’s like: I am just going to walk this through a process here almost like I’m an automaton in that I’m just saying these words walking through the process. It still works that if you have a personality and if you like people, it will give you better… The more that you can connect with people as people, the better your response is going to be. But the process of just focusing them on their problems and then walking them through this process and this order… And that it’s ordered the way it is for a reason as well, that when you get to the end, it is a foregone conclusion. Either they know they need it or I know they don’t.
There is no struggle, there’s no like trying to convince anybody, there’s no, “Let me go home and think about it.” That’s probably 90% of what attorneys get told when somebody doesn’t retain them. I’m going to go home and think about it.
Bob: Or they’ve complained about the price, but it’s not the price that’s the problem. It’s that they don’t understand it and they understand the value that you bring.
Jake: Correct. Yes. They don’t understand the difference in what it’s going to make to their life. They don’t know that it is worth it to them. I had an attorney tell me, “Well, my clients are price sensitive.”
Okay, so your clients that are coming in that are bankrupt?
Have you ever had a client that was upside down on a car when he came in?
What’s the worst you’ve ever seen somebody upside down on a car? “You see somebody in like some little Chevy pop top car and it’s like the car is worth $4,000 and they have $10,000 on it and they want to reaffirm the car and not give it up in the bankruptcy.”
It’s like: “So was that client price sensitive?”
He’s like, “Yeah.”
I’m like, “OK, so let’s go back through this again. You’ve got a client who has a $4,000 car that he owes $10,000 on it, and you think that he’s a price sensitive shopper.”
Bob: Yeah, good point.
Jake: Because for sure, they’re not. That’s why they’re bankrupt, the price-sensitive shoppers. Now, if you can give them a bankruptcy that they can afford on a paycheck payment plan, that works for them. That’s their mindset. That’s how they work.
The attorneys and people like us who are used to dealing at the higher end coming up with $1,500 to $2,000 you go: “Okay, I’ll come up with $2,000 honestly, no problem.” But to them, that’s like it’s a princely sum that they can’t get their hands on.
Bob: Awesome. OK, well, this has been a bit longer than my usual podcast but it’s been fantastic and I’ve certainly learned a tremendous amount. Is there anything else… To take advantage of your amazing experience here, is there anything else that you would stress?
Jake: No. I hope this has been useful for them to be like any help feel free to reach out to me at Fresh Start Funding. They could call or email here. I’ll be happy to talk to about any issues they’re facing but it’s really just boils down to that question of do you want to be a best-writing author or do you want to be a bestselling author. Some attorneys literally, legitimately—and I understand the drive—they want to be a best-writing author.
Jake: I get it. That’s not what I want in life. If I was a little sloppy around the edges, but my life’s a little happier and a little bit more affluent, I’ll take that.
Bob: One of the things that I’d love to do is re-listen to our talk together and write up an outline of the approach that you take with some bullets and some sub-bullets and then offer that as an option for people to download. Is that something that you’d be OK doing?
Jake: Absolutely. I’ve already got it all written up, I can just send it to you. You don’t even have to go back and listen. I’ve got an outline. When I first started, I literally had the outline on the desk with me. And it’s been three or four months since I’ve done a consult, so I’ve got it on my desk right now. But yeah, after a while, you know where you’re at, you know what you’re doing, and it comes naturally. But at first again, not being attorney… On one page, I’ve got this outline, on the other page, I’ve got what are the exemptions for the state that I’m walking through and talking through.
Bob: Yes, awesome. What about that one page PowerPoint slide with the options? Can I share that as well?
Jake: Yeah, sure.
Bob: Awesome. You already sent it to me, but I’ll make it as a downloadable opt-in form kind of thing.
Well, this has been awesome. A lot of people listen to the podcast while driving and they’re like, “Oh this is cool or whatever. This is the only podcast available for bankruptcy attorneys on iTunes or whatever,” so they listen to it while driving. If that’s you, what I would really encourage you to do is just listen to this podcast episode a couple times. I don’t think I’ve ever advised that before, but Jake’s hit us with a ton of gems and there’s a lot to unpack here. We really encourage people to listen to this episode two or three times.
I’ll also include a link so you can download the outline and some of the collateral material that Jake shared with me, and I would encourage you to download that and start this process. If you do double your retainer rate, send me an email. Or just message me on LinkedIn. I’ll have you on the podcast and we can talk about that. That would be awesome. OK?
Jake: Thank you. It’s been wonderful. Thanks for inviting me.
Bob: Yes, Jake. Thanks, man. This is incredible. I hope everyone out there realizes the amazing material that you shared because it really is amazing, so thanks. Thanks so much.
Jake: You’re welcome