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Engage people as participants in the circle of the story

Fairfax, Virginia, DWI/criminal defense lawyer- Pursuing the best defense, since 1991

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During the infrequent times that I speak with telemarketers — usually when they call after hours or bypass my staff by trying to appear to be who they are not — most talk at me and even try to hide the purpose of their call. A very small number show true interest in helping my law firm’s continued success with the caller’s available products or services, not offering merely a one-size-fits-all approach.

People get bombarded so often with uncaring marketers — with plenty of marketers getting very unpleasant once rejected — that they are all the more wary of anyone trying to persuade them to do anything. The last category of telemarketer — who show a true interest in helping me versus merely getting money for their company — are more likely to keep me on the phone, even though I end the phone calls with all telemarketers early on.

The telemarketer and I, as a criminal defense lawyer, both are trying to persuade people to our side. Just as I get alienated when a telemarketer talks at me rather than with me, tries to obfuscate the reason for the call, and does not even ask if I have time to talk, I am responsible to fully pay attention to the needs and interests of anyone I am trying to persuade, and to fully engage them in a way that is meaningful and important to them.

At trial, I am presenting the most persuasive story I can for my client, and at my best I am engaging the judge and jury as a participant in thecircle of the story, to the point that they are so engaged in the process that they want to know more, are distracted much less than people often get throughout the day, and want to ask questions about story I am presenting. (Of course, be wary of the double-edged sword of jurors asking questions during trial, rather than during jury selection.)

Why did Michael Jackson repeatedly earn huge income on his recorded music when so many of his colleagues complained about declining due to copyright infringement? Why do people flock to some restaurants while leaving others virtually empty? Michael Jackson and the successful restaurants deliver premium, customer-focused/customer-engaging performance that leave customers wanting more.

Once a telemarketer, perhaps on his first call of his career, started his spiel with a nervous “Okay” as in “Okay, I [think I] can do this.” That introduction turned his whole patter into being about him, removing me from the equation, unless he was going to deftly admit why he was calling, admit that he was nervous and why, and move on. When the persuader is focused on the needs of those s/he aims to persuade, that self-centered nervousness should disappear.

Once the persuader fully immerses himself or herself into the circle of the story, and fully engages others from that circle, they will be more likely to want to join the persuader in that persuasive circle.