Let’s go back to the part good listening plays, not only in business development but also in client retention and overall “relationship building“, which should be the cornerstone of all your efforts. It is generally accepted that there are three degrees of listening skill. Let’s review them and, using your intellectual honesty, decide where you fit in the spectrum.
A First Degree Listener: This is an individual who hears a large degree of what is being said to them and runs it through a strainer to ascertain “what is the significance of this to me?”
Admittedly, we all have been guilty of this at one time or another. For example, you are listening to somebody who is describing an experience that happened to them and you interject with a similar, or possibly an even more grandiose, experience that happened to you. This makes the speaker feel that you are, in fact, really not listening to what they have to say and are listening at a minimal level while deciding how to craft a response.
If you have experienced this yourself, you know how exasperating it can be AND you can be almost certain that the person you are attempting to converse with is missing important information while trying to create a response.
A Second Degree Listener: This is a person who focuses entirely on the speaker and is trying to determine what the information he or she is receiving means to that person. When you engage at this level, it shows a deep respect for the speaker as well as the desire to see and understand the situation from their viewpoint. The majority of skilled attorneys spend most of their verbal interaction with clients and potential clients in the second degree.
A Third Degree Listener: This is the highest degree of listening. Think of the many portrayals of Sherlock Holmes you have seen on the big and small screen. This is a person who not only pays attention to the speaker’s verbal communication but locks in on other “tells”, like the rate of speech, the speaker’s body language, tone of voice, the selection of words and other forms of non-verbal communication. This is no carnival act. It is a degree of listening that is not easy to achieve and requires significant focus and a high level of energy on the listener’s part. If you can reach this degree, it will afford you much more information and a deeper understanding of the client situation. That will allow you to respond with a solution that is exactly on point with the client needs.
Third Degree Listeners have the ability to become more than a “vendor” to their clients. When client and attorney communicate on that level, it demonstrates your ability to hold that client’s interest to be sacrosanct. This is how you develop a long term relationship that is impervious to competitive assaults and even lowball pricing. This is how you get those highly coveted referrals. Becoming a Third Degree Listener conveys to the client that you are thorough and attentive to their needs. It puts you in the client “sweet spot.”
Listening is not just a face-to-face skill set; it is an art that needs to be practiced over the telephone as well, which is where the majority of client interaction takes place. Law firm telephone skills, and the lack of, are sufficient fodder for a future blog. Until then, do you know where your next generation of rainmakers are coming from?