I’ll bet I’ve heard the word (phrase?) "tire-kickers" a thousand times from attorneys. These lawyers resent people who come to seminars or consultations, with the express purpose of getting free information, and with no intention whatever of ever hiring the attorney. (Of course, these same attorneys offer "free" seminars and "free" consultations….but hey, whatever).
I know how they feel. I occasionally have people whose only purpose in consulting with our firm is to try to steal some intellectual property. I have always found, however, that I have gained far more clients by openly sharing than I ever lost in being "ripped off." I think there is a sort of implied contract when one accepts a free consultation, or attends a free seminar. In return for the free information, the prospective client should be at least open to the possibility of working with the person providing it. In other words, the only obligation is good will. Nonetheless, when a prospective client fails to offer even that — when there is simply a greedy attempt to get whatever can be gotten for "free" (at someone else’s expense) — then you can hardly fault the provider of the valuable information for feeling resentful.
Seth Godin has a great photo in his post "The Freeloader Problem" illustrating the point. Starbucks provides a great environment (comfortable chairs, free wireless internet, nice music) because they want to sell coffee (and more). What should Starbucks feel when a guy with a to-go bag from McDonald’s makes himself at home?
I am disclosing, albeit with a blush, that an interview with me is currently posted on the entertaining blog of Danielle Keister, whose firm provides virtual assistance (remote office support and creative services) to solo practitioners and small law firms. Danielle quizzed me on a number of marketing-related questions. I was honored to be asked, and hope you will enjoy the interview. While you’re there, check out Danielle’s services. If your workflow is uneven — sometimes slow, sometimes flooded — Danielle’s firm might be an ideal solution.
I have been working with distinguished estate planning attorney Jan Copley and her husband Lou Steinhauer, of Pasadena, California, for a couple of years now. For me, it has been a delight because of their openness and bravery about trying anything I advised. I’m sure about half of the time they must have thought I was out of my mind, but they did it anyway, and you can’t ask anything more of your clients than that. ("One thing I learned from being an advisor," Jan told me, "Is to listen to my advisors.") I think I have learned as much from them as they have from me. Part of our work together has been the presentation of public seminars. Recently, Jan had the experience (always valuable!) of being on the other end of a presentation — sitting in the "audience" chair. She barely survived. — Mark Merenda
By Jan Copley
Recently, my husband and I traded a couple of hours of our lives to listen to a timeshare presentation in return for a low-cost long weekend at a tony resort in the Palm Springs area. Roger (not his real name), our salesperson, made two unbelievable (to me) errors and I can’t resist writing about it. What better venue than Mark’s blog?
Lesson One: Take a Shower and Brush Your Teeth! Roger smelled bad. I didn’t want to sit next to him. Why would I want to buy anything from this person?
Lesson Two: Stop Talking and Listen to What Your Customers are Saying! Although we toured a timeshare in Rancho Mirage, Roger was trying to sell us a unit in Hawaii. I told him I have never been there. You would think he would gather that going to Hawaii just isn’t that important to me, right? Well, nooo, he didn’t. He kept raving about the wonders of the Islands to distract us from our questions about the timeshare program. He didn’t shut up about Hawaii until my husband told him to.
In other words, Roger made us feel like captives, rather than participants. We were subjected to a physically unpleasant environment and it was obvious Roger had no interest in anything we had to say. As far as I am concerned, Roger — and his organization — lost the opportunity to make a sale to me, either now or in the future. My guess is that is not the result he was looking for!
I travel a lot. If you travel a lot, eventually you end up in Travel Hell.
Now, the great majority of my travel experiences are smooth and agreeable. People ask me all the time if I mind all the travel, and the truth is, in general, I don’t. I find the airplane time is great for reading uninterrupted. I find the hotel rooms have much of what I require: Internet access, TV, good reading light, and room service. I could live in a hotel room. Actually, much of the time, I do live in a hotel room.
So I am not complaining about traveling in general. I am only complaining about Travel Hell.
I got to LAX a good hour before my 10:45 a.m. flight time, checked my bag and went through security, no problems. When I got to the gate, however, I found that the flight was delayed. The flight was scheduled to go through Chicago and the weather in Chicago was not cooperating. The flight would leave, they said, at 11. Then 11:30. Then 12. Then 12:30. Now, people who had connecting flights, like me, were starting to sweat. They announced a 1 p.m. departure. Then 1: 30. Then 2. I think we left at 2:30 p.m. Any hope of making my connecting flight was gone.
I was seated on the aisle. Directly across the aisle from me sat a woman who took a deep breath on the runway in Los Angeles, and did not stop talking to the hapless victim seated next to her, inanely, in a loud voice, for the next four hours until we got to Chicago, at which point I ran up the aisle to get away from her. I now know more about this woman than I know about my mother.
We arrived in Chicago at 8-something. The last flight for RSW (Fort Myers, Florida) had departed an hour ago. After standing in line for an hour at the customer service desk of United Airlines, I was told that a) I had been rebooked on an American Airlines flight the next morning (mind you, they didn’t ask me, they just did it), b) they were not off-loading any bags, I would have to find those at my eventual destination, and c) they weren’t paying for any hotels, since the weather was not their fault. They were, however, handing out little pink voucher slips, good for a discount at various local hotels.
I walked outside to catch the shuttle to the Wyndham O’Hare. I was dressed in a light, short sleeved bowling-style shirt (think Kramer on Seinfeld). I had not expected to be anywhere except on an airplane or in a terminal. I boarded in sunny L.A. and was supposed to debark in sunny Florida. The temperature in Chicago that night was in the high 30’s, a few degrees above freezing. Ten minutes later, I presented my frozen carcass at the front desk fo the Wyndham and was assigned room 256. I called the front desk and asked for a wake-up call at 6 a.m. (my flight on American was to be at 8:30). I called my office and left messages to reschedule all my Friday morning appointments. Then I collapsed on the bed.
Tiger Woods lost his father Earl this week. Anyone who has lost a parent can feel Tiger’s grief. I lost my own father 30 years ago. It’s a loss that doesn’t go away.
For a decade now, I have marveled at Tiger Woods. Not his golf skill, which is other-worldly, but at his behavior apart from golf. I marvel, not at what I have read, but at what I have not read. I have not read anything about his "posse." I have not read about drug or alcohol abuse. I have not seen any photos in the tabloids of a drunken Tiger punching out photographers. I have not read any rumors of Tiger running around with models, "starlets" or anyone other than his young wife. I haven’t read of any car wrecks, or arrogant treatment of hotel servants. I haven’t read anything about any "tell-all" biographies. I haven’t read a quote from Tiger Woods that was less than gracious and respectful to his elders. There’s a whole lot I haven’t read.
I figure much of the credit for that belongs to Earl Woods and Tiger’s mother. Well done, Earl. Rest in peace.