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Leadership and the New Principles of Influence – An LMA Recap

“Be more human.”

That was the closing advice from the LMA’s keynote speaker, Dan Pink, at this year’s conference.

While it was easy to compare Pink to the previous two years’ keynotes (Kat Cole and James Kane) and find him a bit lacking, especially when it came to audience engagement on Twitter, he still offered some great tidbits of information for us to takeaway (and many of the live tweeters following along offered a lot of strong praise for the speech).

Anecdotally, when speaking with several regular LMA attendees, they told me that they felt as though the keynote should be more of a “rah rah” type of presentation to pump up legal marketers, but instead, this was more for and about our lawyers.  I agree with that assessment, so the lawyers among my readers may find more value in the content from Dan Pink.

For a much more concise recap of the session than I’m about to offer, check out Heather Morse’s post right from Pink’s presentation.

LMA tells us that:

Leaders at every level today confront two stark realities. First, in these fiercely competitive and endlessly turbulent times, they must do more with less. Second, the old-school management techniques we’ve long relied on to produce results frequently fail. Enter Dan Pink, best-selling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human, with a fresh approach.”

Drawing on a rich trove of social science and cutting-edge practices from organizations around the world, Pink will demonstrate the new ways leaders are persuading, influencing and motivating others. He will show the power of underused techniques such as perspective-taking, problem-finding and using purpose as a motivator – and offer concrete steps to put these ideas into action.”

In this entertaining and provocative presentation, you will learn:

  • Why changing people’s minds often matters less than giving them an ‘off-ramp’ to act;
  • Why the most persuasive leaders aren’t introverts or extraverts[sic], but ‘ambiverts’;
  • 3 rules for taking the perspective of those you lead;
  • How the principles of improvisational theater can help you overcome resistance;
  • 5 ways to frame your message for maximum influence.”

It turns out that Pink is a lawyer himself. He started his presentation by telling us that:

A long time ago, in a moment of youthful indiscretion…I went to law school.”

How did he do? Well, his Twitter bio explains it all – apparently, he made the top 90% possible. However, he did let us know that

Law school increased my earning power…because I met my wife.”

One Insight

The format of Pink’s presentation was to give us one insight, three principles and five takeaways, starting with the insight (we’ll get there shortly).

For his latest book, Pink interviewed 7,000 people, asking them to tell him the first word that comes to mind when they think of “sales” or “selling.” Among others in the top 25, we saw:

  • Pushy
  • Hard
  • Yuck
  • Ugh
  • Difficult
  • Annoying
  • Sleazy
  • Slimy

From this, we can extrapolate that people don’t like the word sales. Lawyers are no different.

And who is sales’ slightly more intellectual cousin? Marketing.

Our goal is to take away these words when thinking about sales (and marketing).  This “icky” word cloud that Pink showed us is what it feels like in a world where the seller has more information than the buyer – it’s a world of information asymmetry: no information, no choices, and “buyer beware.” This makes the buyer feel like the seller could rip them off.

But we no longer live in a world of information asymmetry. We are now living in a world of “seller beware.” Why? Because buyers have information. And that is our one insight:

Buyer Beware –> Seller Beware

Technology is shifting the power from the buyer to the seller. Firms and companies can say whatever they want, but the seller has a lot more resources.  The world of sales has changed a lot more in the last ten years than in the past 100. We’re at information parity – the “zero moment of truth.”

Part of our role as legal marketers then, is to educate our lawyers that we’re in this world of “seller beware.” And because of this, the “low road” is now blocked, forcing everyone to the high road.

Three Principles

Pink then moved on to his three principles for us, which is redefining the ABCs of sales. Now we have:

  • Attunement
  • Buoyancy
  • Clarity

These are the three qualities that we’ll need to succeed in a world of “seller beware.” So what do these means?

Attunement

Attunement is about “perspective-taking” – can you get out of your own head? In order to market something, you have to be able to get out of your own head and see things from someone else’s perspective, and that’s not easy. But we don’t have much coercive power, so that’s why we have to get into others’ heads to figure out their needs.

Buoyancy

Pink says:

One reason ‘ smarty pants’ lawyers don’t like sales is that they have a hard time dealing with rejection.”

It’s harder for accomplished, smart people to deal with rejection, but buoyancy is about how well you stay afloat in that ocean of rejection. Those in the sales function deal with an ocean of rejection every day. That makes them brave. One of the best predictors of sales success is how you explain your failures – are you able to de-personalize them?

Yes, it’s hard to be rejected. But it makes you stronger and you learn something from it. One way to deal with it is through positive self-talk.

Clarity

These days, there is tremendous value in curating information and separating the signal from the noise (that seems to be a theme here on Zen this week!). The premium has changed from problem “solving” to problem “finding.” Can you anticipate/find/determine issues?

Why? Because with so much information out there, if your client knew what their problem was, they could find a solution without you.

Clarity is about making sense of (or curating) information, in a world where information is accessible to everybody.

Five Takeaways

Before offering his five takeaways, Pink had the audience try an exercise. He asked us to identify our dominant hands, snap our fingers five times, and then draw a capital E on our foreheads.

Once we’d done that, he asked whether we’d drawn the E from our perspective (i.e. we could read it) or someone else’s.

Those who drew it from their own perspective were more likely to be those who feel more powerful. However, the more powerful you feel, the worse your perspective-taking abilities are. There’s an inverse relationship between feelings of power and the acuity of perspective-taking abilities. Power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point.

Power is a dial that goes in both directions, and sometimes it’s important to turn your power down to increase your effectiveness.

Takeaway One: Increase your effectiveness by briefly reducing your feelings of power

Pink asked us to consider whether focusing on emotions or intellect was better in a business setting.  And as you can imagine, while you want to understand “thought channels” AND “feeling channels,” if you have to do any kind of triage in business, you want to downplay the emotional side and focus on what the other person is thinking, and what their interests are.

Takeaway Two: Use your head as much as your heart

Pink also presented a huge volume of information to show that the best way to understand another person is to mimic them, and to use the language of the customer, rather than your jargon (hint hint, lawyers).

Use their gestures, subtly mimicking them back, and you will suddenly find commonalities. This makes you a more attuned and better negotiator.  (For marketers, this means we should be using our lawyers’ language, by the way.)

Takeaway Three: Pay attention to others’ posture, gestures, and language. Then reflect those back without being an idiot about it

For a long time, we’ve all been thinking in the duality of extroverts versus introverts. But it turns out there’s actually a third group that most people fall into “ambiverts.”

Ambiverts are, not surprisingly, somewhat introverted and somewhat extroverted. And they excel at sales. They can shift between the two, and now when to speak, and when to listen. They’re more attuned and more ambidextrous in a sales situation, which makes them more successful.

Lawyers: you are likely an ambivert. And that’s a good thing. (Find out for sure here)

Takeaway Four: Don’t be a glad-hander, be more like yourself – most are ambiverts. Know when to push, know when to shut up

We spend too much time getting people to change their minds, says Pink, rather than making it easy for them to do it. Give them an “off-ramp.”

Takeaway Five: Give people an off-ramp. Make it easy for them to act

In conclusion, Pink told us, as I said at the outset of the post, to be better at sales and marketing, just be more human. Lawyers, if you’re thinking that this “sales and marketing stuff” doesn’t apply to you because you didn’t go to law school to do sales and marketing, I hate to tell you, but you’ve got to think again.  All of us are selling something these days, and if you want clients, you’ve got to work for them – these principles and ideas from Dan Pink will help you to do that in a way that doesn’t keep us in that “icky” word cloud that he talked about before that we all still think about as “sales.”  Let’s redefine sales, shall we?