What are Milestones?
What are sales milestones, and how do I use them?
John Margaglione avatar
Written by John Margaglione
Updated over a week ago


Sales milestones, aka sales stages, are the important checkpoints in the sales process for a law firm.

We can start by looking at the sales stages:

  1. Awaiting Info - you have received information on a Potential New Client (PNC), but we do not have contact info yet. This could be something as vague as a current client saying that he has a friend that he wants to refer to us, but we only have a first name. It still goes into the system!

  2. Contact Info Received - the PNC has reached out to you in some form (email, voicemail, etc) but that you have not responded. Remember that PNCs will just keep calling other attorneys until someone responds, so any lead in this category is urgent!

  3. Contact Made - you have reached out to a contact and have spoken to them. This should include getting a brief description of their issue, where they are located (are they in our service area?), names of other parties involved (so that we can do a conflict check), and any other information we need to determine if we should refuse or refer out the case.

  4. Appointment Made - the client passed the conflict check and does not have enough red flags yet to refuse or refer them out. At this point we should have sent them an intake questionnaire and set the date for the initial consult.

  5. Initial Consult - you have had an initial consultation with the PNC. This includes discussing the case at length, discussing the services offered and the terms of those services (rates, evergreen retainers, etc). You should have provided the PNC with a retainer to sign and any other documents related to your services at this point. You should also have negotiated fees (hourly rates and/or flat fees) as well.

  6. Retainer Signed - The client has signed the retainer and returned it to you. Note that this is not considered won yet!

  7. Retainer Funded - The final step in a successful sales process, this is equivalent to "WON". You can now create a case and start work for the client!

  8. Lost - The PNC has decided that they do not require, or want, your services.

  9. Refused - You have decided that you do not want, or will refer out, this PNC.

  10. Waiting On - There are several reasons to use the Waiting On stage. For example, the client may have decided to go with your services, but requires several months to come up with the necessary funds, or there may be a mandatory waiting period before you can file with the court.


Knowing which milestones your have met with each of your leads has several benefits.

Predicting Business

By using milestones, you can clearly predict how much work is coming down the pipeline, which will help you better plan your finances. For example, if there is a lot of work in the early sales stages, but not much in the advanced stages, you are looking at a couple of dry months, work-wise, so tighten your belt. If you have a lot of work in the advanced stages, but not much in the early stages, you need to put more effort into marketing.

The ideal stage chart should show a uniform amount of work flowing through the system. This reflects good marketing and good sales technique. Any gaps could be do to market conditions, or more likely too much focus on client work and not enough on bringing in the next batch of work.

Measuring Success

Using a funnel chart, we can easily see how well we turn leads into clients. The thinner the funnel becomes, the more leads we have thinned out. Of course, not all thinning out is bad! Here are a few key ideas:

  • The ideal funnel chart is a solid line from awaiting info to retainer signed. That indicated that your marketing brings you perfectly qualified leads, and you close every one of them. This is of course a fantasy, but it is what we should aspire toward.

  • A healthy funnel chart will have a drop between contact made and appointment made, as that is where we do most of our weeding out. Wrong type of client, wrong type of case, wrong jurisdiction, all get weeded out here.

  • There should be very little drop-off between appointment made and initial consult, as that is just a waiting period (although this is when your clients are checking out other lawyers, so be sure not to let them off easily!).

  • After the initial consult we will see more drop-off as we determine if the client is a good fit for us, and we are a good fit for them. This is also where we look at the facts of the case, and if we believe we can help.

  • Any drop-off after initial consult is an issue, as this reflects on your firm's ability to close the deal.

Understanding Your Pain Points

Another chart used to measure success is the flow chart.

This chart shows two new things: how leads flow through your sales stages, and where leads ultimately end up (won, lost, or refused). Specifically, it shows movement between non-adjacent stages. The previous chart only shows loss at each stage, whereas here we can see the proportion of leads that go directly from appointment made to lost, or from initial consult to lost.

  • The Refused section, if large, shows that our marketing is bringing us the wrong type of leads.

  • The Lost section, if large, shows that we are not closing the deal.

  • The Waiting On section just shows us work that is being held up by lack of money, lack of urgency on the client's part, or a mandatory waiting period.

  • Movement from the early stages directly to lost is probably an issue with your intake process (perhaps the front-line staff could use some sales training!).

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