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Training your Secretaries to sell

We are all bad at this. I have to confess to having not really trained some of my colleagues in the various packages that Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment sells. For example we offer £60 per month recruitment to law firms with less than 100 employees, but recruitment via for law firms with more than 100 employees. Similarly we also sell a host of careers products and regularly take calls for these as well.
How do we do? I have checked a few times by cold calling our call centre staff and also the office. Most of the time we are OK, but the advice below relates specifically to law firms.
It is a very common bug bear about law firms that on the whole secretaries are not the best people to take initial first calls. One of the main issues about calling firms of solicitors is getting straight through to a fee earner who can assist there and then with any queries and demonstrate added value. Added value is a major sales issue and regularly crops up in marketing speak. As far as I can gather in recruitment it involves taking your clients to play golf regularly or reducing prices, but in law firms it is surely demonstrating that you know what you are talking about and you value the client enough to give them direct access to a knowledgeable employee.
When a potential new customer calls up, you should ensure they are put through as quickly as possible to a fee earner. Fee earners should be made to understand that new customers are the source of the cash paying their salaries.
Not only does this demonstrate added value, but also indicates the quality of your firm. So many times I call a law firm and get an extremely abrupt receptionist who knows nothing about me or why I have called. A few times I have called London firms and someone has picked up the phone and said “call back” before hanging up! What if that call had been from a customer with a case worth £30k?
The same applies with emails. Quite a few firms have auto responders for any queries and these are really important. They demonstrate that the firm have received the customer’s enquiry and will get back to them. Without an auto responder it is hard to know whether an email has actually arrived safely.
Secretaries need training in sales. There are no two ways about it. These are very often your sales team, whether you like it or not. What about incentivising them? Bonuses for positive feedback or increased take up following a certain length of call? You could ask customers about their first impressions of your secretaries/sales team and reward the secretaries accordingly. This could spice up your work place a little bit….
Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at