I believe clients want us to suggest alternatives. Do you agree?

Suppose you are meeting with a client and have two alternative fee approaches you can offer or two potential solutions to the client’s problem. In each case you believe one of the two fee arrangements or one of the two solutions would best fit your clients needs.

Which one should you offer first and which one second? Believe it or not, you can find the answer from thinking about baseball bats and weights at the gym.

A form of that question is number 39 of Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin, and Robert Cialdini’s book: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. (You may recall that Robert Cialdini is the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and the author of the 1984 best selling book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.)

If you played baseball, or if you are a fan, you know that batters in the on-deck circle swing a weighted bat. The purpose is to make the bat they will hit with feel lighter in their hands.

If you work out, you likely know that if you lift a 20 pound weight first, when you lift a 10 pound weight it will seem lighter than it really is. On the other hand if you lift a 5 pound weight first, the 10 pound weight will seem heavier than it really is.

In the book Yes, the authors state:

The primary principle underlying this effect is known as perceptual contrast. Simply put, the characteristics of objects are not perceived in a vacuum, but rather in comparison to others.

How does the concept apply to law firms persuading clients to hire them? I see at least two ways.

  • If one firm only offers straight hourly rates to a client, then a second firm that offers both hourly rates and some type of alternative fee arrangement will likely be more persuasive.
  • If you are offering a client two potential fee arrangements, or alternative approaches to solve a problem, you will likely be more persuasive if the fee arrangement or approach you believe is best for the client is discussed after giving the less favored fee arrangement or approach.

But, be careful. Number 5 in the book is: When does offering people more make them want less and it discusses the problem of giving too many options. You can read more about it in Steve Martin’s post: Two, Four or Six? When Persuading, What Numbers of Claims is Most Effective?

P.S. Just curious: Have you ever been on a search of homes with a realtor who showed you your dream house first?