The 3 best times to ask clients for referrals

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Before you lose your lunch, keep in mind that “asking” doesn’t necessarily mean you speaking to the client.

Asking could mean having a member of your staff speaking to the client. It could mean handing the client a a few referral cards to pass out. It could mean describing—on your blog or in your newsletter—an interesting case you’re handling and mentioning that another client referred it to you.

It’s all good. But what’s the best time to do it?

The most obvious time is at the end of the case or engagement. You’re wrapping things up, the client is happy, you’re talking about the future, so you ask who they know who might want some information about what you do.

Less obvious, but also a great time to talk about referrals is at the start of the case.

When you’re signing up the client, ask them to provide the names of the other professionals they work with. Or hand them some invitations to your upcoming presentation they can give to their friends. Or give them a link to a page on your site with a form or checklist or valuable information and encourage them to share that page with people they know.

The third time to talk about referrals is “anytime” during the pendency of the case or engagement.

You might say to the client, “I hope you’re seeing value in the work we’ve done for you so far. Are there any other matters you’d like us to look at/help you with?“

That’s not difficult, is it?

If they don’t have any other work for you, put on your big boy or girl pants and ask, “Do you know anyone you could refer to us who might need these services?”

They might say no. But they might say yes. One out of two ain’t bad.

Am I saying you can ask for referrals at almost any time? It sure sounds like it.

Clients want to help the people they know, and they want to help you. Make it easy for them to do that and everyone wins.

How to get more referrals from clients

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What’s the one thing you can do to build your practice?

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One of my favorite questions to ask myself comes from Gary Keller, founder of Keller-Williams real estate and author of The One Thing. Keller asks, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?“

You can ask that about anything. Including the subject of marketing and practice development.

Let’s say your one thing is “referrals”. You’re thinking that if you could increase them significantly, everything else you might do for marketing would be easier or unnecessary. You’d have more income, which would allow you to hire more help and turn down marginal clients and open up new locations if you chose to.

More referrals would lead to better clients, meaning bigger retainers, less hand holding, more repeat business, and even more referrals.

It wouldn’t matter so much if your SEO wasn’t that great, you did fewer presentations (or none), and you pulled a lot (or all) of your advertising. Referrals would be your one thing. Focus on it and you’ll be on track to building your dream practice.

Make sense?

But once you choose your one thing, in this case, getting more referrals, you have another question to ask yourself: “What is the ONE thing you can do to get more referrals such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

You would examine your options and come up with an answer. The “one thing” that would help you achieve your “one thing”.

You might answer “networking with financial professionals who represent (the types of clients you want to represent)”.

Or, “teach my clients how to recognize a good referral for me and the best way to refer them”.

Or, “offer (generous) referral fees to (a type of lawyer)”.

Or, “write a book and ask my clients and professional contacts to tell their clients and contacts about it,” e.g. , get them to refer people to the book and let the book sell those folks on hiring you.

Which of these or other options would be best for you and your practice?

What’s your ONE thing? And what’s the ONE thing you could do to accomplish it?

If referrals are your ONE thing, you need to study this

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Your better-than-ideal client

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If you’re writing or updating the description of your ideal client, you might want to add an additional factor that might make your ideal client even better.

That factor: they’ve hired or worked with attorneys in the past.

People who have hired attorneys usually understand the need and the cost, as well as the process that ensues after they hire them. You don’t have to work hard to persuade them to hire an attorney, you only need to persuade them to choose you.

Okay, but:

  1. How do you find them?
  2. How do you persuade them to choose you?

I’ve covered the second question before and will do so again. Right now, a few thoughts about the first question.

One way to find people who have likely hired attorneys before is to network and speak to groups whose members or clients typically use attorneys. Rental property owners, retailers with collection accounts, homeowners associations, hospital boards, to name a tiny few.

Look at the groups your (ideal) clients belong to. Do they have local events you can attend? Are they looking for speakers? Do they have publications or blogs you can write for or advertise in?

You could also do PPC ads with keywords (and copy) slanted to appeal to members of those types of groups. If you do direct mail, you can rent lists of people who belong to those groups.

You could also rent lists of litigants, gleaned from public records. People who have sued or been sued are statistically more likely to sue or be sued again.

A great way to find prospective clients who have experience working with attorneys is via referrals.

Attorneys who don’t do what you do, or do but have a conflict, can be an excellent source. They can identify clients who are “between” firms and actively looking for a new one, and clients who have legal issues that are a good match for you. When they introduce and recommend them to you, those clients are more likely to trust you and less likely to keep looking.

Accountants, business consultants, and financial professionals have clients and contacts who have worked with attorneys and are also a good source of referrals.

Start by identifying attorneys by practice area who are likely to have clients or contacts who have worked with attorneys (or otherwise quality as “ideal clients” for you). Find out what you can about them and approach them to see if you can work together.

What’s the best way to find these attorneys and other professionals? What’s the best way to approach them? And, most importantly, how do you get them to send you referrals?

I’ve laid out the entire process in my course, Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals.

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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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Your best source of referrals?

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Many people say clients are your best source of referrals. They know, like, and trust you and can share their experiences with your firm with their friends and business contacts.

True, but they might not know that their friend or contact has a problem or needs to talk to an attorney. They might not know about all the services you offer or how to recognize when someone needs your help. They might not think of you when someone they know has a problem, or know what to do to refer them.

Which is why you need to educate your clients, equip them to make referrals, and stay in touch with them.

Some say other attorneys are your best source of referrals because they know when their client or contact needs the help you provide and can influence them to talk to you.

That’s true, too, but those attorneys might have other attorneys they work with and refer to, or they might not know you well enough to trust you to properly handle their client’s matter.

Which is why you need to build relationships with other attorneys, make them aware of what you have done for your clients, and stay in touch with them, before you can expect them to send you referrals.

Some say your best source of referrals are people who have previously referred clients to you. That’s also true, but only if those previous referrals were happy with you.

Which is why you have to provide your clients with great results and great service, properly thank the referral-giver, stay in touch with them, and continue to build your relationship with them.

Your best source of referrals? I don’t know who might be yours, but I can tell you one thing. It will be people with whom you have a good relationship.

Which is why you need to stay in touch with people, instead of assuming they know who you are and will contact you if they need you.

I’ve never found an easier way to do that than an email newsletter.

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Networking math

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We tend to think of networking as arithmetic. The more people we know, the more likely it is that someone will need our services or know someone they can refer.

But it’s not arithmetic. It’s multiplication.

It’s not just about the people you know, it’s about the people they know.

A new contact may never need your services themselves, they might never send you referrals, but might know people who know people who will.

When you meet someone new, therefore, don’t look “at” them, look “through” them. Who do they know? Who could they lead you to?

If you meet your new contact in a networking-type setting where giving referrals and introductions is expected, tell your new contact what you do, describe your ideal client, and also describe your ideal referral source.

If they know someone who might be a good fit, ask them to introduce you.

If you meet them under different circumstances, it’s a longer process, but unlike a formal networking group, there’s no competition and you might make some great new connections.

One new contact might lead you to dozens of new clients; if that contact is well-connected, if they are a center of influence in your target market or your community, they might lead you to enough business to put you in another tax bracket.

Yes, it can be a lot of work. The good news is that you don’t need hundreds of new contacts to make your networking efforts worthwhile, you only need one.

Because one can lead you to many more.

How to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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Learn, do, teach

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You learn about marketing. You do it and get good at it.

Life is good.

Life gets even better, however, if you take what you’ve learned and teach it to your professional contacts.

Teach them some things you’ve learned about marketing professional services, from me and others.

Teach them how to identify their target market and ideal client, and why it’s important to focus.

Teach them how to get more referrals from their clients and their professional contacts.

Teach them about using content to attract more prospects and show them what they can do to help them.

Teach them about the power of staying in touch with clients and prospects and the best ways to do that.

Teach them by sharing information and by the power of your example. Tell them what you’ve done to bring in new business, repeat business, bigger cases and better clients.

Share your process, your forms and checklists. Show them how you market your practice without spending a lot of time or breaking the bank, and how they can do the same.

As you do this, they will also learn more about you—your target market and ideal client. They’ll learn how to recognize them and the best way to refer them.

As you do this, you will train a small army of new referral sources for your practice.

They’ll appreciate you. They’ll want to help you. And they’ll have more clients or customers coming in that they can refer to you.

And they will, since no other lawyer is helping them this way.

This will help you identify and approach prospective referral sources

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A better way to ask for referrals

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Asking for referrals is easy. But the way you ask can make a big difference in the results you get.

Mary Kay Ash taught her distributors the right way. She said,

“When asking for a referral, don’t ask if they know someone who wants what we’re offering. Instead, ask for someone who has a problem we can solve.”

Why is this better? Because it gets the listener to focus on their friends’ problem or desire, not your products or services.

When you ask a client this type of question, in their mind’s eye they can see their cousin who is in a bad marriage or their friend whose daughter just had a baby and might need to prepare a Will. They might know an entrepreneur who needs to incorporate or a business owner who has mentioned having trouble with his employees.

If they say they know someone, ask them to give their friend your card.

Still, this may not be right for your practice area, or it may feel too aggressive.

In that case, another way to ask is to do a “referral bypass,” and yes, that’s something I just made up.

Instead of asking for a referral to a prospective client, ask for a referral to a professional or business owner who sells to or advises people in your target market.

The kinds of people who may know people who need your services, now or in the future.

When they say they have a friend who sells insurance to medical professionals (if that’s your target market), ask for a few details and if the friend sound like someone you might like to know, ask if they would introduce you.

Or, tell them you’ll look them up and ask if it would be okay to mention their name.

Contact the referral, introduce yourself, tell them you have a mutual friend or client or colleague, and ask them to tell you more about what they do. If all goes well, at some point they’ll ask you to tell them more about what you do.

What do you say when they ask that question? How do you answer when someone asks, “What do you do?”

There’s a right way to answer that question and you can read all about it in my book, How to Sell Your Legal Services in 15 Seconds or Less.

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How to get more referrals without asking for referrals

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Three things I know about you:

  1. You understand that your clients and contacts could send you more referrals than they now send you;
  2. You know that asking for referrals is an effective way to get more of them, and
  3. You don’t want to ask.

What if you could get more referrals without asking or saying anything?

You can. I promise.

All you need to do is give your clients and contacts information—a report, a letter, a brochure—that explains:

  1. The services you offer, problems you solve, and benefits you help people achieve. Provide examples for each problem and/or service.
  2. The types of clients and cases that are a good match for you, and how to recognize them.
  3. What to do when they recognize someone who might need your help, now or in the future. Tell them what to say, what to tell them about you, and the best way to refer them.

In other words, write something that tells your clients and contacts what you want them to know and do, and makes it easier for them to do it.

When you do that, you will get more referrals.

If they have sent you referrals before, they will send you more.

If they’ve never sent you referrals, they will be more likely to start.

Your report or letter tells them everything they need to know and tells them that referrals are a normal part of your practice and a simple way to help the people they know get the help they need.

Bottom line: more referrals, without saying or asking for anything.

You can learn what to put in your report or referral letter, how to distribute it, and other strategies for getting more referrals, here:

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