How to start a conversation with a stranger

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Being able to approach and speak to strangers is a valuable skill to have in your marketing quiver. Like any skill, you can get better with practice.

Yesterday, after my walk, I was at the park cooling down and saw a mother pushing her two youngsters on the swings. The boy, who looked about three, was chattering on about reaching the sky and asking lots of questions about outer space and rocket ships. His mother didn’t dismiss his questions, she patiently answered them.

After listening for a couple of minutes, I asked the woman if she was a teacher. She said she was before becoming a stay-at-home mom and asked me how I knew. I said, “Because you are so patient with all his questions, plus, you had some really good answers!”

Question asked. Conversation started. Compliment thrown in for good measure.

It really is (can be) that simple.

In this case, I learned something I could use to start the conversation by listening to her talk to her son, but I could have just as easily told her she had cute kids or asked how old they were.

If I wanted to continue the conversation I would have asked another question. At some point, I would have made sure to mention “my wife” and “my daughter,” however, to let her know I’m a family guy and not some stalker. Situational awareness is your friend.

Anyway, if you want to improve your conversational skills, start practicing. The next time you’re in line for coffee or sitting next to someone in a waiting room, talk to the person next to you.

If you can’t think of anything to say, ask them if they have the time. When they pull out their phone to respond, ask what model it is and if they’re ready to upgrade.

Sure fire conversation material. Maybe even better than kids.

How to get Maximum Referrals 

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A lesson from the clean-cut men in white dress shirts

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When I started practicing, it was well known that IBM had some of the best salesmen in the world. I say salesmen because as far as I know, they were nearly all men. They all wore the IBM uniform–white dress shirt, dark suit and tie, short hair, and neatly polished dress shoes.

You know the look. Yeah, like Mad Men.

They were well-groomed and well-trained and they sold a lot of IBM products. From the moment that salesman walked in my door and began his presentation, there was no doubt that he was going to walk out with an order.

For many decades, IBM sales people continually outsold their competition. Records were set and records were broken, helping make the company one of the top brands in the world.

But it wasn’t just good products, easy financing, and great training that did it. I just learned a surprising reason why IBM salesmen sold so much more than anyone else. It was because they had low quotas.

You would think it would be just the opposite: best products and training, highest quotas, right? If you are the best or aspire to be the best, why wouldn’t you set the bar high?

But IBM didn’t do that. They set the bar low and allowed their sales people to flourish organically, without feeling intimidated or pressured to meet a goal that seemed out of reach.

Tim Ferris echoed the value of setting smaller goals when he was asked about his daily writing goal. “Two crappy pages a day,” he said, when clearly he wrote far more.

Most people set short term goals that are too big. Smaller goals make it easier to succeed. Anyone can write two “crappy” pages. When you do, you feel good about hitting your goal so you keep going and write more.

No pressure. You do it because you want to. And once you start, it’s easy to continue.

Whether writing or selling typewriters or marketing legal services, the daily discipline of “two crappy pages” or “15 minutes” gets you started, and starting is the hardest part. If the goal was too big, you might not start at all.

Set smaller goals and hit them. No white shirt required.

To create a short and simple marketing plan, get this

 

 

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E.G.B.O.K.

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E.G.B.O.K. Everything’s going to be okay. You’re problems will be resolved, your goals will be achieved, and you’ll live happily ever after.

At least that’s what you should assume because assuming otherwise won’t do you any good.

Don’t worry about the future. Or the present. No matter how bad things might be, worrying won’t help.

Worry is a useless emotion. Banish the word from your vocabulary. You’ll feel much better, and feeling better will help you achieve better outcomes.

Another way to put it: think about what you want, not what you don’t want. And smile. Everything’s going to be okay.

On the other hand, don’t be naive or reckless. Assume the best but prepare for the worst.

Make contingency plans. Install backups. Buy insurance. Have regular checkups. Because an ounce of prevention, and all that.

Okay, want to know a secret? How to make it easier to eliminate worry and assume the best? I’ll tell you something that’s worked for me, and God knows I’ve needed it.

I’ve built a law practice, from scratch, twice. No clients, no list, no money, and in the case of the first instance, no experience. I’ve started more than a few businesses, most of which are no longer extant. I’ve had many business and personal failures, and more unfinished projects than I can count. I’ve been to Hell and back and I have survived. (This would be a good place for a song, but I’ll spare you.)

Anyway, my “secret” is to approach things with a long-term perspective.

I think in terms of years and decades, not weeks or months. When you see yourself doing something ten or twenty years from now, you are much less likely to let short term problems throw you off track.

Someone owes you thousands of dollars and won’t pay? No problem. A bump in the road. A long and ultimately prosperous and fulfilling road. Ten years from now, you won’t even remember it. You’ll be too busy counting your millions.

So think long term and don’t worry about the short term. Everything’s going to be okay.

But don’t get too comfortable. There’s work to be done (and problems to solve) and we can only do that in the here and now.

Think long term but act short term. Focus on what you can do right now, today, and get it done. You’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

The quickest way to get referrals

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Date ’em all and the good ones twice

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Thinking about high school again and remembering an expression many boys used when speaking about girls: “Date ’em all and the good ones twice”. Only they didn’t use the word “date”. Use your imagination.

The thing is, this juvenile display of bravado and adolescent yearning may actually have been good advice. When you’re young, it makes sense to play the field. Dating (actual dating) lots of people helps you discover what you like and what you don’t like so you can make a better decision when choosing a spouse.

It also happens to be good advice for achieving success in a business or career.

Try lots of jobs. Lots of ideas. Lots of tools and techniques. Try ’em all and come back to (marry?) the ones you like best.

I just finished reading a book on productivity. I read lots of books on that subject but this one was different. The way the author explained the power of habits for effecting change and achieving goals resonated with me in a way that other books haven’t. I highlighted nearly every page and now, I will go back and read it again. I’ll also take notes and do the exercises I skipped the first time through. Because this one looks like a keeper.

I read a lot of books but re-read only a small percentage. Actually, if it’s good enough to re-read, I usually do that several times.

Date ’em all and the good ones twice. And if they’re really good, marry ’em.

Here’s something you should probably read again

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To change your results, you must do this first

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Many lawyers email me with comments or questions about something I’ve written. Some of them have emailed before or hired me for a consultation, and I remember them.

I see a troubling pattern in some of them. They are stuck in a pattern of conduct based on their beliefs about what they can and can’t do, or what will or won’t work in their market or in their practice area.

I give them advice but they don’t follow it because it is inconsistent with their beliefs.

Until they change their beliefs, they will continue getting the same results.

It works like this:

Our beliefs determine our attitudes, in this case, towards learning marketing strategies and techniques and implementing them.

Our attitudes affect our activities–which ones we do, how often we do them, and how we go about them.

Our activities determine our results. Our results determine our success.

It doesn’t start with activity. It starts with beliefs. If you want to get different results, you have to have different beliefs.

How do you change your beliefs?

You start by learning. Read, take classes, soak up new ideas. Don’t dismiss new ideas, immerse yourself in them.

Then, spend time with people who are successful doing what you want to do. Watch them, talk to them, emulate them. Go where they go and do what they do.

Yes, do what they do even though you don’t believe it will work for you. Try and see what happens. Review your results, and try again.

Eventually, as you get some positive results (despite your beliefs), those results will affect your beliefs. Which will affect your attitudes. Which will affect your activities. Which will bring you better results. Which will strengthen your beliefs.

In other words, you change your beliefs the same way you acquired them in the first place.

Get better results in your marketing

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What’s wrong with these people?

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Some people complain too much.

The client who is never happy with your work. The brother-in-law who can’t shut up about politics. The friend who sends back every meal because there’s something wrong with it. Again. The sister who remembers something you said 35 years ago and can’t stop reminding you about it.

Debbie Downers. Malcontents. Sourpusses.

People who are perpetually unhappy about something and make sure everyone knows about it.

We don’t want to be around them. They’re depressing and annoying.

Get me out of here.

Apparently, there are a lot of complainers in the world. I just saw an iOS app called “Carp”. It’s designed to help people to break their addiction to complaining through a 21-day challenge. It lets you announce that you are taking the challenge on social media, having your friends hold you accountable.

Unfortunately, the app relies on the user’s honesty. You decide if you did or did not complain that day.

Trouble is, a lot of people don’t realize they are Negative Nellies. They can’t hear themselves. Or they think that because something is wrong it needs to be called out, no matter what.

Some just can’t help themselves. They live therefore they complain.

Nobody wants to be around these people. Their negativity drags down everyone they come in contact with.

On the other hand, nobody wants to be around people who never complain about anything. They’re boring. And naive.

There are things in the world to complain about. Wrongs that need to be righted. Ills that need to be cured.

Without them, lawyers would be out of business.

So, I’m not complaining.

Need more clients? Don’t complain about it, do something

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Quit asking “How long will it take?” and ask, “How far can I go?”

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I don’t know about you but I’m not that good with deadlines. If they are imposed on me by an outside force–a court, a client, the IRS, my wife–I usually make them. When it’s self-imposed, not so much.

It seems that most of what I do takes longer than I originally thought or planned for. Maybe I’m just bad at estimating what it takes to do things, especially when those things are open-ended and creative, which is most of what I do these days.

Douglas Adams, author of “The Salmon of Doubt,” seems to be a kindred spirit. He said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

So I set very few deadlines these days. Target dates, maybe. But no lines in the sand.

If you ask me, “When will it be done?” I’d probably say, “I don’t know.” If you ask, “How will you know when it’s done,” I’d tell you, “I’ll just know.”

Because it’s intuitive. Right brained, not left.

And yet I get stuff done. Sometimes, after lengthy delays and detours into other projects. But so what?

Done happens.

I’ve learned to relax about “when” and focus on “what” and “why”. What do I want to do and why is it important to me? How far can I go instead of how long will it take?

Taking the pressure off helps me to be more creative and productive. I do bigger things and better things because I enjoy the doing and trust that the results will come.

I just can’t tell you when.

Referrals. You love ’em, we got ’em

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Mom always said, “Don’t play ball in the house”

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If your parents were like my parents they told you not to talk to strangers. This was meant to protect us, of course, but it stunted our ability to learn discernment, to think for ourselves about who we’re speaking with and whether or not they pose a threat.

It also kept us from broadening our experiences and trained us to keep to ourselves.

I propose you eschew mom’s advice. Not only should you talk to strangers, you should go out of your way to do it.

Talk to people you don’t know. Learn their story. Find out what they do. Tell them what you do and see what they say about lawyers and legal issues.

You’ll learn how people think about the world and about your community. You will sharpen your interpersonal skills and train your brain to be open to new experiences.

Talking to strangers will also provide you with fodder for your newsletter or next presentation. You’ll have stories to share with your family, your co-workers, and friends.

And who knows, you might meet someone who needs your services.

Lunch hour is a good time to meet strangers. Walk up to someone and ask a question or pay them a compliment.  Ask if they work nearby. Ask what they do.

This works anywhere. Even in places like NYC where eye contact can be seen as a mortal threat.

Practice the art of talking to strangers. Your life will be richer for it.

Your website can help turn strangers into clients

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Are you a finicky lawyer?

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I told you about a program I saw profiling a 20-year-old woman with a strange and dangerous addiction to sugar. She drinks 30 cans of cola a day and is on the fast track to a major illness.

The program is called “Finicky Eaters”. My wife found replays on YouTube. We’ve since seen episodes about a guy who has eaten nothing but cheeseburgers for the last 25 years (yep, three meals a day), the gal who eats nothing but french fries, and another about a man who likes to eat raw meat and little else.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more than finicky eating, it’s a sickness. Had these folks not received professional help, they would no doubt be looking at debilitating illness or death.

I was thinking about these poor souls on my walk this morning. It made me think about how many lawyers also have unhealthy habits with respect to their practices. Although usually not fatal, these habits prevent them from reaching their potential.

Many lawyers steadfastly refuse to delegate, for example. Doing all the work themselves can add stress and lead to burnout. It also limits their income. (I know, there’s a trade-off. If you’re not careful, delegating can lead to other problems. Note to self: delegate, but be careful.)

When it comes to marketing, many lawyers also have bad habits. They get set in their ways, refusing to try new strategies, or update old ones, and find themselves falling behind the competition.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits about how you manage your practice? Things you do that you shouldn’t, or things you should do but don’t?

Do you continue doing something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it, or because that’s how everyone else does it?

Do you stay in a bad partnership out of habit or fear that the alternative might be worse?

Do you continue paying for products or services you no longer need or could replace with lower-cost or better alternatives?

Start a new habit today of regularly examining what you do and how you do it. Pay attention to your habits, routines, and go-to strategies and consider what you might change or improve.

If you decide that you’re doing fine and no changes are necessary, I have one last suggestion for you: get someone else to take a look. Ask a friend, or hire a professional, to examine your ways and tell you what they see.

Because most of those finicky eaters didn’t realize they had a problem until someone else pointed it out to them.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? 

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Let me help you achieve your goal

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Think of a goal you would love to accomplish. Something important, perhaps something you have wanted for a long time.

It could be a monetary goal, a weight-loss goal, or anything else that would make a significant difference in your life.

You’ll know it’s a good choice because when you think about the goal, you get excited. You feel a little tug in your gut that makes you say, “This is it; I’m doing this!”

Make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

It might be a huge stretch but it should be realistic, possible for you to do by the deadline you set.

Got it? Good. Would you like me to help you achieve your goal?

Before you answer, let me tell you the rules.

If you want me to help you, you’ll need to send me an email and describe the goal and the deadline. I’ll hold onto your email and wait to see whether or not you hit the goal.

I’m going to hold you accountable to your goal.

When the deadline date arrives, send me another email and tell me if you hit the goal. (If you don’t email, I will assume you didn’t make it).

If you hit the goal, I will congratulate you. Get excited for you. Do a happy dance for you.

A good time will be had by all.

If you don’t achieve the goal, however, I will tell my entire email list that you didn’t make it.

I’ll tell them your name and city, your goal, the deadline, and your results.

That’s what I mean by holding you accountable.

You’ll either make it and wear a smile all day long, or you won’t and you will suffer the embarrassment of having lawyers all over the world know it.

Yeah, the pressure will be on.

But that’s the point. The pressure will help you to do what you’ve always been able to do but didn’t. It will prevent you from giving up. You’ll do whatever it takes to reach your goal. No excuses, no backtracking. You’ll reach the goal because you must.

In your email to me, make sure you acknowledge your understanding of the rules. Give me permission to hold you accountable and, if you don’t make it, to reveal to my list your full name, city, and your results. If you want me to report your results if you do hit the goal, so that we can all celebrate with you, please state that as well.

Here’s what I predict.

I predict that most people who read this won’t respond. They won’t take the chance. They’ll either keep their goal to themselves or they won’t even bother setting a goal.

I also predict that the few who do respond and ask me to hold them accountable will succeed. They will achieve their goal and be very glad they took the risk.

If you’re not prepared to accept my offer, consider asking someone else to hold you accountable. Accountability is strong medicine. It can make you do things you long for, dream about, but otherwise never accomplish.

If your goal is to get more referrals, this will help

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