Sales Jurisprudence

I originally published this article on another blog on 8/30/2011. I hope that you like it here.

Harrys LawI was summoned to jury duty on  Monday, 3/28/2011. I’ve been called several times, but never put on a jury until that day. At first, I resisted serving, but as the first day progressed, I got into it. It was a medical malpractice case, but more importantly it was two lawyers trying to sell the jury their ‘version of the facts’ as truth.

Now, I grew up watching shows like Perry Mason and the Defenders, maybe because my parents watched them, but when I got to choose, I watched L.A. Law, the Law & Orders, The Practice among others and still watch Harry’s Law, The Good Wife and several shows like The Mentalist, Body of Proof and Castle where the plot’s about figuring out who did it.

My experience in March was nothing like anything that I ever saw on TV. There were no ‘rabbit out of the hat’ surprises. There were no emotional confessions. There were no emotional outbursts whatsoever. It was really quite boring and I was disappointed because I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a bored juror on TV.

Although there were several sales lessons, I’d like to focus on two.

First, the lawyers asked questions and asked questions and asked questions. Some of the questions seemed repetitive, but were asked to see if the witness changed their answer. Some questions were asked against the backdrop of prior answers to prior questions. When the lawyers changed topics, they prepared the witness by saying, let’s explore… and paused to change papers, etc. Then started another drill down. They seldom said anything unless they were introducing evidence and when they wanted to summarize, they asked, so if I understand what you’re saying….. Is that right?

You want to learn how to use questions? Serve on a jury.

As you might expect, the jury was instructed not to discuss the case nor form any opinions until the case was given to us for deliberation and interestingly, that’s the way it happened. The second lesson happened in the deliberation room. Both sides called in experts for testimony for their side. All the exhibits and charts were fact filled and well done. However, several members of the jury thought that an expert that got emotionally involved or defensive about their credentials, position, expert fee, etc. was less credible.

I’ve intentionally left out details and as to whether I was talking about the plaintiff or the defendant because it didn’t matter. Both sides spun the facts and evidence to their benefit which, to me, means that the facts didn’t determine the verdict. The verdict was determined by how much the jury ‘bought’ the lawyers’ and experts’ interpretation of the facts and that the lawyers’ and experts’ presence affected the jury’s view of the facts.

How good are your questions and how good are you at asking them?

How cool and in the moment are you in the heat of a sales call?

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