If you own a law practice, and are trying to build it into a business that serves your lifestyle and not the other way around, then there is one simple thing that you need to become aware of – you need your clients to like you. If they don’t, then you will never be able to turn prospects into clients.
You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating here, “people do business with, and refer business to, those they know, like and trust.” So the question you must ask yourself is, how do you get your clients to know, like and trust you?
People do business with, and refer business to, those people that they know, like and trust.“
Lawyers, it seems to me, are at a distinct disadvantage with this one rule. The public, in general, hates us. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Most lawyers are not necessary until the person calling the lawyer has a legal problem that they can’t get out of on their own. They are under a great deal of stress as a result of whatever crisis is going on in their life, and then they have to hire one of us to fix it. And lets face it, lawyers aren’t cheap.
Not to mention that lawyers, in general, are not the “smoothest” of people. Socially, many of us are awkward, stuffy, and difficult to talk to. So we really have an uphill battle confronting us. Fortunately, there are things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor.
Six things you can do increase the likelihood that prospective clients will like and hire you
I’ve talked before about the books I read – right now I’m reading Influence by Robert Cialdini. He devotes an entire chapter to the concept of “liking”, and says that “as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.” Sound familiar? So here are six things you can do to increase the likelihood that your prospective clients will hire you and that your clients will like you enough to send you repeat business.
- Be aware that people hate lawyers. This isn’t included in Cialdini’s chapter, but it is worth noting that people generally hate lawyers. You should be aware of this when you are meeting with a potential new client. Maybe even make light of the fact that you are a lawyer, use this as an opportunity for an ice-breaker and to remind your prospect that not all lawyers are bad people.
- Physical Attractiveness. Dr. Cialdini lists physical attractiveness as the first factor that causes people to like other people. Like it or not, physically attractive people are more likely to be seen at talented, kind, honest and intelligent. So how can you use this to your advantage, even if you are not Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie? Make yourself presentable whenever you are meeting with a client or going to court. Wear nice clothes that fit you well. Practice good grooming habits. Exercise regularly and take care of your body so that you look physically fit. If you look good, you will feel better in general, have more energy, and be more confident in your dealings with your clients.
- Similarity. Dr. Cialdini says that we like people who are similar to us. This makes sense enough, doesn’t it? This is one reason that I put some personal information about myself on my website, and recommend that you do too. The client for one of the biggest cases I ever had hired me solely on the basis that I went to law school at Ohio State (I was practicing in Florida at the time) – and she told me that. She could have picked any lawyer in town, but chose me because she too was from Ohio and therefore she “trusted me more than the other lawyers”. I like to try and look for things that my client and I have in common when I review their intake questionnaire. I make a mental note if we share a birthday or anniversary, or if they are from someplace that I used to live. If nothing else, I make note of where they currently live to see if it is close to my house. Then I talk about this in the meeting. It’s a small thing, but it will help build a connection between you and the prospect.
- Compliments. Don’t forget to compliment your clients and prospects. If a client changes their hair, make a comment. If you like their bag or their computer, say something about it. People, generally speaking, will have an automatic positive reaction to compliments from someone, even if they know that person stands to gain something from them. So remember to compliment your clients early and often.
- Contact and Cooperation. This is the idea that we like things that are familiar to us. In other words, our attitude about something is influenced by the number of exposures we have had to that thing in the past. You can use this to your advantage in your marketing materials and follow-up sequences. Clients will come to trust you more the more frequently you follow-up with them – even if they don’t always read your emails or take your phone calls.
- Conditioning and Association. Like it or not, people are conditioned to dislike people that bring them unpleasant information, or conversely, to like people that bring them pleasant information. This principle can hurt lawyers because people, generally speaking, only call us when they have a legal problem to solve that they can’t fix on their own. However, the converse is also true. If you associate yourself with something “good”, then people are more likely to like you, even if you are a lawyer.
So there you have it. Six things that you can do to increase the likelihood that a prospect will hire you, or that a client will like and trust you enough to refer you additional business.
How did these techniques work for you in your practice? Please feel free to post a comment below to let me know.