The best way to grow a valuable network

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Every lawyer in private practice wants to develop a network of business contacts, referral sources, and influential business connections. People who can lead them to others and lead others to them.

Ready for some good news? 

You don’t have to have a massive network to accomplish that. If they are the right people, you only need 5 or 10.

The right people are those who know have influence with people in your target market and are willing to work with you.

That means they like and trust you and want you to prosper, or believe you can be of value to their clients and contacts.

These people are worth their weight in gold, which is why you only need a few. 

Where do you find these folks? Generally, not at formal networking events. The kinds of people you want to meet rarely attend these. 

The best way to find influential people and connect with them is to deliberately target them. 

That means identifying high quality prospective clients in your target market, or people who sell to or advise them, and creating a plan to meet them. 

Sometimes, that can be as simple as contacting them and introducing yourself. But the most effective way to meet them is to talk to your existing network and find out who knows them and will introduce you, or let you use their name. 

Where do you start? By identifying twenty or thirty key people in your target market. Make a list, study them, and create a plan to meet them. 

What then? What do you do after you meet them? You find out what they need or want and help them get it. 

That’s where the work begins. 

It may sound daunting, but this is a lot easier than trying to build a network of hundreds of people who aren’t influential or won’t work with you.

Find out the top twenty or thirty people in your target market and focus on them. Because you only need a few.

How to find and meet lawyers and other referral sources in your target market

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Leveling up your referral game

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Yesterday, we talked about the value of educating other lawyers about your practice area, to build your reputation and get more referrals. You can do that, I said, by disseminating information, e.g., reports, checklists, that helps other lawyers understand your field, spot issues, and answer their clients’ basic questions.

But there’s a lot more you can do.

If you want to be perceived and followed and sought after as the go-to expert in your field, you can do the kinds of things experts do.

Number one on that list is to write a book.

As an author, you will, by definition, be an authority. Your book is a doorway to requests for interviews, being invited to speak and sit on panels, and otherwise expand your reach.

When you are introduced as “the lawyer who wrote the book on. . .”, you are at the top of your game.

Publishing a book is also a great way to get more leads, both from other lawyers and other centers of influence, and also from prospective clients.

If you’re not ready to do that, or perhaps while you are writing your book, there are other things you can do to establish your authority and get more referrals.

You can conduct seminars, start a podcast, or write blog posts, teaching lawyers the basics, discussing changes in the law, and answering questions. You can interview others in your field (or your client’s industry), and offer downloadable resources (which helps you build a list so you can stay in touch with these prospective referral sources).

If you’ve got enough to share, and the quality is there, you can even turn these into paid seminars.

Your object is to establish yourself as the go-to lawyer for all matters related to your field, and you can start with a single video, blog post, or seminar. You’ll begin to build a following and, before long, one of your followers will ask you to look at one of their cases or speak with one of their clients who needs your help.

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals

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Teach and grow rich(er)

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You know the value of educating prospective clients in your target market about the law in your practice area(s), the risks, the options, and the benefits to be had working with a lawyer who does what you do.

And why that lawyer should be you.

You’re also hip to the value of educating other lawyers who don’t do what you do, because they have clients with problems they don’t handle, but you do. Those lawyers don’t always have someone to refer their client to, which is where you come in.

The easiest way to get on their radar is to provide them with information about your field of expertise. Teach them everything they need to know to spot issues and explain the risks and options. Educate them about the law and procedure and ethics, the way you would if you were teaching a continuing education class.

The more you teach other lawyers about your field, the more you will be seen as the expert they want to refer their clients to when those clients need help.

But you don’t have to create continuing education classes to do that. Create some reports and articles, forms and checklists, and other resources that speak specifically to lawyers.

What do they need to know? What do they need to ask their clients, and tell them? And make sure you tell them that you’re available to answer their questions and to speak to their clients.

Okay, I can see you nodding your head. This makes perfect sense. But there’s something else.

Wait for it. . .

You should also educate other lawyers who do exactly what you do.

What?! Teach my competition what I know? Why would I do that?

Because they can (and will) get this information somewhere and it might as well be from you.

When your competitors have a case they can’t handle, because it’s too big for them or they have a conflict or they’re too busy to take on more work, they will think about the lawyers they know and respect and refer that business to you.

As the go-to expert in your field, you’ll not only get more referrals, you’ll build your reputation and get invited to speak and publish and network with the stars.

Build a bigger practice by helping other lawyers with theirs.

Here’s how

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New clients from old contacts

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It’s exciting to meet new people, whether prospective clients or business contacts who can send you referrals, and this should be a regular part of your practice-building routine.

That doesn’t mean you need to get dressed up and go to networking events, however. You can do this without leaving your home or office.

My “Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals” mini-course makes this easy. It shows you how to find them, what to say, and what to send them, and is not just for other lawyers but for any type of business or professional contact.

But I don’t want you to do that. Not yet, anyway.

Because it’s a lot easier to get referrals by re-connecting with your old contacts. Including (or maybe especially) your old clients.

People who would know your name if I mentioned it to them. People who will remember you and ask how you’re doing since you last spoke. People who have sent you referrals in the past, or would have if they had had any to send.

Because they know, like, and trust you.

Yeah, those people.

Your old contacts will take your call and respond to your email. And most of them will be glad to hear from you.

They’ll want to know why you’re calling or writing, of course. Just say something like, “I saw your name (or thought about you) and wondered what you were doing since the last time we spoke”.

Catch up with them. Business, family, life. Ask about them. They’ll ask about you.

This is easy to do, doesn’t take a lot of time, and can bring you a lot of repeat-business and referrals.

And you don’t have to ask.

If they have legal questions or need help, or they know someone who does, they’ll tell you about it. Simply because you’re on the other end of the phone or sitting in their email inbox.

If they don’t, that’s okay. Confirm that you have their best email and ask if you can stay in touch.

And then stay in touch.

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals (for professionals) and Maximum Referrals (for clients)

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Got referrals? Great! Here’s how to get more.

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It’s makes sense to focus most of your attention on your clients and professional contacts who regularly send you business. But there are many other people who can send you business.

I’m talking about

  • Prospective clients. Folks who signed up on your list, attended your event, downloaded your report, or talked to you about their case.
  • Former clients. They hired you once and while they might not need to hire you again, they might know people who do.
  • Social media connections. Even if you’ve never met them or talked to them, you’re connected digitally and that gives you permission to communicate with them, which can lead to referrals.
  • Professionals, business owners, consultants, experts, and others in your niche or target market who don’t know you, or know you but have never referred, and others who don’t know you but are open to meeting you.
  • Your business clients’ employees, vendors, and other business contacts. Your clients know a lot of people who know a lot of people and have influence with many of them.
  • Friends and relatives. They have neighbors, co-workers, businesses they patronize, and more, who might need your help today or one day.

According to people who have studied the subject, the average person knows 250 people. You probably know more. If each of those people knows 250 people—do the math. That’s a lot of people in your extended network. An untapped source of referrals.

Why not tap into it?

You can do that by simply educating your network. Make sure everyone knows 3 things about you:

  1. What you do—your services, practice areas, problems you solve, benefits you deliver. Many don’t know what you do or they don’t know everything you do, or all the ways you help your clients.
  2. Your ideal client. Tell them what a good referral looks like for you. What do they look like? What do they do for a living? What are their problems and desires? And, what are the life events that typically trigger their need for an attorney who does what you do?
  3. Your content—your book, blog, channels, seminars, etc., and how to access it. Many in your network might not be willing or able to refer clients to you, but they might do the next best thing—refer their contacts to your content, directly or through social media. That can lead to a lot of new business.

It’s also good to educate your network about what to do when they recognize someone who might need your help. What should they tell them about you? What should they tell them to do if they have questions or want to hire you?

Most of the people you know have never sent you a referral. Many are willing and able, but don’t know how.

Educate them and you might awaken an army of new referral sources.

Step-by-step instructions

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Clone your best. Forget the rest.

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No doubt you have a favorite referral source or two. You know who I’m talking about. The ones who regularly send you good clients and cases. The ones who introduce you to people you need to know and do other things to help your practice grow.

They’re low maintenance, highly profitable, and you wish you had more like them.

Seek and ye shall find.

Instead of trying to meet “anyone” who can refer business, set your sites on cloning your best referral sources. It’s better to have a few studs than dozens of people who might try but can’t deliver.

The most effective way to increase referrals is to focus on your existing referral sources.

Get to know them better. Learn about their niche. Meet the people they know and work with. They’ll lead you to more referral sources and opportunities.

This will require time and energy, which is why you should focus on a handful of people who have already proven themselves rather than the many who haven’t.

Invest 80% of your “networking” and relationship-building time with your best sources.

You may not be able to reciprocate with referrals, but there are other ways you help them. You might have information they want or need, do other things for them or their clients or family, or introduce them to people who can.

Help them prosper and they’ll do (more of) the same for you.

How to get more referrals from lawyers and business contacts

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A better way to build your network?

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Networking events often prove to be a waste of time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t network.

Think about it, everyone who is currently in your network was, at one time, a stranger. So, meeting new people can be a very good thing. The question is, who do you want to meet and how can you meet them?

Events can work. But you can also do it without leaving your office and this might work even better.

The first step is to make a list of influential people in your target market. These could be business owners, professionals, or others with influence in that market. It could also include prospective business clients.

Start by identifying “categories”—tax lawyer, real estate broker, business executives at tech companies, for example; once you’ve done that, you can look for “candidates”—actual people or businesses in those categories.

You’re looking for people who can hire you, recommend you, or introduce you to others who can do the same. This might be a lawyer or accountant or other professional who represents your ideal clients, a content creator, consultant, or marketing professional with a following that resembles your ideal clients or the professionals who sell to or advise them.

You’ll have many options to choose from, but you should focus on quality, not quality. 20 or 30 people are a good number. You’re looking for influence (depth) not raw numbers (breadth).

Once you’ve identified some candidates, read their bios, learn what they do, and what they’re good at. Look for clues as to how they might be able to help you and/or your clients and contacts, and how you can help them or their contacts.

As you study them, you may learn you have some mutual contacts, or people who know people who are likely to know them. This could be your path to an introduction.

If not, put together a plan to contact them directly. Decide what you’ll say, what you’ll ask them, or what you might invite them to do.

How you will get their attention? And how will you show them a benefit for speaking with you?

It sounds more difficult than it is. Remember, everyone needs or wants something, even if that something is new professional contacts in their (your) industry or niche.

Contact the people on your list, via a mutual connection or directly, and see who is interested in speaking to you and learning more about how you might help them.

As a lawyer, you clearly have something to offer. If they don’t appreciate that, move on. If they do appreciate that, you might be one or two conversations away from having your next new client.

Here’s everything you need to know (and do)

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Marketing leverage

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When it comes to marketing your practice, if you’re not growing as quickly as you would like to, you might stop and ask yourself if you’re making things harder than they need to be.

You can use your back and legs to lift a boulder, straining and struggling, huffing and puffing, or you can use a lever to make the bolder easier to lift.

You can use a lever in your marketing, too.

Instead of trying to find clients one at a time, doesn’t it make sense to find a few influential people who have the phone numbers of those clients on speed dial? Why not direct (some of) your marketing efforts towards the people who sell to, advise, or otherwise work with the kinds of people and businesses you would like to have as clients?

You already know this works. You know professionals, business executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, and others who are influential in your target market. Some of them have sent you referrals. Some have introduced you to people who have asked you to speak or asked to interview you for their podcast or have asked you to write for their blog.

You want to know more people like this.

Because they can help you achieve your marketing goals in a fraction of the time than you could on your own.

It might take time to develop those relationships, but they can bear fruit for decades to come. They can also expedite your growth as they introduce you to other centers of influence in your target market.

Where do you start?

Step One: Identify them

That’s easy. They look a lot like your existing referral sources and business contacts. Start by identifying categories, by profession or business, industry or niche, and by other factors.

Once you have a list of categories, identify individual candidates. Talk to the people you know and ask them who they know who fit that description. Or hit up your favorite search engine and find their websites.

Step Two: Contact them

Also easy. Ask your existing contacts to introduce you, or pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Most have their phone number on their website.

Step Three: Build a relationship with them

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is what takes time and effort.

But not as much as you might think.

We’re talking about a business relationship, not courtship and marriage.

You talk to them, find out more about what they do, and tell them a bit about yourself. And you explore ways you can help each other (and each other’s clients or customers).

You find out if there is any synergy, and chemistry. And you see where it goes. Which is no doubt what you did when you built relationships with your current business contacts.

The key is to be willing to help others without the expectation of getting something in return.

When you do that, when you approach this with an open mind and heart, you build trust and open doors to new opportunities.

Where will it lead? Maybe nowhere. But if just a few of these new contacts want to work with you, it could be the start of a new and exciting chapter in the story of your career.

How to identify, approach, and build relationships with influential people—step-by-step

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What’s better than a referral?

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According to a study reported in Selling Power Magazine, 80% of all introductions turn into sales, whereas just 55% of referrals do.

Here’s what they found:

  • 1% of all cold calls turn into sales.
  • 5% of all leads turn into sales
  • 55% of all referrals turn into sales
  • 80% of all introductions turn into sales.

Knowing this, and knowing that asking for introductions is probably easier than asking for referrals, you should be asking yourself, “Who do I know I could ask for an introduction?”

Maybe everyone. Because everyone knows someone you’d like to be introduced to.

When you’re speaking to a client who mentions taxes, for example, you could ask them who they use to prepare theirs. When they tell you about their accountant, you could ask them to introduce you.

And when you’re speaking to an accountant who does taxes, you could ask them if they have any clients or contacts who are a match for (your ideal client). If they do, ask them to introduce you.

Any time you speak with someone who knows a professional, a business owner, or anyone else who is influential in your niche or local market, find out how they know them and ask for an introduction. This is a simple way to build your network.

And yes, you can also ask for introductions instead of referrals when someone mentions they know someone who needs your services, or is otherwise a likely candidate therefor.

Now, why do you suppose it’s easier to ask for an introduction than a referral?

Is it because a referral implies that you get something out of it, while an introduction seems more benign? Is it because an introduction seems less intimidating and easier to make than a referral?

Why the difference?

I don’t know. All I know is that according to a survey. . .

Of course, if you’d rather cold call and pay for leads, who am I to insist otherwise.

Lawyer-to-Lawyer (and other professionals) Referrals

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Being proactive about referrals

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Referrals happen, right? You don’t have to say anything or do anything other than provide great service. Happy clients tell others about you, give them your business card or your website, and magic happens.

Your business contacts do the same thing. They might say that you did a good job for some of their clients or customers, or they know you by your stellar reputation, or they know you from church or your kid’s soccer team, and you’re a nice fella or gal.

More magic.

If you get any referrals right now, you know this is true. Referrals happen this way all day, every day.

Without you doing anything extra to make that happen.

But while you don’t have to say anything or do anything, there are things you could say or do that could significantly increase the number of referrals you get.

You might double or triple them. You might increase them tenfold.

How much would it be worth to you over the course of a year to get even one additional referral each month?

Okay, enough with the sexy numbers. You want to know what you could say or do to stimulate more referrals, and you don’t want to work hard to do it.

I’ll give you 3 things you can do, starting today.

First, you can talk about referrals. No, I didn’t say ask for them. Talk about them. In your blog posts and articles, in your presentations, and in your conversations.

When you tell a story about a client with a problem, simply mention that they were referred to you by another client who had a similar problem, or by another lawyer or influential person in your community.

Every time you do that, you tell people that you (routinely) get referrals, suggesting that they might do the same.

Thing is, some people can send you referrals but don’t, primarily (according to surveys) because they “didn’t think of it”. This is a simple way to help them think of it.

The second thing you can do is to equip your clients and contacts to refer you.

Give them something they can hand out besides your business card, so that when they talk to someone who might need your help, they can give them something that tells them what you do and how you can help them.

They don’t have to explain. The handout does that for them and tells the prospective client exactly what you want them to know and what to do next.

One more.

Make a habit of asking people for referrals to other professionals.

Tell them you like to network with other attorneys, real estate or financial professionals (or whoever might make a good referral source for you), and ask if they know anyone. If they do, ask for a name, tell them you’ll call them to introduce yourself, and ask, “is it okay if I mention your name?”

You get to talk to potential referral sources who will know that you represent one of their clients or business contacts. You still have work to do, but your mutual client or contact gives you a huge head start.

And yes, it is as simple as that.

Learn more about what to do with this (for clients) and this (for professional contacts).

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