I recently listened to the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. He is also the author of another book I like titled Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I recommend both books.

There are three main points in The Tipping Point. The first is the “law of the few”. The second is “The stickiness factor.” The third is “the power of context.” In this Blog, I will explain how these points apply to lawyers and client development.

What is “the law of the few”? Our success in client development can be a result of people with a rare set of gifts that help create tipping points. Gladwell identifies three types of people: (1) Connectors, (2) Mavens and (3) salesmen.

Connectors know lots of people. You know the type. No one is a stranger to them. Connectors are important not just because of the number of people they know, but also the kinds of people they know. They know people in different worlds. Connectors are masters of “weak ties,” meaning many relationships that are not deep ones. Connectors are important to us because they spread the word to a wide group of people with whom they have weak ties.

A “maven” is someone who accumulates knowledge. They do the research most of us don’t want to do and they find joy in passing along what they learn. If you have written an article about an important topic, a maven is the type most likely to find it.

Salesmen are charismatic people who can persuade others even when the others are not convinced of what they are hearing. They can sell anything. Based on two studies, Gladwell notes that little things can be as important as big things. Second, non-verbal clues are as important; or, more important than verbal clues.

Finally, persuasion works in ways we do not fully appreciate. It is not always the obvious eloquence; it can be way more subtle. Great salesmen connect with their clients in a variety of non-verbal ways including non-verbal enthusiasm, confidence and emotional expressiveness.

Gladwell notes that charisma can be measured and refers to the Affective Communications Test created by Howard Friedman, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside.

I found the test in a book, but it is copyrighted. Friedman reports that the test identifies those who “are generally popular (even if they are shy) and influential, because of their ability to transmit emotions through nonverbal cues.”

I was intrigued by the studies done on charisma and Dr. Friedman’s test, so I did more research. I found a UK PRESS RELEASE: MYSTERY OF CHARISMA REVEALED BY FAMELAB STUDY. Based on the findings of the press release, how can you successfully make your emotions contagious? Do so by:

  • Using an open body posture – keep arms and legs uncrossed and your hands away from your face.
  • Holding your hands apart with palms forward or upwards when talking.
  • Letting people know they matter and developing a genuine smile think about something that you like about the person.
  • Nodding and briefly touching people on the upper arm when you talk to them.
  • Building visual pictures in people’s minds by using memorable visual analogies.
  • Keep altering the tone and pace of your voice – keep it upbeat and only slow down to create tension or emphasize a point.

What is “the stickiness factor?” This is the message that will be delivered by the connectors, mavens and salesmen. In the context of our legal marketing, the message must address problems, opportunities, internal changes or external changes our clients and potential clients are encountering. Otherwise, our clients and potential clients simply will not care.

What is the “power of context?” Gladwell gives as an example the book: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

When the book first came out, sales were relatively slow. A year later the book came out in paperback and sales began to pick up. Women showed up for book signings in groups and they would have Rebecca Wells sign multiple books. Wells began to see mothers and daughters coming in together.

Later, national media attention, articles in magazines and television appearances vaulted Rebecca Wells to a star status. The power of context here is the role that groups play.

Okay, what does “the power of context” have to do with client development? In my case, it meant that I had a far greater chance of being hired if I gave a presentation on an important topic to contractor members of an association than if I only met with one contractor. It was also important that the presentation deal with something that was important to the contractors at that moment.

There is a very interesting Washington Post article that I believe further addresses the power of context. The Washington Post had internationally acclaimed Violinist Joshua Bell play at a Washington Metro stop while dressed in jeans, a long sleeve tee shirt and baseball cap. The test was whether in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize his genius.

Interestingly, in the 45 minutes Bell played only seven people stopped to listen for at least a minute. Twenty seven gave money totaling $32. The Post noted that in a music hall, Bell earns $1000 a minute.

I gather from reading the article that we are so busy and in our own world that we don’t take time to listen to one of the world’s greatest musicians. You can find the article on the Washington Post website. It is well worth reading to get a better idea of the importance of context.

So, what can we learn from The Tipping Point and how can we use it to develop more business.

  1. You need an idea that “sticks.” It must be a solution to our potential clients’ problems, opportunities, internal changes or external changes.
  2. To get the idea out there, you need to have it where mavens will find it and we need to get it in the hands of connectors who will spread the word. In my case, national and state construction association executives were my connectors. They spread the word to their members. In 2016, social media can be a valuable tool.
  3. When you meet with people or give presentations to groups, you need to connect with them in a non-verbal emotional way.
  4. Finally, there must be a context for what you are trying to communicate that makes it important to those hearing or reading our message.