Seven brutal hours into the negotiation, the people facing each other in the law firm conference room are only $100,000 apart. The plaintiff’s attorneys had demanded three-quarters of a million dollars. The defense attorneys had insisted the case wasn’t worth a penny over $200,000. As the day wore on, the defense raised their offer to $450, the plaintiffs lowered their demand to $550. It was pretty clear to any rational observer where the case would settle. Neither side would admit it, but $500,000 had been on everyone’s mind since the negotiations began. All of the lawyers’ posturing, bluffing, threatening, and demanding notwithstanding, personal injury cases almost always settle. Because as every first-year law student knows: “A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit.”
Neither side wants to go to trial. The defense attorney would be fired if a runaway jury came back with a $3 million figure. At the same time, the plaintiff’s attorneys are terrified of a verdict favoring the defense. After all, forty percent of zero is still zero.
But while it’s clear to everyone in the room what will happen over the next three hours, the two sides continue to argue. The professionals know that sooner or later an agreement will be reached. The case will settle. The papers will be signed, probably for about $500,000.
There’s only one problem: it’s getting late and the plaintiff has to leave. In frustration she tells her attorneys she’s willing to accept $450,000. “Let me sign the papers now. I’ve had enough. I gotta go.”
Why? What could be so important?
Her car is in the parking garage and the parking garage closes at 7:00 PM. If she stays until the negotiations finally end, her car will probably be towed away.
Should her attorneys, the people who were supposed to guide her through this once-in-a-lifetime painful negotiation, have predicted this situation? Should her attorneys have anticipated her concern? Should her attorneys have the experience to know that these mediations typically run late into the evening? Should they have prepared their client for this eventuality?
“These negotiations invariably run late. Don’t forget to get a ride or catch a Lyft; the parking garage closes at 7:00. I don’t want you to be stressed about getting your car.”
Surely these few sentences — and the care and attention that went into communicating them simply and without corporate speak — would have been worth about 40% of $50,000.
As top business leaders, it is our sacred trust to anticipate, articulate, and solve every conceivable problem before it happens.
Because, as always, it’s all about them.
Yes, you have to know your business, your market, and your brand. But more important than anything, YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR CLIENT. Regardless of whether you are an attorney, CEO, keynote speaker or any other professional, YOU MUST KNOW YOUR CLIENT.
If you put dollars first and insight second, you will be left behind. Because there are at least one hundred other professionals in one hundred other firms in your town alone who can do what you do. Truth is, there are probably one hundred other professionals in your office building who can do it.
But there is no one else on the entire planet Earth who can be who you are.
Competence gets clients. Compassion keeps them.
Always make it All About Them. Make your clients your partners. Make your clients your family. Go the extra mile and then go the extra mile beyond that. Because while there is satisfaction in making a living there is more satisfaction in doing the right thing and being the best of the best.