I was constantly selling myself. Early on in my career, probably 30 years ago, I would go to these events or people would invite me to different business functions. I was a business litigator. I would go to these things, and all I would do is talk about myself. And I thought it was really good to tell them all about me, and I couldn’t understand why I never got traction.
I was actually at an event at a group of automobile dealers in Atlanta. I was invited to speak and I spoke about a topic of law that I knew about, and then I started talking about me. And I looked out and I was getting no traction. I saw their eyes glaze over — and it sort of hit me.
I figured out that catching rather than pitching was the key to success.
And what started to happen after that — I’d pick up clients anywhere. I will be on an airplane, at a dinner, traveling with my wife somewhere in the world, and I will have a conversation. And it will go on for 20 minutes and I will know everything about them. And they don’t know anything about me. They don’t even know what I do.
And then they’ll turn around to me and they’ll say, “What do you do?” And I’ll say, “I collect art and I travel.” “No, no — what do you do to make money?” And I say, “I’m a trial lawyer.”
And then my wife will say, because she’s a former judge, “He just took your deposition.”
People don’t want to hear about you. They want to know that you care about them.
I realized that, in my business, what I do is I learn all about my witnesses. I ask them questions and I find out all about them. And I realized two things. One, people want to talk about themselves. And in my business of being a trusted advisor and doing litigation, where people’s lives and their businesses are on the line, I really can’t give them advice unless I really know them. And you can’t say to somebody, “Tell me about you.”
So I decided that I would focus the conversation. So I say, “Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Did you go to college and what did you study?” Within 25 minutes, I know everything.