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BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

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Economic Changes Call for Tactical Adjustments – Especially Now, Relationships Are the Key to Good Referrals

Moved to: Economic Changes Call for Tactical Adjustments

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.

Raymond Chip Lambert
Network 2 Networth
Your Outsourced Business Development Training Partner

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3 comments:

  1. dawntrenee said...
     

    Referrals is the top result behind business social networking. Thanks for the article and tips.

  2. Johanna Roach said...
     

    I completely agree with your point of view. Good solid client relationshios is the key for any business to succeed.

  3. Business Consultant said...
     

    Thank you for your blog post. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. College seniors are getting ready to launch into the workforce, but many have never been taught how to make, grow and keep the business relationships that will ensure a long-term and successful career.I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work.

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