I’ve been seeking guest posts by lawyers I currently coach or have coached in the past. Mette volunteered.
When she sent me the title above, I was anxious to get the connection. Here’s her post.
This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned about pitching a client. It is a mantra I now repeat before each presentation. It is something that lawyers find very difficult. And it is, in part, why we may wake up on November 8th and find Donald Trump elected to be our next President.
Be the Pistachio Ice Cream.
How did I come to this odd, single-minded fixation on pistachios? It was born from a series of defeats, followed by a period of introspection and awareness, culminating in a singular “aha moment.”
Part of my practice includes representing committees of unsecured creditors in bankruptcy cases. The U.S. Trustee’s office forms these committees in most large bankruptcy cases shortly after they are filed.
This means that there is no pre-existing client and the usual advice about developing and maintaining long-term client relationships doesn’t readily apply. Getting the work is largely about the sales pitch. And I, apparently, am able to consistently get into the room, handily defeat large numbers of competitors, and… come in second.
But in sales pitches, there are no prizes for second place. There are no goodie bags or participation trophies. Not even MCLE credit for the hours of preparation.
I asked for feedback and learned that the committee members knew me and my brand. They wanted to hear my pitch. I received high marks for being the most prepared, for understanding the case better than anyone else, for having a clear strategy, and for being the smartest lawyer in the room.
And yet, the committees were consistently choosing the other guy. If I went first, I was told that the last pitch was more present in their minds. If I went last, they were already sold after the first pitch.
The other guy made them feel a greater sense of urgency. He was more compelling. The feedback was clear, but I couldn’t move forward. I raged. I sulked. I reflected. I blamed the microphone. How, I wondered, could I be more…. what, exactly?
And then I heard it. The pistachio ice cream pitch. The person who made the pitch had a reputation for being very aggressive. There were also rumblings that he lacked substance, depth, and knowledge. This was his pitch:
There are a lot of very good lawyers who could do this work. Not everyone likes me. I’m pistachio ice cream. Not everyone likes pistachio.
The other lawyers pitching, they’re like vanilla ice cream. Or chocolate. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Lots of people like vanilla and chocolate.
But I’m pistachio. So if you want something different, if you like pistachio, I don’t know, then you should hire me.
Huh?? Seriously? That was the pitch. My inner Hermione Granger was floored.
But not only did he win, he won bigly. (Or big league.) He won so big that the committee couldn’t wait to get some pistachio ice cream-Because he’s a winner.
If you think the pistachio ice cream pitch is easy to replicate, it’s not. When the Presidential campaign started there were 17 Republican candidates. They raised some $700 million collectively and hired some of the best campaign advisors in the country to try to defeat Donald Trump. On the whole, they were better prepared, more knowledgeable, and more qualified than Trump.
And yet Trump swept past all of them. He claims he can say or do almost anything and his support won’t waiver. Actual facts or experience are apparently irrelevant.
A large part of what makes Trump so compelling is that he has been able to tap into the mood of the country and the voting based on a very emotional level. Whatever else you may think about Trump, he is without a doubt the change candidate.
Even when he doesn’t make sense, you know what he stands for. He will “Make American Great Again,” even if he can’t articulate how. By comparison, all other politicians are boring. They don’t connect.
You can deride Trump. You wouldn’t be alone. But, I’m pretty sure he would sell out of pistachio ice cream at the fair before lunch while Hillary sits at a table all day with a pile of unsold Girl Scout cookies and a pile of literature about their nutritional value and ingredients and the importance of supporting youth organizations.
So before every pitch, I now repeat this to myself: “Be the pistachio ice cream.” It’s not easy, but I know now when I’ve nailed it. And so do my clients.
If you can’t channel your Inner Dancing Pistachio, if it just doesn’t feel authentic, try to be strawberry. Or at the very least, all natural, organic vanilla with colorful sprinkles, a syrup topping, those little wafer cookies, and a sprig of mint.
But don’t be boring.
Mette is the real deal. She’s truly her authentic self and it shows. In that way she connects with her potential clients.
Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on authenticity.