Generating referrals is an essential part of building a highly profitable book of business. In today’s digital world, word-of-mouth is still how many professionals are hired. Everyone knows it’s important to have a referral network, but the challenge lies in leveraging your existing contacts and creating new ones to build a consistent referral source.
Here are three ways you can build a strong referral network:
1. Build a List and Be Strategic
Start off with a master list of everyone who could potentially provide referrals. You likely have clients or connections who wouldn’t hesitate to give out your name or send a referral your way. Sometimes all it takes is asking, which can seem daunting but those who know your work and have a relationship with you typically respond positively to these requests.
The key is to ask tastefully, without coming across as spammy or rude. It can be as easy as subtly mentioning that your business is built on referrals and you’d really enjoy working with other clients like them. According to an ABA Journal article, educating your current clients and contacts on what a good referral for you would be is equally as important as making the ask.
Finding new referral sources can take some more work. Make a list of potential lawyers who are in non-competing areas and professionals in related verticals and then reach out to them. If you’re having difficulty making connections, reach out to your school’s alumni program to see if there’s anyone local to your area who could be a good referral opportunity.
For someone to refer to you, they need to trust you and feel comfortable that you can provide quality service. To help gain their trust and cultivate a strong relationship, take steps to grow the connection by:
- Sending an email within 1-2 days of meeting them.
- Connect with them within 1-2 days via LinkedIn (and be sure to post regularly so they continue to see your name pop up).
- Calendar a follow-up email with 3-4 weeks to check in.
- Within the first month, schedule time to get together in person one on one, ideally focusing on a more casual event like golf rather than a formal “coffee meeting.” In person may not work for other busy professionals, so a phone call is more than acceptable if that’s all the time they have available.
- Send relevant articles related to your work as they arise.
- Go out of your way to provide at least 1-2 introductions or connections.
2. Reach Out More
Take the initiative to reach out to referral sources whenever possible, whether they’re current referral sources or potential ones. Life gets busy and it can be difficult to remember to stay in touch but these tips can help you stay on top of it:
- Calendar out time to send check-in emails or make “connection” calls to key people in your center of influence.
- Keep an ongoing list of referral sources broken down by interests or profession. Stay on top of industry news and changes and when an interesting article or rule change comes out, send emails individually to these people to alert them. For example, if real estate agents are a huge referral source for you, an article about how mortgage rates are dropping would be an excellent piece of content to send out to your network.
- Schedule one day a week to get lunch or network one on one, rotating through who you meet with.
3. Help, Don’t Sell
Nobody likes to be sold to, so the best way to be the attorney someone refers to is through a solid relationship. Offer to speak at events, send thank yous or birthday cards where appropriate and volunteer when possible. People like others who go out of their way, especially without expecting anything in return.
And don’t forget the golden rule: refer those who refer you. Many times we refer people simply because their service or product is excellent, but it’s always nice to have them send a potential client your way. It shows mutual respect for each of your expertise and fosters goodwill.
Building genuine connections take work, but making a commitment to grow your referral network doesn’t need to be overwhelming. By being strategic and calendaring off time to tackle this initiative you’ll be able to steadily build a group of individuals who will continue to send referrals and business to you. It won’t happen right away but over time you’ll start to see a steady increase in the number of referrals and your profits.