I am sure many of you will find this odd. I really like and admire Barack Obama and I really like and admire Sarah Palin. I am not talking about their political views. I am talking about how well they have done so far under intense pressure, how they have handled their underdog status, and most importantly how they have emotionally connected with their clients-the people of the United States. I feel I have learned a great deal from watching them.
At the beginning of this year, virtually every political pundit predicted that Hillary Clinton would wrap up the nomination on “Super Tuesday.” It seems they underestimated Barack Obama. Between Friday and Wednesday night many political pundits described in detail the mistake John McCain had made selecting Sarah Palin. It wasn’t just the political pundits. Joy Behar, Jay Leno. David Letterman and especially Bill Maher ridiculed Sarah Palin in ways I have not seen in years. If you want to read what they said, go to: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,416981,00.html
When I watched Barack Obama as the underdog in the early debates and when I watched Sarah Palin take the stage on Wednesday night, I felt like I was watching our women’s gymnastic team on the balance beam during the Olympics. I was so worried that they might show their nervousness and not nail it. I believe they both have performed at the highest level under intense “make or break” pressure.
Why have Barack Obama and Sarah Palin connected so well with their clients? How have they moved audiences so well? How can you take what they do and apply it to your own relationship with clients and your own presentations?
In his book “The Likeability Factor,” Tim Sanders includes a chapter on “The Four Elements of Likeability.” Those elements are:
• Realness (authenticity)
Prior to this election, I feel I learned a great deal from President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, President Reagan and President Clinton. Like, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, each of these candidates connected with their audience. In varying degrees they each demonstrated friendliness, relevance, empathy and realness.
Many young lawyers I coach feel they are at a competitive disadvantage because of their age and experience. I am confident that each day before the election we will hear something about Barack Obama’s and Sarah Palin’s lack of experience. Yet, I believe this election will show that experience is overrated and judgment, connectivity and likeability are underrated. The same is true for lawyers.
When I coach young lawyers I share with them that I believe that about 10% of legal work is “bet the company.” Clients will hire the best-known senior “go to” lawyer to handle that work. At the other end, I believe that about 20% to 30% of legal work is commodity work. Clients will hire whoever is willing to do that work for the lowest price. If you are in a firm of any size, you will not be able to compete on price and frankly you would not want to compete on price. Finally, I believe that at least 60% of legal work is neither bet the company or commodity work. Clients will hire lawyers they like and trust and with whom they feel some connection.
How can you position yourself to have the best opportunity to be hired by clients for that work? First, you have to be a capable lawyer. But, that will not be enough. You need to also be likeable with the elements Tim Sanders describes. You need to be friendly. Tim Sanders uses a quote from Bert Drecker, a communication expert: “If you want to get your message across . . .., You must first persuade the listeners first brain that you represent warmth, comfort and safety.” Next, you must be relevant. As a lawyer that means understanding your client’s industry and company and understanding your client contact’s needs. Next, you need to be empathetic. You must be able to see things from your client’s point of view. To do that you need to be able to ask relevant questions and then listen, listen, listen. Finally, you need to be real.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned one of my favorite books on presentations. It is: “Give a Speech, Change the World” by Nick Morgan. I believe history will record that 38 million people tuned in to watch a speech by Presidential candidate, Barack Obama that changed the world and then less than seven days later 37 million people tuned in to watch a speech by Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that changed the world. I hope that their speeches and performance under pressure will inspire you to give a presentation to a group of potential clients that will change their world.