Powerful Prospect Interviews Begin With Listening

friday, 6 october of 2006

Powerful Prospect Interviews Begin With Listening

by Trey Ryder

Listening skills identify the real problem to be addressed. Yet most people are great talkers but terrible listeners.

The greatest gift you can give another person is your attention. All of us want people to listen to what we have to say. Yet, rather than listening, many of us can’t wait to jump in and solve the other person's problem. While the other person is talking, we often think, “I wish you’d hurry up and get done talking so I can tell you what to do.”

Sound familiar?

Whether a prospect decides to hire your services often depends on whether he feels you understand and care about him. This usually comes down to whether you’ve taken time to listen to his pain, understand what he feels, and focus on the problem he wants to solve.

If you practice in one area of the law, you probably recommend similar solutions to many prospects. Yet, while your solutions may include many of the same elements or methods, each prospect thinks his problem is unique.

While you are thinking, “This problem is just like all the others I've seen this week,” your prospect is thinking, “I’ll bet this lawyer has never heard of a problem like mine.”

In the mid-1980s, I had the good fortune to meet Cavett Robert. Cavett is a retired trial attorney and founder of the National Speakers’ Association based in Phoenix. He learned I was in marketing and invited me to lunch. I was flattered that this man of uncommon depth and experience wanted to spend time with me. I decided to make sure I used our time together wisely. I thought, if I am a good listener, no telling how much I might learn.

The hostess showed us to our table. We sat down. Cavett looked at me, calmly put down his menu, focused his total attention on me, and said, “Trey, tell me about yourself.”

I thought, I’ll give this man a brief overview. Then I’ll learn everything I can about him and his experiences.

I started talking. Five minutes later, taking only time to breathe, I was still talking 90 miles per hour. In fact, I grew tired listening to myself talk. That’s when I thought, what’s wrong with this picture? I came here to listen and learn, yet the only person at this table talking is me. (!) I quickly brought my unabridged autobiography to a close, asked Cavett about himself, and turned from a talker into a listener.

To this day, I remember his words: “Tell me about yourself.” When lawyers tell me they occasionally feel awkward when meeting with a prospect, I suggest they begin their prospect interview with Cavett’s four magic words.

“Tell me about yourself” puts your prospect at ease and gets him to open up. Also, it takes the focus off you and allows you to sit back and listen.

True, your prospect came to your office to learn what you can do for him. But your prospect also came to your office with the hope that you would listen to him explain his problem. Your odds of winning a new client increase dramatically when you give your prospect the opportunity to say what’s on his mind and explain things from his point of view.

God gave us two ears and one mouth. We do our best when we use them in that proportion.