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The Lost Art of Listening (Part 1)

The Lost Art of Listening (Part 1)

Most people mistakenly think that the art of selling or marketing revolves principally around an individual’s ability to talk.

They often take this misconception a step further by assuming that sales involves convincing people to buy something they don’t need. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, I think many in the legal profession still embrace this fallacy.

In the great scheme of things, we are all “consumers”. We acquire things because we either need them or want them. Can you tell me the last time somebody talked you into buying something you didn’t need or want? I’ll bet you can’t.

Marketing and sales get a bad rap in the field of law. For years it was frowned upon and even considered to be unethical in many circles. Many lawyers mistakenly consider the practice of law a profession rather than a business. Lawyers who raise ethical questions as roadblocks about business development efforts do so as an excuse to avoid marketing. I believe you need everybody’s buy-in that marketing and business development, along with client retention, are an integral part of establishing and maintaining a healthy legal practice in 2016.

Admittedly, marketing and business development still have that unappealing stigma attached to it in the legal community. How many attorneys would believe this statement: “I know of a superb, ethical, highly skilled plaintiff attorney who excelled at trial, secured good verdicts for his clients, AND had over 600 billboards.”

Even today it is hard for us to consider a “billboard attorney” as being highly skilled. I’m guessing I lost most of the defense practitioners at ethical…….but this individual was a superb attorney, an excellent human being, and an all around class act before an unfortunate medical condition prevented him from returning to the courtroom. Yet, I am sure many looked down their noses at him for his marketing practices and possibly even underestimated him as an opponent, much to their detriment. Whether you like it or not, legal marketing is here to stay. As practitioners, you need to understand the nuances of it and embrace it, because without paying clients, there is no practice, no business, and no income.

This allows me to circle back to my initial topic. I have always been considered an excellent verbal communicator; the proverbial Irish storyteller if you will. I have heard people say many times “Wow Jim, you can talk up a storm. That must really serve you well in sales.” My standard answer to that comment is: “I have never made a dime talking; all the money I’ve made in my life came through listening.” The key to selling is keeping your mouth shut and listening to what people have to say.

The sale of legal services on the defense and subrogation side is a TAKEAWAY BUSINESS. Somebody already has that client, and you need to take it away from him or her. This brings us to yet another nuance to the marketing of legal services on the defense and subrogation side: you will be selling to people much like yourselves. PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO BE SOLD. This will take a little more finesse on your part.

If you are a plaintiff attorney, you have a similar hill to climb. You will be selling to less sophisticated buyers who have far less knowledge of the legal process, a high level of skepticism regarding the legal profession, and being romanced by the sometimes outrageous claims or results competitive firms are trumpeting.

The key to getting the business in all three of these scenarios starts with your ability to truly listen to your perspective client. In my next blog, I will discuss the three levels of listening, how knowing and understanding them is important to you, and when to access each.

The key to becoming a more effective marketer begins with your improving your ability to listen.