Dan Pink is the first to admit he went to law school, but never practiced a day in his life.  “They wouldn’t let me,” he quipped in his opening lines of the keynote address at the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference in San Diego on April 14.   

As a fairly new member of the LMA Midwest chapter, and the Communications Chair for the group, I attended the annual conference for some key learnings on legal marketing to bring back to our professional services clients, as well as some great networking opportunities. 

In a witty and energetic talk, bestselling author Pink offered what he called a “1-3-5” presentation, comprised of “one insight, three principles and five takeaways.”  

He began with this insight:  Lawyers hate sales.  And they are not the only people who do.  Pink explained that, in research for his latest book, 7,000 people were asked the first word that comes to mind when they think of sales.  The responses were overwhelmingly negative words, such as “manipulative,” “sleazy” and “pushy.”  In fact, only five of the top 25 adjectives surfaced were positive.  It’s no wonder we resist the idea of sales. 

Another reason sales is difficult, according to Pink, is that we live in a world of “information asymmetry.”  Using the example of buying a car, Pink pointed out that that in pre-Internet days, the salesperson had all the information, and the adage was “buyer beware.”  Now, the tables are turned, and consumers have all the information they could possibly need at their fingertips, including competitive offers and pricing.  Today’s adage?  “Seller beware.” 

Pink went on to counter the old sales concept of “ABC: Always Be Closing” (which worked in a “buyer beware” world) with a new ABC designed for the “seller beware” world:

  • Attunement:  Get out of your own head and see things from others’ points of view.  Strive to understand the perspectives of others on your team, as well as clients and prospective clients.
  • Buoyancy:  When you’re selling, you face rejection all the time, and lawyers hate rejection.  Who doesn’t?  And how do you stay afloat?  It may sound counter-intuitive, but instead of positive self-talk, try questioning your abilities, or examining what went wrong on that last call.  It triggers a more active response and a desire to fix your approach.
  • Clarity:  Instead of accessing information, try curating the information you have into something useful for the prospect.  Instead of problem solving, try problem finding.  Can you look down the road to identify hidden problems ahead of time? 

Pink ended the presentation with five practical takeaways:

  1. Turn your power down.  The more powerful you feel, the worse your perspective-taking (“attunement”) abilities are.  This is especially important for some attorneys, who can be high-powered individuals. You can increase your perspective by dialing your power down. 
  2. Use your head as much as your heart.  Salespeople often base their negotiations on what they think the other side is feeling.  Instead, imagine what the other side is thinking, and you’ll be more successful.     
  3. Use the language of mimicry.   Next time you’re in an interactive social or business setting, observe how people subtly mimic the posture and mannerisms of others.  Without being obvious, try echoing how your prospect stands, gestures, or speaks.  This can be an effective sales technique. 
  4. “Ambiverts” are the best salespeople.  An ambivert is between an extrovert and an introvert, and most lawyers fall into this category.  Instead of being a “glad-hander,” be more like yourself.  Know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to push and when to step back. 
  5. Build an “off ramp.”  We spend too much time, effort and energy trying to change people’s minds, and not enough time figuring out how to get them to act.  Build an “off ramp” to make it easy for your prospect to take action.

Pink’s well-organized presentation set a terrific tone for the Annual Conference, and taught me a thing or two about communications and business development.  For more information on his books, click here.  

By Ann Morris, Partner at Finn Partners