What Clients Really Want

In a sales workshop for lawyers that I recently facilitated, a participant “role-played” a potential client. Together, we developed a scenario based on a business owner he knew well.

During this role-play, his fellow workshop participants sat one by one with the potential client to have a business conversation. Their goal was to be retained as his lawyer.

His goal as the client…well, he didn’t really know what his goal was. In character, he had a lot of potential legal issues that he saw as business concerns, without recognizing the legal implications.

After the role plays were over, I asked him what it felt like being in the client’s chair.  His response – “I wanted to feel like they cared about ME.”   Turns out, while he did care about his own clients, he did not fully recognize the importance to the client of feeling cared about until he sat in the client’s chair, himself.

That discussion reminded me of a program I co-led at a law school with the former General Counsel of a major US company. What did this executive want from his outside counsel?  To “feel the love."  His words.  And NO – there’s no oxymoron here.  Lawyers have feelings too!   He meant – show me that you value the relationship in addition to providing superior service.

Competence and creativity and even superior service are just the ticket in the door. Without that, the professional likely wouldn’t be or stay at the table. But caring can be the great differentiator, and a key to being a trusted advisor.

Changing chairs, even just to practice or see what it feels like, makes empathy come alive and shows what clients really want.