Economic Changes Call for Tactical Adjustments – Especially Now, Relationships Are the Key to Good Referrals
Labels: business development, customers, get more business, getting referrals from customers, marketing, network development, networking, referral marketing, referrals, sales, sources of business
In these uncertain economic times, my experience tells me that there are still people out there who need your services. But because they are more concerned with getting the best value for their increasingly scarce resources, they turn to the people they trust to introduce them to professionals who deliver value.
Said another way, referrals are how good business gets done when times get challenging.
Who are your best referrers?
Have you thanked them?
Have you reached out to find out how you can help them?
Are you relying on a small group of people to refer you or have you systematically positioned yourself to be the recipient of your perfect referral over and over again?
Or are you still relying on a random stream of referrals?
I’ve been advising my clients to get proactive. Especially now. Because even if only 25% of their business comes from referral, if that business dries up and goes to someone else, they are in trouble.
Take action now!
1. Audit your last 3 years of clients.
Determine to the best of your ability where each piece of business came from. What did it add to your top-line revenues? What did it add to your overall profitability? What source stands out as needing immediate attention? If it is a person or a firm, what’s the current state of your relationship?
One client who did this exercise noticed that there were several distinct groups of people who referred him business. He broke them up into areas – real estate, import/export and invited them to a luncheon at his office. He introduced them all to each other and had them share what they needed to be successful – resources, contacts, etc. He shared the same thing – and his practice grew 30% in under 6 months.
2. Connect with your referral sources.
Cement your relationships. You know what needs to be done. Do it. Don’t put it off. In the current economic climate, those relationships can be the access to your very best clients – because those sources have social capital behind their recommendations and provide social proof that you are the attorney with whom they should be speaking.
I spoke on the phone this morning with another client who had changed firms and never reconnected with old sources of referrals. She shared that just by picking up the phone and reaching out to people who used to send her cases, she increased her business immediately – one sent her a new case that morning.
Connecting frequently and consistently is the key to staying top of mind. Enlist your staff to help you make this happen.
3. Actively reproduce your best referral sources.
Take a look at the characteristics of your best referral sources. What is their profession? Do they belong to a specific professional association? Get clear about which are your best sources and begin recruiting new ones just like them. LinkedIn® is a great resource for this project. If you don’t know how to use it – Learn.
Think about what would happen to your practice and your pocketbook if you added a zero to the number of people who actively refer you your ideal client. Come up with a project to build 20-30 relationships who can keep you and your firm busy and profitable.
4. Develop a regular touch strategy.
I know you are busy. All professionals are. But the most productive have systems in place that allow them to accomplish the repetitive tasks that create continuity in relationship. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” can wreak havoc on your referrability. Set – or have your staff set – lunches at regular intervals. Get a system to regularly send out birthday and anniversary cards. Involve your support staff in collecting and sending clippings of pertinent articles or snippets of what they read in on-line news. The key here is to stay ‘top-of-mind’ while you deepen the relationship.
5. Train your referral sources
You know what you do. But do your referral sources? Really? Ask them what they think you do. You’ll be surprised at some of the responses. If your sources don’t know what you do and who is best to send your way, chances are referral quality is poor.
Most importantly, get clear which problems you solve that keep your clients up at night – from their perspective, not yours. “I’m a intellectual property attorney” is very different from “I help the creative protect and defend their million dollar ideas.”
Draft a document which illustrates what you do (not just a list of services) and for whom. Clearly articulate who your ideal clients are and then share that with your sources. Encourage them to do the same for you.
Building reciprocity builds relatedness. Relatedness is a trigger for referrals.
6. Develop a stable of professionals that you can refer – and refer them.
Referrals out can be tricky for some attorneys. The concern about liability is one I often hear from my clients. However, reciprocity doesn’t work if you don’t refer out. One of my clients dealt with his concern this way – when he passes a referral he uses this disclaimer – “I recommend X – s/he’s done a great job for my clients in the past. You should do your own due diligence, though, as s/he’s not always a fit for everyone.”
You do not serve all your clients’ needs. You can position yourself, in their minds, to do so by developing a stable of reliable professionals who serve those needs which you do not, and educating your clients as to their availability. Listen for opportunities to refer. Be known as a resource for your clients AND as a referrer by your key sources.
7. Repeat this process
Referral development is a process, not an event. Relationships are not event driven and credibility is something that is built – over time. If you have three to five hours a week – think lunches and breakfasts – you can easily roll this out over a year long program. It takes some planning and discipline, but the payoff far exceeds the perceived pain.
It takes something to alter results you are currently getting. The biggest hurdle you will have to conquer is the belief that you “don’t have the time” or that you are “too busy” to do something different.
The most productive and profitable firms have handled these conversations and developed the skills and the networks to consistently land the right kind of profitable business.
I encourage you to do the same.
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I recently spoke at the Increase Sales with Social Media conference in San Diego with David Carleton (@DavidCarleton) Denise Wakeman (@blogsquad) of the Blog Squad, Mari Smith (@MariSmith) of Facebook fame, Paul Colligan (@colligan) - Social Media Strategist, and Warren Whitlock (@warrenwhitlock) of Twitter fame. I'll write more about what I learned in a future post.
But the thing that sticks in my mind was that the place was "tweeting" like mad.
Now, I had been on Twitter.com for some time. But I had no idea about the power of the platform.
For those of you new to Twitter, it is a micro-blogging platform (you have 140 characters to get your message out) which allows you to follow key people in your networks and to build a following of friends, fans, customers, and partners.
Imagine this - as each speaker was presenting, people from the audience were taking the gems and sending them out to the people in their Twitter network. And a buzz got created out in the real world about what was happening in a conference center in San Diego.
Think about that. People built a following on Twitter, and then fed them with valuable information that they were getting at a conference which their followers couldn't or didn't attend. Talk about delivering value & building customer and partner intimacy.
This is something that savvy business development people have been doing for years offline - and now they can do it online - and deliver incredible value to the stakeholders in their success.
I also learned about a few cool management tools to keep up on what was happening in the Twitterverse.
- Tweetdeck - this platform allows me to search for exact terms out in the Twitterverse and respond personally to people who have an interest or ask questions in my area of expertise. I have been steadily building a following by doing just that. One of my students, Anita Leafty, introduced me to it.
- Twitter Search - Search allows you to do much the same as above, but doesn't update automatically like Tweetdeck. Very powerful, however, to find people who are interested in areas in which you have interest.
- Hash Marks - If you want to be able to easily aggregate information or a flow of information, us the "#" followed by a short moniker. For example, the ISSM conference was #ISSM (go ahead, Twitter-Search it). I've started #LinkedInTips, #BizDevTips (go ahead, check them out too)
- Direct Messaging - While some people dislike it, DM, as it is referred to, allows you to send a special message directly to someone on Twitter, much like an email. This helps when you have something private to say and don't have their email address. Very Useful
- Socialtoo.com - This service allows me to follow the people who follow me and to send them a special thank you message. As my following grows, it can be time consuming to do all the followup. This program automates the process. Now I just go and change the message every few days.
- Mr Tweet - A very cool service that tells me who I should be following given my "tweet" content and the people I follow & who they follow. Very good for network building and visibility.
Results, you ask?
I've been booked to speak at several more conferences (I'll keep you in the loop); I had more sales come through for our LinkedIn Training Webinars from people who have followed me; Jack Canfield is now following me (wow - what an honor!); And with some generous help from Mari Smith and folks in the Twitterverse, I now have close to 300 people following me - in less than a week.
And I'm just starting to get the hang of this.
I HIGHLY recommend that you start to learn about Twitter. It can revolutionize the way you interact with, build, and leverage your network.
Find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/chiplambert73
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Labels: business development, linkedin, productivity, Productivity Tools, sources of business
Instead of having to fish through thousands of emails in your inbox, or setting up complex rules - that sometime work, sometimes don't work - Xobni's add-on to outlook shows you all the key data related to your contact, the communication you've had with that contact, and the documents that you've exchanged between you.
All this happens outside of Outlook itself - in Xobni's indexing process. This means that you can preview all of these pieces of the interaction jungle before you need to open any relevant communications.
You can easily search for people with their built in search bar and it calculate the pattern for when you receive emails from the contact. That way you know when you are most likely to catch them at their computer. The analytics tell you how many emails you've sent, how many you've received, and ranks the contact via the number of communications you've had. .
Are you interacting enough with the key people in your network? Quite an eye opener
Another very cool function is the "Schedule time with" link. It will check your Outlook calendar and open up an email with your availability for the next 5 business days so you can send it to your contact to set meeting. Very Handy!
Xobni also has a built-in LinkedIn function which allows you to click right over to a contact's LinkedIn Profile.
All in all a very handy tool
A special thanks to N2N Student Toni Allen who called me raving about it's functionality.
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Labels: Attorneys, business development, business networking, Facebook, get more business, getting referrals from customers, law firm marketing, linkedin, positioning, The Rainmaker Advisor
Originally published in the inaugural Edition of The Rainmaker Advisor - for attorneys
Let’s face it – you’re busy. You may even fall under the classification of “very busy”. When it comes to developing business, you are faced with all kinds of options: a website, blogging, networking, referrals from current clients. The question is often where do I start? And how do I manage the ethical considerations? Especially because I’m so busy.
My advice – start with what you’ve already got. Then leverage it.
Enter LinkedIn.com, a free online social networking site for professionals.
Unlike Facebook.com or Myspace.com, LinkedIn® focuses on a business demographic1:
- Average Age – 41;
- Average Years of Experience – 15;
- Average Household Income – $109,000;
- 46% of it’s users are Decision Makers;
- Executive from All Fortune 500 companies are represented inside LinkedIn®.
These are folks who use legal services.
I train my clients to view LinkedIn® as a technological backbone to place underneath their already existing network of relationships. With 21 million people using the service, you may be surprised to find that many of the people that you know professionally are already users.
Add three levels of depth (seeing who your contacts know, and who their contacts know) and a search engine to explore those resources, and you have an extremely valuable resource to leverage.
By having a systematic approach, you can use this free service to become a magnet for referrals, business opportunities, and profitable alliances.
Here are the Seven Steps for Using LinkedIn® as a Business Development Magnet:
1. Perfect your Profile
Your LinkedIn® Profile is an online hub for Business Development Objectives. A well designed profile lets your contacts, prospective clients, and prospective referral sources know who you are, what you do, and what you are looking to accomplish. Make sure that you spend plenty of time perfecting it. Fill out all of your education. Fill out your past employment and experience. People feel like they know you when you disclose those things. Because LinkedIn is a Social Media, you want to bring down the barriers that people experience to getting to know you and your firm. This step is critical.
2. Learn the system
The power of LinkedIn® is the platform. The social software allows you to do advanced searches, connect to your current websites and blogs, promote your profile to current connections and people who could be connections, answer questions of users who are looking for someone like you and your firm, etc. Understanding the capabilities of LinkedIn® will allow you to leverage them once you’ve built out your network in their system.
3. Reach out to people you already know and build your network
You’ve spent a lifetime making connections. You already belong to multiple networks: your firm, your law school, your alma mater, your professional organizations, your place of worship, the PTA. All of these people know people. They all have connections that have potential value to you. And you have connections that have potential value to them. By reaching out to your already existing contacts, you will quickly reproduce your existing networks and be ready to use the technology to explore the opportunities that already exist in your first level connections, as well as your second and third level connections. You will never know if you don’t build it.
4. Get strategic
Know exactly what you want to accomplish. Write out your Business Development Objectives clearly and concisely such that anyone who read them could tell if you reached them or not. Are they specific? Are they measurable? Once you are clear, consider that you have an enormous network of resources available to you via your LinkedIn® network. Now answer the following questions:
- · How are you positioned with the people in your network?
- · Do they really know what you and your firm offer? If not, why not?
- · How could you communicate that to them?
- · Does your firm have a newsletter? Put a link in your profile so people can subscribe.
- · Do you blog? Via your profile you can direct people to your blog so they can read more about you.
- · Who refers you on a regular basis and why?
- · Do you have enough of these people in your network?
- · Do the people you know have contacts that could be referring you?
- · Do you know the characteristics of the people who refer you?
Once you have the answers, look newly at the network you’ve built. You will see opportunities that you didn’t see before. They were always there. Now leverage them.
5. Use the system to manage relationships
The advanced features contained in the toolbars that LinkedIn® offers give you powerful tools to manage your interactions with the people in your network. Download them and learn to use them. You can keep track of birthdays and overlooked emails. You can get updates from the people in your network as their profile information changes. You can keep track of your searches. Via a scan of your regular emails, you can find new people to connect with and continue to build and cultivate your network.
6. Reach out to meet new people through your contacts
Once you’ve built out your network and cultivated deeper relationships with the people you already know, begin to browse their networks. Look to see if they know people that will help you achieve your Business Development Objectives. You can even do deep, specific searches to find experts, vendors, specific people, and specific companies. Using the built in features of LinkedIn®, reach out to those people through the people that you already know. Use some of that Social Capital that you’ve built up with people. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to help you achieve your goals.
7. Be Consistent
The key to any Business Development strategy is consistency. Schedule 10 minutes a day for the next 90 days to work inside the LinkedIn® system. Not only will you find it enjoyable discovering new sources of business, but you will also build a habit that will transfer into your day-to-day habits and translate into a profitable world of new opportunities.
Social Networking is not a new thing. Professionals have been doing it from the dawn of commerce. Social Networking Software like LinkedIn, however, provides an opportunity to take those networks you’ve built over a lifetime and put them to use.
By developing a systematic approach to developing your network, and a technological backbone to uncover the hidden connections contained in that network, you have the opportunity to set yourself apart from other firms, and produce the kinds of result that Senior Partners in the big firms produce on a regular basis.
In our next article, we’ll address privacy concerns, ethical concerns, and demonstrate how LinkedIn®’s system is built to handle this.
Meanwhile, enjoy building what will likely be one of the best Business Development tools you will ever encounter.
Raymond Chip Lambert, of Network2Networth, is a Business Development expert who works exclusively with seasoned professionals to leverage their existing relationships through time tested Business Development strategies and online Social Media strategy thereby unlocking the value of their existing network connections. He can be reached at 602-635-4541 or www.network2networth.com.
One of the beauties of having a wide and diverse network is that I get some great things in my mailbox.
Gary Freed, a Partner of Valuation and Forensic Services at Clifton Gunderson, CPAs, and also colleague of mine who sat on the East Valley Board of the University of Arizona Alumni Association, sent me an email with this telling look at the financial mess.
(click for a larger picture)
Always one for proper attribution, with a little work I found the author to be Mark "Spumoni" Slavonia.
Makes you wonder where we're heading.