Law firms (and many professional services firms, for that matter) are pretty successful when it comes to wasting money.
In the first article of this series, we looked at how eliminating redundancies in your firm's day-to-day operations and getting a handle on your back office to-do-lists could keep more money in your bank account for more important tasks, such as wining and dining your most valuable clients.
This article explains how a simple communication skill can skyrocket your clients' perception of you as their trusted advisor.
Listen to this…
Lisa Bloom, founder and managing partner of The Bloom Firm in Woodland Hills, CA, says this is the number one complaint clients have about their lawyers.
"We can come across as arrogant jerks," Bloom explains on her blog. "It's because we’re busy, we’re stressed, we’re trained to get right to the point, even to bore in aggressively with witnesses to make them answer our pointed questions."
So what's the best way to eliminate uncivil communication from your list of behavioral traits? "Learn active listening skills," says Bloom. Based on the book of the same name by Marshall Rosenberg, active listening promotes respectful communication during tense situations.
Active listening may not come naturally to many people, but it's something that can be learned with practice.
Did you just look at your phone?
So how, exactly, do you practice becoming better at active listening? For starters, put away your phone and look at the person who's speaking to you straight in the eyes. There's no better way to let someone know that they're important than to maintain eye contact.
Bloom says that repeating back what you heard is also a powerful tactic to establishing credibility with the person you're conversing with. Finish the conversation by asking if you've interpreted the message correctly.
"Seeking confirmation as to whether you’ve captured the person's issue is respectful and shows you genuinely want to understand," says Bloom. "If the person says yes, ask if there is anything else they would like to say on the subject."
Beyond learning specific strategies, improving active listening skills comes down to practice - with your spouse, your kids, other friends and family. You'll mess up a lot at first, but that's ok! Keep at it and eventually you'll feel comfortable enough to begin using these tactics with your clients.
The economics of trust are compelling
Don't think of "developing trust with your clients by improving your communication skills" as boring or cliché. Instead, consider how being more of an active listener and showing your clients that you're genuinely interested in what they're talking about can lead to a deeper confidence in your role as their trusted advisor.
Becoming a trusted advisor to dozens of clients isn't easy, but mastering the art of active listening will put you at the front of the class. Coveted relationships you've been chasing - and the financial rewards - will ultimately follow.