October 1, 2018
The Human Connection – The Key to Successful Marketing
Jeffrey F. Silber and Liza Vasquez
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
The Human Connection – Makes the Difference
It is a simple fact of life that as human beings we always prefer to be with people whose company we enjoy – people we like being around. This is obvious. After all, who would choose a friend that you don’t like? On the other hand, In Downton Abbey, the popular English TV melodrama of a few years ago, The Maggie Smith character as the Dowager Countess, does in fact say: “I have many friends I don’t like.” Hardly anyone of us fills our lives with people we do not like. Granted you may have some very disagreeable people in your life just because you have known them for many years or because they are relatives. In those cases, it is likely that you may even try to avoid them.
How does this relate to building your legal practice? Several years ago, we attended a meeting of Queen’s Bench Bar Association, the association of female lawyers in San Francisco. The topic was Rainmaking and we attended because we thought that if they are going to share some unique Rainmaking tips, we want to know what they are.
There was a panel of five women who are considered to be the top five female Rainmakers in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were partners of Morrison & Foerster, Futterman Dupree, Pillsbury, Lieff Cabraser and Fenwick & West. If you are familiar with these firms, you will certainly agree these are excellent law firms.
It became repetitive because each one of these great Rainmakers said basically the same thing. Let us paraphrase what they said: “In my law firm, we have well-educated, smart, experienced, dedicated, hard-working lawyers and I guarantee you that you will get good results if you use my law firm. But I also guarantee that if you use the law firms of my other four panelists, you will get equally good results because they also have well-educated, smart, experienced, hard-working, dedicated lawyers. I cannot compete with them by telling possible clients that my firm will do a better job than my competition. That is not true – we will all do a good job. In view of that, how can we compete with each other?”
Not only did these five top Rainmakers say they could not compete on technical grounds, they said that the way they all conquer potential clients is by creating a Human Connection with them.
All things being equal, clients will choose the lawyer they like – The one with whom they feel some affinity or chemistry.
Please do not get us wrong, just to be considered for getting their legal work, you need to be credible, have a good track record, an excellent reputation and that you must not let your ego get in the way of listening to your clients. But all of that is just the ticket to play. Choosing from among similarly qualified lawyers, it is the Human Connection that will win you the client.
OK, But What is a Human Connection?
Perhaps this is self-explanatory, but you need to be careful here. You certainly have one or more close friends. Think about that relationship and what makes it strong. Most likely you care about each other’s well-being without any premeditated thought of what you will get back. When you do a favor for a friend or wish a friend happy birthday or ask about their children or their mate, you do not do it because you are expecting something back. You do it because you care.
The caution is that in growing your legal practice, your current clients and the potential clients your meet, may not want to become your friend. You should not push the idea of becoming friends on them. You want to create the Human Connection by being friendly. Whether you go from being friendly to becoming genuine friends will depend on the potential client’s disposition. They will be the gatekeepers in going from friendly to friends not you.
The Human Connection is basically the acknowledgment and celebration of another person as being a unique individual; and that the other person is aware of your recognition of them by your words and actions.
How to Create a Human Connection with a Current or Potential Client
You do this by asking questions about the other person. You make them feel important when you want to know about their work, mate, children, hobbies, what sports team(s) they follow, what are their goals and ambitions, fears and insecurities, business problems, their horoscope sign and so on. Sure, we realize it may be impossible to obtain all this information all at once. But over the course of working with a client or during future contacts with a potential client, your will slowly get to know this client, little by little, one detail of their lives at a time, slowly you can get this information.
Please be aware of this point – you must never make the other person feel small by telling a story that tops theirs. For example, the hobby of a lawyer-client of ours is cooking. He met a woman in a social situation who was the chief in-house counsel of a manufacturing company – a definite potential client. He mentioned his hobby as part of the general small talk. She lit up with joy at finding a mutual interest and told him that her hobby was also cooking. He told her, “You know I studied one year at Le Cordon Blue in Paris.” That was a conversation stopper. He made this potential client feel small. Why do that? What benefit inures to you other than building up your own ego at the expense of creating a real relationship with a potential client. We are not saying our client should hide the fact that he studied at this world-renown culinary institute or make himself less than he is, but what did he gain at that moment by topping her story. He made her feel small.
In building the Human Connection, leave your ego at home. Imagine that every person you meet is wear a sign around his/her next that says Make Me Fell Important. Let that guide your conversation.
In wanting to make this all-important Human Connection, you must be sincere about it. It will not work if you are trying to be manipulative. Your Human Connection should be based purely on your core values such as honesty, integrity, caring, transparency, respect, loyalty, dedication, consistency, supportiveness, curiosity about the other person and willingness to be helpful just for the sake of it.
Attached is our Client Loyalty Tool. Please complete this form for all of your current clients and for every person you meet. If you cannot answer these questions for your current clients, you have left the door open for someone to steal your client simply because your client might feel more chemistry with another lawyer.
For potential clients, you need the information that you gained through your questions as the basis for future e-mails and staying in contact. To build the Human Connection, you need to continuously stay in contact. Like a plant, a relationship needs time to grow roots. Your e-mails and follow-up contacts, based on a Human Connectin, will be like water, sunlight and fertilizer on a plant. That is what will make it grow.
If you have had only a technical relationship with your current clients, begin by asking small question. For example, on a Monday morning call your client just to see how they are doing and ask what they over the weekend. In response you can offer what you did over the weekend. Then keep building on this. In this way, little by little you can find out everything about your client. Truth be told, almost everyone wants to tell their story and especially they want their lawyers to know who they really are.
You have strong technical competition and telling potential clients that you and your law firm are singularly the best in the country, is probably not true, and you most likely, cannot win the client in such a technical competition. Of course, you must be technically competent, but you need to develop the Human Connection with current clients and all other people you meet. This is what will pay great dividends.