How fear of embarrassment can work against you

friday, 13 july of 2007

Fear of embarrassment a powerful motivator; can work for you -- or against you!

by Trey Ryder

How fear of embarrassment can work against you

Most of us go to great lengths to avoid embarrassment.

Certainly, you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your clients, colleagues or family.  Employees don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their co-workers or bosses.  Partners don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their subordinates.

You can help overcome your prospects’ fear of embarrassment and make them comfortable by addressing these common reasons for embarrassment.

1.  Prospects don’t know how to pronounce your name.  If your prospect doesn’t know how to say your name, he might avoid calling you or approaching you at a seminar for fear that he might mispronounce it.  If you know that some people occasionally mispronounce your name, you can help prospects avoid embarrassment by including a few words in your biography that explain how your name sounds.  Three of my former clients come to mind.  Bob Giauque (pronounced juke).  Bob Korljan (pronounced kor-ee-on).  Joe Volin (pronounced as in ‘volun’-teer).  A little help like this makes prospects much more comfortable.

2.  Prospects can’t afford your fee.  If your prospect doesn’t know what you would charge to handle a legal matter, he might be afraid to call you.  You can help overcome his fear by (1) making fee information easily available so prospects aren’t later surprised and possibly embarrassed when they learn your charges, and (2) making clear to prospects that you will work with them and welcome installment payments, if you are so inclined.

3.  Prospects don’t understand your explanation.  No matter how simply you think you explain something, occasionally you’ll discover that you are talking over your prospects’ heads.  Some people hesitate to say they don’t understand because they don’t want to look stupid.  Stay alert for signs that the other person doesn’t understand what you’re saying.  And even if your prospect doesn’t admit that he doesn’t understand, if you see a troubled or confused look on his face, restate your point again using different and simpler words.

4.  Prospects don’t know whether your initial consultation is free.  Prospects might be willing to meet with you for an initial discussion, but they may not want to be obligated to pay for anything until they decide whether to hire your services.  Yet if they aren’t clear whether your first meeting is free, they might call one of your competitors who offers a free consultation rather than risk being embarrassed or perceived as cheap when they call your office.

You might think everyone knows your initial consultations are free.  But what matters isn’t what you know or what everyone else knows.  All that matters is what this prospect knows, and he might not be sure.  Make sure your marketing materials clearly spell out the cost, if any, of an initial meeting.  And if the first meeting is free, make this absolutely clear:  ‘You’re welcome to meet with me for free, without cost or obligation of any kind.’

5.  Prospects don’t know whether you’ll accept their case.  In most instances, your prospect’s case must meet certain criteria before you will accept it.  Can you imagine how a person feels -- after facing a legal problem and then deciding to call a lawyer -- when he hears the lawyer say, “Sorry, your case doesn’t measure up”?  The lawyer probably won’t use those exact words, but the meaning clearly comes through.

And so on.

You talk with prospects all the time.  You know how clearly you explain their problems and the solutions you can provide.  But realize that while all this information is second nature to you -- (you could probably explain these things in your sleep!) -- the information is new to your prospect.

Also, if your prospect has a legal problem, the stress he feels from that problem -- plus the other things on his mind -- mean that he is probably not absorbing information as quickly or precisely as he usually does.  So cut your prospect some slack.  Realize that only part of what you’re saying is actually sinking in.  Go the extra mile to make sure your prospect understands what you want him to know.

If you don’t, you could lose a client without ever knowing why.  And the reason may be because he was not clear about something but was too embarrassed to tell you.

Next week: how fear of embarrassment can work for you?

© Trey Ryder

FREE LAWYER MARKETING ALERT:  If you'd like to receive Trey Ryder's weekly Lawyer Marketing Alert, send an e-mail to Write "Subscribe LMA" in the subject line and write your name and e-mail address in the body of the message.