What A Defense Attorney Can Teach You About Marketing
In my last post about the psychology of persuasion, I illustrated many ways to influence your audience to respond favorably toward your business. These tactics work in any social situation, not just in business, and the legal community is a prime example. Think about any of the great legal thrillers you’ve watched or read, full of fiery speeches and passionate appeals. However, passion on the part of the lawyers alone rarely wins a case. And when overwhelming evidence isn’t available, jurors face a tough decision. Lawyers know this; they know that character and presentation play a big part in how the jurors assess the case and whether or not they believe or empathize with those who take the stand. So lawyers often coach defendants and witnesses on how to dress, how to act and how to speak in the courtroom. But the persuasion techniques emerge well before the court drama starts. In this case, it started with the jury selection.
Real Life Example
I recently got selected for jury duty. A man was accused with aggravated assault with a machete after discovering his wife was having an affair. A few dozen of us were taken from the jury pool up to the courtroom to get vetted by the lawyers. The prosecuting attorney and defense attorney did their thing trying to assess potential jurors and occasionally objecting to each other after the opposing party pushed the boundaries in their line of questioning. The defense lawyer – a shrewd questioner – explained the concept of the assumption of innocent until proven guilty. Then she proposed an imaginary situation where a person was accused of doing something but there was no proof. She then asked the question, “given these circumstances, and according to the law, would you have to find this person guilty or innocent?” The only answer, of course, was “innocent.” Then, she proceeded to ask the exact same question to every juror in the room, one at a time. It was a leading question, and every person found themselves saying the word “innocent.”
I don’t know if anyone else in the jury noticed what she was doing, but it was obvious to me that she was trying to use psychological persuasion to influence our perception of the defendant. She committed all the potential jurors to repeating the word “innocent” while the defendant sat right in front of us. It was repeated consistently throughout the room. Commitment and consistency: one of the pillars of Cialdini’s psychology of persuasion. Unnoticed by most, but easily detected if you’re looking for it. To be honest, I don’t know what the verdict of that trial was. I wasn’t selected as a juror (maybe because of her question about my experience using machetes? I’m not sure why that would affect my judgment, since machetes are pretty common tools). But that tactic was likely only one of many used throughout the trial, and the purpose wasn’t to trick us into giving a false verdict, but to influence our perception of the defendant in a positive manner.
Market Like a Lawyer
Your prospects have to make decisions. Probably not as cut-and-dry as “guilty” or “innocent”. They may have multiple possible verdicts – like which of several vendors to hire or which product will be the best solution to their problems. So here’s the lesson from the lawyer: Position your customers’ problems so that they can conceive of (and must commit to!) only one solution to fix them – and then make sure your product provides that solution.