What it Feels Like Buying Lawyers and Accountants

nervous buyerIt was David Maister, in his book Managing the Professional Services Firm, who first got me to think about the potential emotional states of buyers of professional services.

David & I agree that a client rarely hires a firm solely on its technical capabilities. Credibility is important, but you’ll also need to be on the client’s wavelength (ie rapport) and to be deeply trusted.

Here are the ten potential buyer emotions identified by Maister. Use them as a guide for putting yourself in the client’s shoes and developing a deeper understanding of what you will need to demonstrate if you are to win their business.

  1. I’m feeling insecure: Which one of you is a genius and which one is just good? I’ve exhausted my abilities to make technical distinctions. I’m going to have to commit myself without feeling totally confident about my decision. If I haven’t dealt with you before, I’m not sure I can trust you to be honest about the complexity of my problem, or whether you have the skills to deal with it
  2. I’m feeling threatened: I’m accountable on this. By hiring anyone, I am putting my organization’s (and my) affairs in the hands of someone else and I’m not particularly comfortable with that. I need to be convinced that my problem will receive your prompt and serious attention.
  3. I’m taking a personal risk: By putting my affairs in the hands of someone else, I risk losing control. And I don’t want to appear incompetent.
  4. I’m exposed: No matter which firm I hire, I’m going to have to reveal some proprietary secrets. Will I have to reveal things that may not reflect well on me?
  5. I’m skeptical: I’m essentially buying a promise – but which promises are worth the paper they’re printed on? I’ve been burned before by undelivered promises.
  6. I’m concerned: Will you take the time to really understand my situation and what makes it special?
  7. I’m feeling ignorant: I’m intelligent and I’m good at what I do, but this is outside my expertise and I’m not enjoying feeling like this
  8. I’m worried: Are you a friend or a foe? Are you going to be on my side?
  9. I’m impatient: Success is important to me and my organization. We’ve been discussing this for a while, but now is the time for action. We need to get this done and done now if we are to achieve its objectives.
  10. I’m suspicious: Will you be one of those lawyers who is hard to get hold of, who is patronizing, who might leave me out of the loop, who uses too much jargon, who doesn’t explain what’s happening or why? Will you deal with me in the way I want to be dealt with?

Just stop and think now. Put your draft documents to one side. What are your clients thinking or feeling on the matters you’re currently working on? Any of the above?

If you’re interested in finding out more about what your clients are thinking and feeling, here’s a questionnaire I use: https://tonyreiss.com/2013/10/21/are-you-listening-to-your-clients-heres-a-client-satisfaction-survey-to-use/

For more insights from David Maister see: http://davidmaister.com


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