A time for giving . . . . . .(referrals) - Giles Watson
refer, referrals, business development, giving
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A time for giving . . . . . .(referrals)

(Am I too early with the Xmas theme? No, I thought not!)

The rules of referrals have changed a lot in recent years. Where referrals used to be reactive, informal, occasional, non-exclusive and personal, they are now  proactive, formal, strategic, exclusive, and commercial/organisational, with practices increasingly locking themselves into to strategic alliances with other lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and more.

One golden rule of referrals that remains, however, is that those that give (more), usually get more. The logic of this is quite simple: by giving referrals you not only generate gratitude (and greed?), but also raise awareness, which in turn leads to reciprocity.

It’s a shame therefore that so many law practices seem to exhaust their time and energy on different approaches to ‘getting’ referrals before they look at how they can give more and better referrals. Here are a few ideas:

1) Listen for referral needs

Use the client interview and all other client discussions to try and identify client needs that others could help with. Every client presents an opportunity for you to refer them to someone else. Every referral out can prompt at least one referral back in. Grab your opportunities.

2) Listen for client skills and expertise

At the same time, find out more about what your clients (domestic and commercial) do for their clients. Could they help any of your other clients? Would they appreciate a referral?

3) Build a database of service providers

You’re not going to remember everything, so build a database of contacts that can help your clients. The fact that you know and can recommend someone who can help with ‘XXX’, will build your trusted advisor status as well.

4) Give high quality referrals.

Don’t just throw a name out there:

  • explain why your client can be confident in going to them.
  • provide contact details directly (via email or card)
  • connect people on LinkedIn
  • (or best of all) ask whether it is OK for the person or business you are referring to call your client (then set this up)

5) Tell the person you’ve referred right away

Provide as much information as possible about the prospect, and any relevant information about the product or service the prospect is looking for.

6) Follow-up

Touch base with both parties (referrer and referred) to check if they are doing business and are happy.

7) Performance-manage the giving of referrals

Encourage your staff to give high quality referrals, and measure how many are given, and any reciprocation.

8) Enquiries re other legal services

As specialisation grows, nearly all law practices receive enquiries about work they don’t do. These are golden opportunities and provide you with an opportunity to refer to another practice. These relationships are best managed in the form of strategic alliances with the aim being to receive an enquiry back for every referral you send out.

9) Be strategic

Be strategic about where you send your referrals. If you have provided a number of high quality referrals to ‘X’, but received nothing in return, something is not working. Find out why, and consider sending referrals somewhere else. Make sure you get a return on your referral-giving investment.

So, as we enter the season of giving and you start thinking about what gifts you can get for your favourite contacts, why not work on getting them something they’d really appreciate. Then think how amazing it would be if you could give them the same sort of gift throughout the year, not just at Xmas!

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