How to approach a prospective referral source

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The Internet presents endless resources for finding people who might become a referral source for you.

They’re out there, in droves.

But once found, how do you approach them? How do you get their attention without appearing needy? How do you start a conversation and bring up the subject of referrals?

How about simply introducing yourself?

Tell them who you are, what you do, and why you are contacting them.

I assume you can handle the who you are and what you do part, but make it brief. One or two sentences. Only enough so they know you’re a fellow professional.

As for why you’re contacting them, well, why are you doing that?

Because you see a connection with them. (If you don’t, contact someone else.) Tell them about the connection.

You found their website or social media profile and see that you and they target the same market. You represent the same types of clients. You offer services that dovetail with theirs. Or they’ve written an article that deals with issues you’ve written about or care about.

Introduce yourself. Mention the connection. Invite them to chat.

“I thought I’d reach out to you, find out more about what you do, tell you more about what I do, and see if there might be a way we could work together.”

If you’re speaking to them on the phone, continue the conversation. Of invite them to meet you for a cup of coffee. If you have contacted them via email, ask, “When would be a good time to chat for a couple minutes?”

You’ve been honest with them, you have suggested a possible benefit to them, and you haven’t pushed.

They’re either interested in speaking to you or they are not. If they’re interested, move forward. If they’re not, move on.

When you talk, ask lots of questions and keep the focus on them. Get them to tell you about what they want or need. What are their goals and plans for the future? What obstacles are in their way?

Look for ways you could help them or their clients, either directly or by introducing them to someone you know.

Then ask, “Who would make a good referral for you?”

Powerful question, that. It tells them you’re serious about working with them.

When it’s your turn, tell them about your practice and tell them who would make a good referral for you. Tell them you’ll send them more information and invite them to do the same.

Is that all you have to do to get business from someone you just met? Usually not. But sometimes, it is. Sometimes, in speaking with you, they think about someone they know who might need your help.

After your chat, send business if you can. Send information about something they want or need or that might benefit their clients. Share marketing ideas with them. Introduce them to vendors and freelancers who can help them. Invite them to write an article for your client newsletter. Offer to interview them for your blog or podcast.

They will (at some point) do the same for you.

There’s more you can do to build a referral relationship. A lot more. But you’ve opened the door and started the process, and that’s the most important part.

Learn what to say and do to get referrals from other professionals, here

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The most valuable skill in a lawyer’s tool chest

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You may not be the best writer or speaker. Your trial skills may not win any awards (or big verdicts). You might be just okay at managing your team or your money. But you can be amazingly successful in your practice if you master this skill.

Actually, it is a set of skills, usually referred to as “client relations”. Which encompasses a lot of things, big and small, but boils down to the ability to make people like you.

Think about it, a prospective client comes to see you. They have a problem. They’re nervous about their case and nervous about you. Can you help them? Are you honest? Will you charge a reasonable fee? Will you be nice and friendly or mean and scary?

All these doubts and fears swirling in their head, making them even more nervous as they open up and tell you about their situation.

Within minutes, they feel better. Relieved. Encouraged. They like you. And trust you. And feel confident that you can help them.

And they hire you on the spot.

Or they don’t. Because you don’t have this skill. In which case, all of your core legal skills, experience, and reputation don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Once the client hires you, they see that you are attentive and work hard to serve them. They see that you appreciate them. They come back to you. And tell others about you.

Or they don’t. Because you didn’t continue to earn their trust or make them feel appreciated.

We’re in the people business and client relations is a set of skills that can make or break your practice. Like any skills, they can be learned.

You can learn how to make people like and trust you. You can learn how to inspire loyalty. And if you’re already good at these things, you can learn to get better.

And you should. Because if you want to build a successful practice, no other skills are as valuable.

Learn how to make people like and trust you

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The easiest way to increase your income

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How much do you spend to acquire a new client?

If you don’t know, go through your paid bills for the last 12-18 months and tag everything marketing-related: advertising, direct mail, websites, networking groups, newsletters, software, outside services, signage, marketing assistants, and everything else.

Add it up. These are your hard costs.

Next, look at your calendar and figure out how much time you spent on marketing activities: networking, writing articles, blog posts, and emails, conducting interviews, creating and delivering presentations, meeting with referral sources, posting on social media, and so on.

Assign a dollar value to that time and add the result to your hard costs.

Take your total marketing expenses and divide by the number of new clients you brought in. The result is your average cost to acquire a new client. If a new client is worth $10,000 to you, you can make an intelligent decision about how much you’re willing to spend to acquire them.

Next, go back and look at the breakdown of your expenses. Assuming you track where new clients come from, (please say you do), you’ll be able to increase your profits by managing your marketing expenses.

If your ads are working, you might increase ad spending. If you’re wasting time with networking, you might cut down on the number of groups you belong to.

By far, the easiest way to increase your income is to focus less on acquiring new clients and more on retaining the clients you already have.

Repeat clients (and the referrals they provide) come to you at very little cost. You’ve already paid to acquire the client. From this point forward, what they pay you is nearly all profit.

Referrals are the quintessence of profitability. Here’s how to get more

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Small but tasty morsels versus a huge buffet

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m a beta tester for a plain text writing app under development. The app still has a way to go, but I’m excited about its future.

I don’t use the app every day, however. I’m using another new plain text app which is further along in the development curve. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this post.

The two apps approach releases differently. With the first app, months go by with no news and then we get a big update.

The second app provides small updates almost every week.

When I get notified that the next update is available, I get excited. Even though the updates are usually minor, I can’t wait to download the app and try it out.

But this isn’t about writing apps or software development. It’s about the psychological effect of frequent updates and why you should use them to connect with your clients and contacts.

Don’t save up all your news and information and send a big newsletter once or twice a year, as many lawyers do. Send shorter messages more often.

A few paragraphs is all you need. Mention the new article on your website. Offer a legal tip. Talk about an interesting case or client. Recommend a book, website, or app.

Say something interesting or entertaining and your clients will look forward to hearing from you.

No, they probably won’t get as excited about your news as I get about updates to writing apps. But whatever level of interest they have will be enhanced by hearing from you often instead of once in awhile.

How to get more clients online

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It’s time for you to come out

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I know, you didn’t go to law school to become a sales person. But guess what? That’s exactly what you are.

When a client hires you, money is paid, services are delivered—a sale takes place. You make that happen. You sell legal services.

Be proud.

You help people. You provide solutions to their problems. You remove or ameliorate their pain. You protect them, make their lives better and safer and more prosperous.

Tell people what you do. Don’t make them guess. Don’t make them ask. Tell them.

You don’t have to be pushy. You don’t have to hard sell, manipulate, or unduly frighten anyone into buying your services.

Just tell them what you can do for them.

Tell them about the problems you solve and the benefits you deliver. Tell them how you have helped other people with the same problems. Tell them what happens when they hire you. Tell them why they should hire you instead of anyone else.

Give them information. Encourage them to contact you if they have questions. Tell them what to do when they’re ready to take the next step.

If you’ve told them all this before, tell them again. Never stop telling them because you never know when someone might be ready to take that next step.

Is there more to selling legal services? Sure. There are techniques that can make the process easier for you and for the client. And you should learn some of those techniques.

But the most important part of selling your legal services is continually telling people how you can help them and that you’re only a click or a phone call away.

Learn the basics of attorney marketing

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If marketing was easier would you do it more?

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Marketing is hard. I don’t have the time. It takes too long to get results. I don’t like [marketing activity]. I’m not good at [marketing activity]. I tried [marketing activity] and it didn’t work. I already do [marketing activity]; I don’t need to do anything else. I’m not a sales person.  I don’t need marketing, I get clients by being a good lawyer.

Wow. You really don’t like marketing.

And yet. . . you want to get more clients and increase your income.

You want to buy nice things and send your kids to good schools. And maybe not work so hard so you can stay healthy and live longer.

Remember free time? You had it once for about two weeks before you started law school. Yeah, some more of that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

And let’s not forget retirement. Crazy, I know. But still. . .

Let’s cut to the chase. You want money and the time to enjoy it. You can have them. Through marketing. That’s how I did it. That’s how you can do it.

What’s that? You say marketing is hard? You don’t like it? You don’t have the time?

Enough with the whining.

Okay, let’s make a deal. If I can show you how to make marketing a little easier, would you agree to do some?

Sweet.

Let’s start with something simple. Like sending birthday cards to your clients. You know, the people who help pay your mortgage?

Yeah, those people.

You already do that? Well look at you, you sly devil. You’re marketing. I won’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret.

Just to make sure, you sign the cards yourself, right? In blue ink so the client knows it’s a real signature? Maybe add a personal note, like, “How did Joey do on that test?” so they know you’re thinking about them and actually wrote the card yourself?

I know, it’s hard. You might have to sign three or four cards a day. Risk getting paper cuts and glue poisoning from licking all those stamps. Yeah, use a real postage stamp, not the meter. And hand-write the name and address on the envelope. No labels.

The personal touch. Showing your clients you know who they are and you appreciate them.

Yes, that’s marketing. A few minutes a day. But oh so powerful.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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You learn to practice law by doing it

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In law school, you learn the law, not how to practice law. You learn that by doing it.

Studying, answering questions under the glaring eye of your professor, and taking tests are important. But only when you start clerking do you begin to learn what it means to practice law.

You watch other lawyers negotiate, argue motions, and take depositions. You draft documents, talk to adjusters, and sit with clients and fill out forms. You immerse yourself in the environment of a real-world practice and do many of the things that lawyers do.

When you pass the bar and take your first job as a lawyer, you do more and learn more. If you open your own practice and have to sink or swim, that’s when you learn the most.

Learning how to practice law is a process and it takes place over time. The same is true of learning how to manage and grow your practice. Unfortunately, not much (or anything) about that is taught in law school. You won’t learn much from clerking, either.

Hiring and supervising employees, billing, insurance, compliance, and 101 other things, but especially marketing, without which you won’t have a practice, all require time to learn and become proficient. It’s up to you to learn it on your own.

And yet, most lawyers don’t take the time to learn these things. They dive in and see what happens.

That’s how I did it. There were no courses on marketing when I began practicing. Very few books. No consultants, at least none that I could afford. I didn’t know any lawyers who were willing to take me under their wing and teach me what to do.

I learned marketing by doing it. And you know what? That works, too.

Today, there are more options that make things easier. Lots of books and courses. You can learn how to set up your own website by watching youtube videos and complete everything in less than an hour. You can hire people to teach you what to do and to do much of it for you.

But you have to do something.

Don’t let a lack of experience stop you. As soon as you know enough to start, start. You’ll figure out the rest as you go along.

Don’t let fear stop you. As Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

But do something. Because you learn how to practice law by doing it.

Start your marketing with the Attorney Marketing Formula

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Laziness is contagious. Here’s why that’s good news

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In their never-ending quest to master the subject, French researchers recently determined that laziness is contagious.

If your co-workers tend to take things slow and easy, you’re likely to pick up on their body language, pace, and other cues, and slow down.

It’s like yawning. When someone else does it, you’re likely to do it, too. Humans are apparently wired to mirror the behavior of those around us.

Anyway, why is this good news? It’s good news because if laziness is contagious, the inverse must also be true. Hang around people who work hard and get things done and you’ll be more likely to do the same.

I used to work with a guy who filled his days with non-stop meetings and phone calls. I spent a day with him once and his pace was exhausting. Just when I thought it was time to wind down our day, off he went making more calls.

I’d never be able to keep up with his pace but if we worked together every day, I’m sure I would get more done than I usually do. Just as laziness is contagious, so is industriousness.

In the study, the researchers asked participants to perform certain tasks in front of other participants. They also tested for traits like risk-taking and patience. They found that most of the participants adjusted their behavior to coincide with what they saw other participants do.

Clearly, our environment plays a significant role in our performance.

This is consistent with the “Law of Association,” which says we become like the people with whom we associate most. We adopt many of their habits, opinions, and behaviors. Our achievements and income tend to parallel theirs.

Think about the five people you associate with most and you’ll probably see that this is so.

The lesson is that if you want to achieve more, you should spend more time with high achievers. If you want to increase your income, insinuate yourself into the lives of people who earn more.

Spend more time with people who have what you want and less time with people who don’t.

Learn how to get more referrals from someone who knows how to get more referrals

 

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For things to change, you have to change

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We all see the world through a lens of our experiences, beliefs, and habits. We see what we want to see and (mostly) do what we want to do. Our lives follow a familiar pattern and unless we do something different, we continue to get the same results.

No change, no growth.

Jim Rohn said, “For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. When you grow, everything in your life grows with you.”

Change starts by acquiring new information and different experiences.

Look at the books on your shelf or in your Kindle. Are you reading the same types of books you usually read? How about exposing yourself to some new ideas?

Look at your weekend calendar. Are you going to the same places and doing the same things? How about trying something different?

Look at the people in your life. The odds are you share many of the same opinions and beliefs. How about making some new friends?

Change can be difficult. Painful, even. But you don’t have to take a giant leap and hope for the best, you can ease into it by first changing your perspective. As Dr. Wayne Dyer put it, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

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It’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you earn

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In Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” Lord Darlington defined a cynic as “a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”.

Not all lawyers are cynics, of course, but many lawyers focus too much on the cost of building their practice and too little on the potential return.

They pinch pennies that might earn a nice profit. They avoid “spending” billable hours executing strategies that might earn them a fortune.

They don’t want to lose money or waste time and their aversion to these risks clouds their vision and stifles their growth.

I know. When I finally started making money in my practice, I lost thousands of dollars to some people I thought I could trust. Having been broke for so long, the loss rattled me and I was afraid to take a chance on losing more.

I shared what happened with a doctor I knew who pointed out that the losses were simply a cost of doing business, that I should accept them and move on. “At the end of the year, if you made more money than you spent or lost, that’s what counts,” he said.

And he was right. Most of what I was doing was working. My practice was profitable and growing, despite the losses and expenses.

It was an important lesson for me, and maybe for you, too. In building a practice, our task isn’t to avoid all risk but to intelligently manage those risks and maximize our return.

If you are too focused on the costs of building your practice, if the idea of losing money or wasting time is an anathema to you, I encourage you to find a way let go of your fear and get comfortable taking more risk.

Because without risk there is no reward. And because it’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you earn.

Referrals provide an excellent return on investment. Here’s how to get more

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