When you are asked to speak to an industry group you have one of the greatest opportunities to market yourself and also one of the greatest challenges.

You have the opportunity to show your knowledge and to build rapport.

You have the challenge of speaking to a skeptical audience. No matter what the industry, your audience did not likely wake up and say:

“Oh boy, I get to listen to a lawyer this morning.”

How do you overcome their skepticism? In a nutshell, figure out what is really important to your audience and find a way to tie your presentation to that in the first 90 seconds.

You will have 90 seconds to convince a very skeptical audience that they should listen to you for the next hour. Give more thought to what you will say in those 90 seconds than what you will say in the remaining 58 minutes and 30 seconds.

I gave at least 10 presentations to contractors on compliance and ethics after Enron and Worldcom. How did I use the first 90 seconds? I will leave you with just the last line.

Compliance and ethics is as important to the survival of your company as safety is to the survival of your employees.

How will you use those 90 seconds the next time you have the opportunity to speak to your target market?

I recently received an email from a lawyer who participated in the 7 Weeks Video Coaching Program. She wrote:

Hi Cordell,

I just wanted to share with you that I utilized your lesson from Module 6 in my interactions today with a client who seems to be a hard-charging, DRIVER personality type. I paused before I sent my message and, long story short, completely changed my email. Rather than starting with the usual friendly chitchat, I got straight to business answering one of his questions regarding a referral. It seemed to connect us in a way we never have before and I have you to thank!

Thanks again for offering this great on-line coaching course! I’m working on getting approval and funding from my firm to offer to all our associates.

Once I had a meeting with the my largest client’s CEO and several company engineers. As we discussed the matter I was working on, I noticed the CEO wasn’t interested in the details, but I wasn’t sure why.

Later, I learned that the many executives for whom I did work were not exactly like me. Knowing that made my communication with my clients ever so much easier.

In May 2002 Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller wrote a Harvard Business Review article titled: Change the Way You Persuade. Take a look at their article.

There are many ways to describe personality types. One divides personality types into:

  • Driver
  • Expressive
  • Analytical
  • Amiable

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  • People who are Drivers are extroverts and typically talk about things and want their lawyers to get right to the point.
  • Expressive people are extroverts and typically talk about people (many times themselves.)
  • Analytical people are introverts who focus on things, and want their lawyers to prove every point.
  • Amiable people are introverts who focus on people. They generally want their lawyers to also be their friends.

Here’s a short quiz:

What personality type is most likely to be the CEO? The CFO? Engineers? The HR professional? The Sales Manager?

Think about the last person with whom you met who was deciding whether to hire you.

Was she charismatic, a thinker, a skeptic, a follower or a controller?

How did you try to persuade her to hire you?

How would you do it now?

Have you ever persuaded someone by asking a favor? I am not suggesting asking for business, but there are other favors you can ask that will be very helpful.

A few years ago I read Selling Power magazine article The Persuasion Principle: How to Use Robert Cialdini’s Scientific Research to Close More Sales.The article was based in part on the findings in Cialdini’s book: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

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There was a short sidebar section with the following:

Want to improve your relationship with anybody, anywhere? The key is simple-ask a favor.

Cialdini says it may seem counterintuitive, but research shows that the fastest way to get clients to like you is not to help them…but rather to ask them to help you. I have actually used this approach several times. Here are a few examples:

  • Asking clients and potential clients for their thoughts on what should be in our client service policy.
  • Asking clients to come to a quarterly all associate lunch to discuss what clients are looking for in their lawyers.
  • Asking clients to come to our practice group retreat (we paid travel expenses) to share with our group their ideas on how we could better serve them.
  • Asking clients and potential clients for their ideas on topics for articles and presentations.

I have a favor to ask:

What would senior associates or junior partners in your law firm most want to learn and implement in their client development efforts?

What favors are you asking your clients, potential clients and friends?

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?

Yesterday, I wrote What Would Lawyers Be Like if Law Schools Actually Taught Persuasion and mentioned since I didn’t learn anything about it in law school I taught myself. 

Years ago I read a well known book titled: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion . In the book author and professor Robert B. Cialdini outlines the six principles of persuasion. They are: 

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment/Consistency
  3. Authority
  4. Social Validation
  5. Scarcity
  6. Liking/Friendship

All of these principles should be applied to successful client development. The principle of reciprocation is that people are more likely to respond to people who have given them something of value. Find something valuable you can do for no fee or give to your clients, potential clients and referral sources.

The principle of commitment and consistency is extremely important in the client development. Studies show that when a person makes a commitment they are far more likely to follow through. If a potential client tells you he is searching for an opportunity to work with you, he is more likely to find one. 

 The principle of authority is that people are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations from someone they perceive to be an expert. So, your goal should be to become the "go to lawyer" to your target market or in your niche practice. 

The principle social validation means your potential clients are more likely to hire you if they know you represent an important client in their industry.

The principle of scarcity means your potential clients would rather have a lawyer who is busy than a lawyer who needs the work.

The liking and friendship principle means that clients want to do business with lawyers they like and trust. Your clients should also be your friends and your friends should also be your clients.

I recommend you read the book, but to get you started, read this short one page summary of the book and then find ways you can apply the principles.

Are you looking for an effective way to engage a client or contact? Ask them a favor.

Last fall I posted a blog titled Want to Persuade: Ask a Favor. I referenced an article and Robert Cialdini’s book: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

I frequently suggest to lawyers that clients, potential clients and referral sources actually want to help us. So, asking a favor is a good way to build the relationship with them as long as you are not bugging them to get business.

Last week Dan a lawyer I coach found this approach really does work. Here is a portion of an email he shared with the members of his coaching group. 

I just want to share something good that happened last week, after our coaching group session. 

Sitting in my office Friday morning, I got a call from the President (as in "top employee" rather than "owner") of an XXX management company.  It was a business call. When we finished discussing business, I asked him when I could take him to lunch, and he asked me to get my calendar out.  On a lark  I said "To Hell with the calendar, why don’t I just pick you up at 12:30?"  I was a little surprised when he said "Great!" 

At lunch — at the very end of the lunch, after we had talked about everything else except business — I told him I was going to ask him for his help.  I then told him that I wanted to learn everything and everyone he knew in/about the XXX industry, and that I’d be grateful if he could introduce me to as many people, groups, publications and events as he could, or at least all that he thought would be helpful. I assured him that I wasn’t going to sales-pitch these people; I just wanted to learn about the industry, and see what was important to the people he knew.  He thought that was a great idea, and immediately started to list ideas. As we talked through some of them, I assured him that I was willing to join/write/speak/travel/meet/greet/wine/dine in any way he thought wise.  Here’s the kicker: he was (and still is, I think) truly enthusiastic about it.  That’s what surprised me. I think he liked being asked to help, and I think he really wants to. 

On the way back to the client’s office, he was thinking out loud: "Gee, I’d really like you to speak at one of the groups I’m in; I’m going to have to think of a really good topic for you. Something they’d like to hear."  I stifled a laugh when I realized that HE knew I was supposed to ask about good speaking or writing topics, but I, um, forgot.  OK, maybe I’m not a Jedi yet; I can only remember so many mind tricks.

Anyway, all in all an excellent lunch.  I’m happy about what I’ve set in motion.  What it will produce is anyone’s guess, but I’m grateful to Cordell nudging me in this direction. 

Dan’s email is proof that asking a favor works. Your clients and your friends want to help you. Give them the chance.