Nobody Wants What You’re Selling

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People don’t want legal services. They don’t want intellectual property advice, disability assistance, contract drafting, employment law, an estate plan, a divorce, or whatever legal service it is that you provide.

People want the feelings the legal services give them.

They want relief, freedom, or success. Clients want to feel powerful, in control, happy, satisfied, contented. They want to walk with their head held high, their chest puffed out, and confidence in their step. Each of us wants our own particular feeling, but it’s still mostly a feeling that we really want.

Why, then, do we lawyers stuff our websites, our sales pitches, and our conversations with words about the legal services we provide, instead of the feelings the clients want to buy?

Nobody wants to buy your legal services

When I go back and look at my first website, I get depressed. I wrote the copy long before I understood my ideal client. I thought he wanted to hear about me, my expertise, and my experience. I assumed he was shopping for legal services.

I spent hours agonizing about whether we could puff up our experience and accomplishments. At one point, I worked with another lawyer who was older than I was, and wondered if we could get away with “25 years of combined experience” when I’d only been a lawyer for about twenty minutes. She was old(er), so it seemed like this slight reframing of my experience might be legitimate.

Little did I know that my ideal client wasn’t all that interested in me. He was interested in himself, his problem, and his feelings of doubt and abandonment after the painful realization that his wife didn’t love him in the same way anymore.

He cared about the nagging hole in his heart that wouldn’t heal. He didn’t care much at all about my fancy words describing the solutions I had to offer, the experience I’d accumulated, or the expertise I possessed.

He felt pain. He longed for relief. He yearned for peace. He desperately wanted to stop the emotions that had him in turmoil.

Everybody wants to buy feelings

Lawyers solve problems, and that’s what we think we deliver: solutions to problems. We’re good at solving problems, so that’s our focus. We’re comfortable in a solution-filled world. Unfortunately, we’re so good at fixing the problem that we often fail to see the bigger picture. We miss the context, the emotions, the feelings.

Most of us have had the experience of delivering the right feelings, when we lock down the solution to the problem. We see the smile. The face relaxes, and the client breathes a sigh of relief.

We spot the outward signs of an emotional shift, but we’re connecting the wrong dots.

We tend to think the client came to us for the solution to the problem. We rarely acknowledge that they came to us for that feeling we can see on their face. Our pride and satisfaction come from delivering solutions. We rarely notice how love, hope, belonging, contentment, dignity, and more are what the client actually wanted to buy.

Even mentioning that this might be the case can seem crazy–like giving an expensive toy to a toddler, only for him to ignore it in a corner so he can play with the box it came in.

So we continue believing that solutions, not emotions, are what we sell and what the client buys.

Talking about feelings is weird

A lawyer website featuring words like love, hope, pride, belonging, growth, contribution, connection, stability, peace, order, comfort, excitement, adventure–that doesn’t feel right. Lawyers don’t use those words to describe their services.

We work in a world of formal lawyers sticking to formal marketing, which is often reviewed and approved by some higher authority.

Most of us are more comfortable when we know we’re saying the same things in our marketing materials that the other lawyers say in theirs. We even want to say those things in the same way.

We want to be bold, to stand apart in the marketplace, but we also fear embarrassment, shame, and the snide glances of other lawyers–our competitors–trying to force us back into the lawyer mold.

But when we keep talking about what we think we sell, rather than what our clients want to buy, we’re making the disconnect bigger. The buyer wants one thing, but the seller is offering something different.

What would happen if we offered for sale the very thing the client wants to buy?

Are you ready to do it anyway?

I teach Rosen Institute members to express emotions by telling stories. It’s a reliable approach, because it’s easier to slip feelings into our marketing language when it’s in the context of a story. We tell the lawyer’s story plus the client’s story, and we find the emotional overlap between the two stories.

Storytelling comes naturally to many lawyers, and it allows us to ease our way into emotional conversations. Stories let us go beyond words and use pictures. Instead of labeling the feelings experienced by our clients, we’re able to describe the look on the face, the release of the shoulders, the change in the posture. Stories are, for many of us, a shortcut to the emotions.

It’s the emotions our clients buy. That’s what they’re looking for when they contemplate hiring us. The lawyer who promises the feeling that the buyer wants to buy is likely to end up with the client.

The lawyer who steps up, reaches out, goes beyond the shallow expressions of experience, expertise, and excellence, is the lawyer who gets the client.

Sell what they want to buy. Give clients what they’re looking for. Let them pay you for the thing they need. Sell the emotion they need to feel and not just the problem you think they need to solve. People don’t want legal services. People want the feelings the legal services give them.

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