This blog is a place where not only lawyers but all legal professionals can come together around the topic of listening. Listening helps to bind us together in productive work—or hold us apart, when we listen poorly. Legal marketing professionals have a huge contribution to make here, as they really know deep in their bones the importance of listening to the client (and the potential client) in a variety of ways. I didn’t attend last week’s annual conference of the Legal Marketing Association, but the meeting produced an excessive and interesting number of live tweets, so I decided to point out some themes of interest here on the blog.
The keynote was by Daniel Pink, and he kicked it off by invoking Alec Baldwin’s ABC moment—”Always Be Closing”—from Glengarry Glen Ross to set the stage. (I thought about linking that clip here but it is quite NSFW.)
Dan Pink suggests a new set of ABC’s for a world where the seller no longer has superior information to the buyer. Instead, the key principles to successful sales, or marketing, or whatever term makes you comfortable when it comes to finding potential clients and convincing them to use your services—which this blog fundamentally assumes to be activities of interest to most lawyers and legal professionals—are attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. If attendees got one thing from Pink’s keynote, it would be these three principles:
1 Insight: Change to Sales Landscape from Buyer Beware to Seller Beware. 3 Principles: Attunement, Buyoancy, Clarity. #LMA15 @danielpink
— Jessica Dobias Aries (@Jessica_Dobias) April 14, 2015
Each of these principles has something to do with listening, I think, with attunement at the top of the list.
A. Attunement and listening mutually reinforce each other
Attunement means being able to understand the client’s point of view. Being open to the other person’s perspective is crucial:
@DanielPink Attunement – can you get of your own head and see the perspective of a client/prospect #LMA15 — Elonide Semmes (@Esemmes) April 14, 2015
But it’s not the same thing as emotional intelligence:
Attunement is not emotional intelligence-use your head as much as your heart. #LMA15 keynote — Sunny Bane (@sunnybane) April 14, 2015
To stress the point, what the other side is thinking is at least as crucial and probably more so than what they are feeling:
Takeaway 2: imagine what the other side is thinking. more important to attunement than feeling in a biz setting @DanielPink #LMA15 — Molly Porter (@molly_porter) April 14, 2015
Both thought channel & feeling channel (empathy) attunement (perspective) is not EQ – use head as much as heart @DanielPink #lma15
— Gina Rubel (@GinaRubel) April 14, 2015
Tweets from other sessions, not the keynote, touched on attunement in different ways such as handling the pitch meeting and maintaining the relationship:
[I should never have to type this again.] Paying attention to what GC are expressing as needs during a pitch meeting is critical. #LMA15 — Nancy Myrland (@NancyMyrland) April 15, 2015
Attunement remains crucial throughout the relationship, when things are going well . . .
Client Feedback Program at Faegre: starts with Client Relations Team reaching out to start conversation internally. #LMA15 — Nancy Myrland (@NancyMyrland) April 15, 2015
. . . and especially when the relationship may be going south:
In an ideal world, a client feedback interview would happen immediately upon data showing the account is trending downward. #LMA15 — Nancy Myrland (@NancyMyrland) April 15, 2015
One tweet pointed out the importance of attunement for legal marketers in their role as facilitators of business delivered by others:
Attunement is of foundational importance. Absolutely necessary for legal marketers who are selling, but not providing, the service. #LMA15 — Kathryn Whitaker (@KBWhit) April 14, 2015
This was an intriguing point with several interpretations. Maybe it’s necessary to understand “the service” and the providers of that service, and the strengths and weaknesses of both. As a witness in one of my first IP cases said, “My job is to make sure the sales team only sells what the engineering team can actually deliver.” Or maybe it’s necessary in the sense of how the legal marketer adds value to a law firm: legal marketers who are superior at attunement to client needs add irreplaceable value to the law firm’s team of professionals.
And this point about attunement in a three-point relationship (legal client/legal marketer/lawyer) may be expanded to the cover lawyers. Being attuned to the knowledge and expertise of the legal marketers who specialize in understanding clients and potential clients can help lawyers better understand their clients as well.
B. Buoyancy means dealing with rejection
The value of buoyancy apparently came wrapped in some generalities about lawyers’ perhaps non-buoyant personalities:
Buoyancy: you have to be able to deal with rejection – harder for people who are intelligent perfectionists aka lawyers @DanielPink#lma15 — Molly Porter (@molly_porter) April 14, 2015
But relationships can help:
Great point @lydiabednerik. Buoyancy doesn’t mean you have to jump in the water w/out a floating device. Find & use your champions. #LMA15 — Kathryn Whitaker (@KBWhit) April 15, 2015
The tweets don’t say this, but isn’t it clear that listening is a great tool for anybody to build relationships with mentors and sponsors?
I’ll have to read Pink’s book To Sell Is Human to get a fuller picture of what he says on buoyancy. He also wrote the book (literally) on motivation, which leads me to expect words of wisdom on self-talk, or internal dialogue. What do lawyers and legal professionals hear when they listen to their own self-talk? To be buoyant, we need healthy ways of handling self-talk. And if our self-talk is overwhelmingly negative, we probably can’t listen effectively to others for problem-solving and relationship-building.
C. Clarity is about finding problems and curating information to help solve them
The clarity principle seems to focus on finding problems and sharing information in productive ways. Pink spoke about helping clients find problems:
RT @karajmckenna: 3rd principle from @DanielPink = clarity. Be problem finder not a problem solver. Access information then curate it #LMA15 — Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe) April 14, 2015
The part about not being a problem solver is interesting. “Solving” problems too quickly can itself cause problems, such as not fully understanding the actual problem and not forging the relationship necessary to address it. And jumping in to answer a question, rather than fully hearing someone out, is a hallmark of bad listening.
So finding problems is part of clarity, and the most advanced way to do this is to find the problems that are hard to perceive:
Clarity: can we separate the signal from the noise? Can we help clients find hidden problems? @DanielPink #LMA15 — Molly Porter (@molly_porter) April 14, 2015
The theme of information saturation plays a continuing role throughout these new ABC’s. For example, clarity is a huge part of content strategy, basically selecting and sharing what clients and potential clients really need to know:
Everybody has access to info now. More valuable is curating that info. @DanielPink #LMA15 — Tanya Lord (@TanyaOneNorth) April 14, 2015
And that brings us full circle to the role of the legal marketing professional. Revealing more about who the clients are and what they need helps everyone:
Key to content strategy: identify personas that map to key client types. How do we get more attuned for greater clarity? @Esemmes #LMA15
— Molly Porter (@molly_porter) April 14, 2015
“Personas” and “key client types” may be a bit jargon-y, but lawyers and legal marketing professionals can work together to understand each other’s language and the ideas behind that language. Listening to one another in this way helps with the broader common goal of listening to the client. Listening helps with all of the new ABC’s of selling, which in turn lead to getting business, forming relationships, and ultimately serving clients in effective ways.
Pink’s keynote at LMA drew extensive on his book To Sell Is Human. For those interested in seeing him present the ideas, here’s a webinar hosted at the Harvard Business Review. And Nancy Myrland has collected all of the blog posts from the LMA15 meeting here.