In his book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. discusses many factors that affect how persuasive you can be with others. Cialdini was also one of the authors of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, co-authored by Noah J Goldstein and Steve J. Martin.
Lawyers can use these persuasive techniques to help them increase the percentage of inquiries or initial consultations that turn into paid client engagements.
People like people who are like themselves; they hire people that they know, like and trust. In your initial consultation, you need to build up the like and trust factors in order to increase the chances that the potential client will want to work with you by the end of the consultation.
In an earlier post, Who Are You Marketing To, I talked about clients being a reflection of you:
People do business with people they know, like and trust. Clients are attracted to people who, at least in some ways, resemble them. In order to trust someone, you must feel comfortable that the person you’re working with shares some of your values and goals. Identifying your individual values and what you stand for can help clarify the kinds of clients that you will work best with.
In other words, you can identify the kinds of clients you want to work with by understanding more about yourself. In the same way, expressing an understanding of who your clients or potential clients are and what their concerns are can help persuade clients to retain you. The authors of Yes! suggest that mirroring behavior plays upon the natural inclination to like those who are similar to you; reflecting the client’s words and body language can help you seal the deal.
I’ve talked about “speaking your clients’ language” before (most recently in the context of networking); instead of using legal jargon or words only lawyers use, use the words your clients use. Legalese and jargon create more distance between you and your audience.
If your goal is to demonstrate your expertise and show potential clients and referral sources that you understand their problems and can help them, you want them to feel like they know you and that you understand them and their problems.
Mirroring verbal language makes clients feel understood. It increases their positive feelings toward you and makes them more likely to decide to retain you to represent them. Matching the rate and volume at which you speak to your client and mirroring their body language can further reinforce those feelings of closeness and comfort, foster rapport and can also aid in your persuasiveness.
Don’t make sudden or drastic changes, but be cognizant of how the potential client speaks and their body language. Be careful not to mimic or copy the other person exactly or your efforts can backfire.
Mirroring may not work in situations where a client is anxious or overly excited – in that case, mirroring by repeating the client’s concerns back to them, making sure that they know they have been heard and understood, but consciously not mirroring their anxiety level or rate of speech may be more persuasive. In those instances, you may be more persuasive by being more calm and reassuring, and you may even be able to get them to mirror you. When the potential client begins to mirror you, you’ll know you are well on your way to being in synch and signing a new client.