Referrals: What to do when you can’t reciprocate

If a lawyer (or anyone) refers clients to you and you want to reciprocate, but you can’t, what can you do? If he wants referrals and you don’t have them to give, one thing you can do is introduce him to someone who does.

  • If you are a criminal defense lawyer and a tax attorney send you clients, how about introducing and endorsing him to a CPA, financial planner, or stockbroker you know?
  • If you are a PI lawyer and a business lawyer sends you referrals, how about inviting him to be your guest at the next meeting of a business, civic, or charitable organization you belong to? Introduce him to other members, sponsor him for membership, suggest his name to the person who books speakers.
  • If you handle collection for retail clients (banks, departments stores, auto financing) and a commercial real estate lawyer refers clients your way, introduce him to the real estate and mortgage brokers who serve your client’s companies.

    But there are many other ways you can help your referral sources:

  • Teach them a few marketing ideas, or help them do a better job with their current marketing efforts. Offer to edit an article or report they write, or to interview them for a tape they produce. Show them how to put up a web page or submit it to search engines.
  • Interview them for your newsletter, or for an article you’re writing. Offer to let them post an article on your web site, with a link to theirs.
  • Offer them content (articles, Q & A’s, tips) for their newsletter.
  • Refer them to reliable service providers and vendors (e. g., copywriters, list brokers, printers, Internet experts, meeting planners, business consultants, ad agencies, lease brokers).
  • Offer to provide a free service to their clients.
  • Recommend them to editors you are on good terms with. Even better, take their articles and submit them for publication yourself.
  • Write media releases about their accomplishments, products, services, and newsworthy events, and submit them to appropriate media.

Quid pro quo referrals are only one way to thank and reward your referral sources. Find out what else they want and help them get it.

 How do you find out what they want? You ask them.

And how to do help them get what they want? It starts with the right state of mind. You must truly want to help people, and be passionate about it, rather than helping them only to get what you want. Commit to giving to others selflessly. When you do, you will begin to notice things around you that your referral sources want and need.

When you read the paper, look at billboards along the highway, or have a casual conversation with the clerk at a candy counter, you’ll notice things you would not have noticed before. You will see names and connections and opportunities all around you.

Then, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Go through your address book and makes some calls. Ask people you know to refer you to people they know who could help your referral source. If they don’t know anyone, ask them who they knows who would know someone in that field.

You’ve heard the expression, “six degrees of separation”? Theory says you can meet anyone in the world you want to meet, just by asking someone you know who they know. The person you know speaks to someone they know, who speaks to someone they know, until the person you want to speak to is reached. Supposedly, there are only six “degrees” (people) between you and the person you want to meet.

Can’t reciprocate? That’s okay. Use your connections to make new ones, and use those connections to help your referral sources get something else they want.