Have you ever thought of your role as a plaintiff’s lawyer that of a salesperson? The truth is that each time we sign up a new client, negotiate a settlement or argue to a judge or jury we are involved in sales through persuasion. We are professionals who are attempting to persuade someone else to buy our product. Our product is not a new car but rather the truth of our client’s story or the righteousness of our position on an issue. Since we are in sales we ought to take time to study the principles of the world of sales in the retail world to see if there are principles that apply to our work too.
David Mayer and Herbert Greenberg published an article in 1964 devoted to seven years of research regarding salespeople. They concluded that a good salesperson must have at least two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive. Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what another person feels. It doesn’t necessarily mean being sympathetic. One can know what the other person feels without agreeing with that feeling. But this empathy requires the ability to get powerful feedback from the client. This kind of person senses the reaction of emotion and feelings of the other person. Identifying and feeling their attitude, needs and inner emotion is the kind of empathy required by good sales people.
All good trial lawyers have the same quality of empathy with their clients. it is the ability to put ourselves inside our clients feelings, struggles and pain that allows us to translate this into advocacy on their behalf. The same required essential quality of salespeople for empathy with another human being applies to us as trial lawyers.
The second basic quality needed by a good sales person, according to the study, is a particular kind of ego drive that makes the sales person want and need to make the sale and in a personal kind of way. It is a kind of competitive drive that motivates the sale.
Also, salespeople will fail to sell more often than they will succeed. Failure tends to diminish self-confidence. A good salesperson has an ego that is not so weak that failure results in a diminishing drive. In fact the failure must act as a trigger – as a motivation – towards greater efforts. Have you ever met a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who was not ego driven in a competitive way for their clients benefit? It is the inner drive to achieve justice for our clients against sometimes overwhelming odds that make great plaintiff trial lawyers. We are first and foremost warriors on behalf of our clients and the drive to achieve justice for our clients is an essential part of of what we.
There is a dynamic relationship between empathy and ego drive. It takes a combination of both, each working to reinforce the other, to make a successful salesperson. Too much of either is not beneficial. As plaintiff’s trial lawyers there is the same need for balance. One can be an ego driven competitive lawyer, but lacking in empathy for the client. We also can be people who are extremely empathetic with our clients, but who lack the competitive spirit needed for success in doing are plaintiff’s work. We need a balance of the two in order to be a successful plaintiff’s lawyer.
In addition to these two basic qualities of a good salesperson, there are a variety of concepts that are also important to understand and apply. A few of these include the following .
One of the important techniques used in sales is framing to influence thought . If one says “the glass is half empty” a pessimist has framed the fact of the class being only half full. Framing alters how we will sort, categorize, associate and ultimately give meaning to events objects and behaviors. Another example might be a headline which reads “FB I agents surround cult leader’s compound ” which creates a mental picture vastly different from “FB I agents raid small Christian gathering of women and children.” Both headlines might be accurate but the associated internal images and feelings are different. Successful salespeople frame persuasive arguments by selecting words or images that are positive, negative or neutral in the minds of the audience.
This applies not only to sales but to our work. All of us should be familiar with this concept in our work as plaintiff trial lawyers. Framing is so essential it can make the difference between success and failure. Identifying the essence of our case issues – those things that resonate with people at a deep value level – is a fundamental step in advocating our case. the next step is to frame them correctly. It can be a case of a doctor who accidently cut in the wrong place or the case of the doctor who was in a hurry during surgery. The perspective we give determines the impression we create.
The concept of mirroring is well known in the sales field. Mirroring is the practice of imitating or mimicking the movements speech and body language of another person you are communicating with. This process creates a sense of empathy and common connection at an unconscious level with the other person,. It is accomplished by reflecting back the same hand gestures, postures, rate and style of speech as the individual you are communicating with. If done subtly and with a delay of 2 to 4 seconds between the other person’s action or movement and your mirroring, it has an unconscious impact on the other individual, creating a sense of bonding or empathy. It is the same idea as that of finding similarities with the other person and pointing them out. It’s finding out you both belong to the same fraternal organization or to the same political party or like the same things. We like people who are like ourselves.
The practice of mirroring widely discussed in Neural Linguistic Programming as a way to create quicker bonds with other people. It has application not merely in sales as a way to motivate buying, but applies to us in our everyday live dealing with other people. It has application to trial lawyers regarding their clients, interviewing people and in our trials, particularly jury selection.
Another concept that applies to sales is the expectations people have of us based upon how they picture our role or who we are. They expect their physician to be wearing a white coat with a stethoscope around his or her neck or the military person to be in a uniform. In sales people have a idea about how a credible and trustworthy sales person should dress and act. We need to be consistent with their expectations unless we are trying to be disruptive or make a point. That means as trial lawyers we should dress and act like people who are authoritative as well as professional. We need to talk and act like people who are credible and trustworthy. We need to meet the expectations people have professionals who are honest and trustworthy. We need to be congruent with their expectations.
Most of these are totally obvious and well known to you and all of us who are in the plaintiff’s trial practice. The reason I have presented them is because I think we can forget that we are really professional sales people who have a product to sell. The product is justice for our clients. Certainly we are bound by a code of professional conduct that those in sales are not bound by, but we still can learn from the basic rules of persuasion and those in the sales field.