When clients are afraid to refer

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A subscriber says, “Sometimes it feels as if clients don’t want to refer, because they want to keep you to themselves.”

He suggests that it might be “concern about either conflicts of interest (“If I refer my contacts, and later have a dispute. . .”) OR, out of concerns about the lawyer getting too busy, too expensive, etc.”

On the first point, about (business) clients who hesitate to refer because the party they refer might later come after them for something and they won’t be able to hire you to defend them, I have a couple of thoughts.

First, it sounds like we’re talking about former clients because if they’re current clients, the conflict of interest laws help them. If they refer a vendor or party who later sues them, those parties probably won’t be able to hire you for that purpose.

And I would point that out.

Besides, if the client has a good relationship with their vendors or partners, why wouldn’t they want to help them?

Helping them is good for business.

“If you can help your vendors and partners stay out of trouble and save money by referring them to a great lawyer, you’ll be able to do more business with them.”

And then there is the gratitude factor. Help out your contacts and when you need something, they’ll help you.

If a client is still concerned about this, you might give them the option of paying you a (nominal) monthly retainer to remain an active client.

Now, I was going to say I don’t think most lawyers need to worry about this issue because I don’t think most clients aren’t concerned about it. And then I remembered that the attorney who posed this question works in the entertainment field and we all know those people aren’t normal.

It’s an industry that thrives on “knowing people” and referrals are an important part of that. But when it comes to lawyers, I can see how some people would get possessive and maybe even a bit paranoid about losing “their” lawyer.

If you have clients like that, I’m not sure what you can tell them. Maybe talk to them about referring people they know who don’t pose a potential threat to them. Someone they don’t do business with, or someone in another industry. Hey, maybe their grandma needs a lawyer.

As to the second point, that clients hesitate to refer business to you out of concerns that you might get too busy for them, or too successful and expensive, I have to say this does happen. It’s much ado about nothing, but clients are weird and some of them think this way.

I’d address this head on and tell them they have nothing to worry about. You might say, “You know, some clients I talk to about referrals have the silly notion that if they send me a lot of clients I might get too busy for them. I want you to know that won’t happen; here’s why. . .”

Explain that the busier you get, the more support staff you’re able to hire, which frees up more of your time to work directly with clients.

“Ironically, the busier I get, the more time I’ll be able to devote to you,” you can say, and it is true. More staff, and more staff to supervise them.

You should also point out that the more referrals you get, the less you need to spend on other time-consuming and expensive marketing methods. That means you’ll not only have more time for them, you’ll be able to hold down the fees you charge them. “You wouldn’t mind paying me less, would you?”

Show them that their referrals help you to do a better job for your clients. Especially the clients who send you lots of referrals.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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Everyone you know can give you referrals

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Many lawyers don’t realize that everyone they know can give them referrals. Even if their client or contact doesn’t know anyone who needs the lawyer’s services, they know people who know people who do.

Your client or personal friend has an accountant or insurance agent who can send you referrals. Or they know someone who knows a business owner who knows an accountant or insurance agent.

It’s the old “six degrees of separation” idea.

One of the smartest things you can do with the people you know is to find out who they know. You can then ask for an introduction or permission to use their name when you contact them yourself.

Start with your client intake forms. Add language prompting new clients to identify their insurance broker, accountant, and financial planner (or whatever is appropriate for your practice).

When you speak with a client or business contact, ask them if they know any (real estate brokers, restaurant owners, physicians, other attorneys, or whatever). Explain that you get a lot of business by networking with other professionals and you’re always looking to meet new people.

Contact the people they identify and introduce yourself. Tell them that you have a mutual client or friend. Ask them to tell you about their business or practice and tell them briefly about yours. Stay in touch with your new contacts. Some of them will send you referrals.

This is one of the easiest ways to expand your referral network and you don’t even have to leave the office.

Everyone you know knows people who can send you referrals or introduce you to people who can. Get in the habit of asking everyone, “Who do you know?” and watch your practice grow.

Learn what to say and what to send your new contacts here and here

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How much detail do you have in your lawyer referral database?

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I got a call from an old friend the other day. She was injured and wanted to know if I could help her find an attorney. I live in California, she’s in Virginia, but fortunately, I knew some attorneys near her.

I emailed an attorney friend in her city and asked if he could help. He replied, “I can find you the right person. Let me know the nature of the claim: medical malpractice? Vehicular collision? Police shooting? Premises liability? There are different lawyers who would be best, depending on the cause.”

I wrote back, gave him more details, and he provided me with two names and phone numbers which I passed along to my injured friend.

If she is able to hire an attorney through this referral:

  1. My friend will get the help she needs from a lawyer who is right for the job
  2. The attorney who takes the case will have a new client
  3. My attorney friend gets the credit for making the referral, and
  4. I get the satisfaction of helping put this together.

I knew my friend was well-connected. He is a great lawyer and a consummate marketer. What I didn’t know is how much he knows about the lawyers on his list.

Knowing what the lawyers on your list do best allows you to be a better matchmaker. That increases the odds of a successful referral and saves everyone a lot of time.

There’s a lesson here, aside from the obvious one that lawyers should keep a list of other lawyers to whom they can refer. It is the value of taking the time to get to know more about them—what they do best, what kinds of cases or clients they prefer, which ones they won’t take—because as you learn this information about them, you prompt them to learn the same information about you.

In your lawyer database, don’t stop with just practice areas. Dig. Ask questions. Get a description of their ideal client. And then give them yours.

Learn more about getting referrals from other lawyers

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Extreme vetting of lawyers

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I got an email from a lawyer who had a bad experience with a referral to another lawyer who mishandled the case (and the client). She’s feeling gun shy now about giving referrals and wants to know what she might do to vet lawyers before sending them any business.

First, let me point out that most lawyers do a decent job most of the time so there is no need to panic or stop referring because one lawyer messed up. It happens, we deal with it, and we move on.

In choosing lawyers to whom you will refer, do what you might do if you were going to hire them yourself. Start with obvious due diligence measures: check with the bar for discipline and complaints, search online to dig up any dirt, review their web site(s) and examine their experience and other qualifications.

Make sure they have sufficient staff to handle the job and carry E and O insurance.

You might give them extra points for expert certification, serving as an arbitrator or judge pro tem, teaching CLE, bar association committees, awards, and so on.

In addition, you may want to

  • Talk to other lawyers who know them, including opposing counsel and judges who have seen them in action
  • Read articles they have written and articles that were written about them. Get a sense of their world view, processes, communication skills, and personality.
  • Run a credit check and/or a background check if there’s a lot at stake or your Spidey-sense is telling you there’s something wrong

If you’re still not sure, have a chat with them. Tell them you want to make sure they’re the right lawyer for the job. Anyone who is qualified should respect that.

You might ask them to fill out a questionnaire, something like the ones E and O carriers use, where they are asked to disclose their calendaring and conflict checking systems and other safeguards and to disclose any malpractice lawsuits against them. Check with your carrier because some require this information as a prerequisite to defending a claim against you for a negligent referral.

While you’re at it, consider whether your client will be comfortable with the lawyer’s personality and style. Not every competent lawyer is a good match for every client.

Start by referring small matters, so you can see how they handle them and how they treat the client. Stay involved with the case, not to micro-manage it but as a second pair of eyes on behalf of the client. They are still your client, after all. Check in with them regularly, to see how things are progressing and to look for signs of trouble. Make sure they know to contact you if they have any questions or concerns.

Bottom line: do your homework but don’t let a bad experience with one lawyer unduly color your judgment in choosing others.

Get more referrals from other lawyers

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What to do with a referral source who isn’t referring?

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What do you do when a referral source isn’t referring?

The wrong thing to do, of course, is to push them. Point out that they haven’t referred much lately or that their numbers have fallen off. Or that they “owe” you.

That’s probably not going to work. In fact, it could easily backfire by alienating them and causing them to do even less.

No, the best way to get a referral source to refer more is to assume (until you learn otherwise) that he is doing all that he can and then help him to be able to do more.

In other words, help his business or practice grow so he will have more customers or clients to refer.

You can do that by introducing him to some of your business contacts who might be able to send him business, make introductions, or open doors to speaking or networking opportunities.

You can feature his business or practice or his products or services on your website and in your newsletter.

You can recommend marketing experts or vendors, or share information you’ve found (books, courses, blogs) that could help him get more clients or bigger clients.

And you can send him some referrals of your own. No, he won’t be able to refer those clients back to you but those clients might refer other clients to him, which he can refer to you. Also, the cash flow your referrals generate might allow him to expand his business in other areas.

But here’s the thing. Even just offering to help him could make a difference. How many other lawyers do that?

Show him you’re trying to help him and when he’s able to refer more, you can bet that you’ll be number one on his list.

Get more referrals from lawyers, other professionals and business owners: click here

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Referral cards for the win

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On the counter in my dentist’s waiting room, prominently featured, is a supply of referral cards. They are full-color, glossy, and about 50% bigger than a regular business card. They are folded in half, creating four panels.

On the front panel is a stock photo of a (smiling) family. Under the photo, it says, “Care Enough to Share”. Under that, it says, “New Patient Gift Card”.

When you open the card, the upper panel’s headline says, “Valuable Offer To New Patients”. Under this, it says, “The referral of a friend or family member to our office is one of the finest compliments our patients can give us. We welcome you to become part of our practice.” (Remember, these are meant to be given to prospective new patients.)

The next paragraph presents a special offer (exam, x-rays, cleaning). The fee ($99) is large, centered and written in dark red. Under that, in smaller print, it says that the regular fee is $298.

The next panel has four bullet points that describe the practice: highly skilled dentists, friendly and caring staff, convenient hours and location, that sort of thing.

Under the bullet points are three “blanks” for the referring party to fill out: “Presented to,” “Referred by,” and “Expires”. Ostensibly, the referring patient fills out the first two, and the dentist’s office fills out the third one if they want an expiration date on the special offer.

These are followed by the names of the two dentists, address, phone number (large and in dark blue), and finally, the practice’s web site.

Turn the card over and the fourth panel has a map of the office, the practice’s name, the dentists’ names, and the office address. Finally, it says, “Call Today!” (large) and provides the phone number. Under that, once again, is the practic’s web site.

The card is colorful and professionally produced. It’s a simple concept: a special offer for new patients and the suggestion that as a current patient, you are “allowed” to bestow this offer on your family and friends.

I’ve talked about referral cards before. It’s an idea that just about any consumer or small business attorney can use. Once you have these made up, you can display them on a desk or counter and let them go to work for you. Or you can point them out to your clients and encourage them to use them.

You can also put a small supply in your “new client” kit, or mail them to clients once or twice a year.

You can also use referral cards to offer information. A Special Report or ebook, available on your website, for example. You can offer this in addition to a special offer on services or a free consultation, or to offer the information by itself.

When your clients take one or more cards, they might not have someone in mind to give them to but it should get them thinking about who they know who might benefit. It also tells your clients that referrals are normal, expected, and appreciated, planting a “referral seed” in their mind.

Referral cards are a simple, inexpensive way to promote your practice, stimulate referrals, and build your email list, and I encourage you to use them.

Learn more about referral cards and other “referral devices” here

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Know, like, trust, rinse, repeat

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You’ve heard it before: “All things being equal, clients prefer to hire attorneys they know, like, and trust”.

You need all three but let’s take a minute and talk about “know”.

In a sense, it is the easiest of the three because it is the simplest. The more people who know you, the more clients you are likely to get. Assuming you are reasonably likable and trustworthy, getting more people to know you is the 20% activity that brings you 80% of your results.

Note that it’s not necessarily how many people you know, it’s how many people know you. How many recognize your name? How many people who go looking for an attorney will find you?

It’s called exposure.

One of the best ways to get more exposure is to leverage the contacts of influential people in your target market.

Centers of interest in your community. Professionals, executives, business owners. People who run blogs and video channels. Authors, consultants, and sales people who write for, sell to, or advise people in your target market.

They can give you direct referrals. They can publish your guest post on their blog or in their newsletter. They can interview you for their podcast or video channel. They can promote your seminar, become an affiliate for your book or course, and promote your free report to their subscribers.

They can give you exposure to a large number of prospective clients. Even better, they can influence them to follow you and hire you. When they promote you, or even just mention you to their clients, readers, and contacts, they are impliedly endorsing you.

That’s the best kind of exposure you can get.

Do yourself a favor and get to know more people like that. Start by asking your existing professional contacts to introduce you to other professionals in their line of work.

You still have work to do with these new contacts but the most important part is done. Thanks to your mutual friend, they now know you. They’ll take your call and reply to your email. You’re on your way to getting their contacts to know, like, and trust you.

How to get referrals and other help from attorneys and other professionals: here

 

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Getting referrals without breaking a sweat

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See, I get it. You don’t want to ask your clients or professional contacts for referrals. Even though I’ve shown you more than a few easy and natural ways to do that, you’d rather swallow a cup of nails than ask anyone to send you some business.

Alrighty then. Be that way. But let me show you another option.

Instead of asking people to refer clients to you, ask them to refer those folks to your content. Or more accurately, share that content with them and ask them to do the same.

Have you ever shared a video you like on Youtube or Flakebook? Have you ever shared a blog post or article with someone you think might like it, too? Of course you have. And you will continue to do that because we’re humans and humans like to share.

Why not do the same thing with your own content?

Tell folks about yur article and ask them to share it. Ask your clients to forward the link to your new report to anyone who might benefit from the information. Ask them to hit the share button on your blog post or youtube video.

When you’re networking and someone asks a legal question, give them a page on your website that addresses that issue.

People come to your website, consume your content, see that you know what you’re doing, and before you know it, you have some new clients.

Easy.

Your content shows people what you do and how you can help them or people they know. Your content sells them on hiring you, so you don’t have to. All you have to do is get your content out into the world and ask people to share it.

The catch? You have to have some content to share. You have to write something or record something that prospective clients want to consume.

So do that. And then share it.

Let me show you how easy this is.

Do you know a lawyer who might want to get more clients and increase his or her income? Forward this email to them so they can see that getting referrals is easy. Add a note to the top: “Joe, thought you might like this”.

(If you’re reading this on my blog, click the share button and send it that way).

Done and done.

See, that wasn’t difficult?

Now, go write something and share it.

More easy ways to get referrals

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You can stop marketing if you do THIS

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You can forget about blogging. Speaking. Networking. You’ll never have to run another ad, write another article, or push out another post on social media. Unless you’re a brand new lawyer just starting your practice, you can stop all of your other marketing efforts if you want to, if you’re willing to do one thing.

It’s what I did when I was practicing and it allowed me to build a successful practice in a short period of time. It is the quintessential method of growing a professional practice and you’re already using it to some extent.

You may know this magic elixir by its generic name: referrals. You get them now, don’t you? If you’re like most lawyers, however, you could be getting more.

A lot more.

Your clients and business contacts know people who need your services, or who will need your services eventually, and they are willing to send them to you. They also know people who know people who need your services, aka, other professionals and business contacts, and they are willing to introduce them to you.

So, why not let the people you know do your marketing for you?

You can do that by making it easier for them to send you referrals, by creating forms and letters and a simple system for getting them into their hands.

You can get more referrals by mailing or emailing or handing out a letter that does everything for you. You don’t have to say anything more than, “here”.

If you do good work and treat your clients well, they want to help you. They also want to help the people they know who need your services.

Instead of merely waiting for them to figure out what to do, give them a letter that spells it out. Make it easier for them to refer and you will get more referrals.

You can read all about it here and here.

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The best way to get more referrals

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The best way to get more referrals is to ask for referrals.

Hold on, I know you don’t want to do that. I know the idea makes you uncomfortable. Asking for referrals makes you sound needy. Sales-y. Unprofessional. You’ve tried it but your mouth went dry and you stumbled over the words. So you don’t do it or you don’t do it much.

I can help.

I can show you ways to ask for referrals in a way that won’t make you uncomfortable. I can also show you how to ask for referrals without actually asking.

Without asking? Yes. You won’t have to say a word.

How is this possible? As I describe in my two referral marketing courses, Maximum Referrals (about getting referrals from clients and prospects) and Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals (about getting referrals from lawyers and other professional contacts) you do it with a “referral letter”.

Your referral letter spells out how you can help people who might need your services. It shows the reader how to recognize people who would make a good referral for you. And it shows them the best way to make the referral to you.

Have you ever wondered why people who could send you referrals don’t do it? One reason is that they don’t know how.

Do they give the client your card? Do they send them to your website? Do they call you themselves and give you the referral’s information?

Your referral letter solves this problem by spelling out the simplest and easiest way to connect you with referrals. When you make it easier for people to send you referrals, more people will send you referrals.

Once your referral letter is written, most of your work is done. From that point forward, your job is to make sure that every client and former client, every professional contact and potential referral source, receives a copy of your referral letter.

Distributing your referral letter to clients is simple. Just send it. Have extra copies printed to include in your new client welcome kit and to give clients when they are in the office.

Distributing your referral letter to attorneys you know is equally simple, but a little different. You can mail them (or email them) but there are other things you can do to make it more likely that they will not only read your letter, they will act on it.

You can also send your referral letter to attorneys you don’t know. That’s where things get interesting. That’s where you can expand your list of referral sources manifold, for just the price of a stamp.

If you want referrals, get a referral letter written and get it out into the world. There is no simpler way to ask for (and get) referrals than to let a letter do the asking for you.

To get more referrals from clients, get this

To get more referrals from other lawyers, get this

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