A checkup from the neck up

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Successful estate planning attorneys regularly contact their clients to inquire about life changes that might necessitate an update to their plan.

No matter what area you practice in, you should do something similar.

Once a year (at least), send your clients information about changes in the law and a questionnaire. Invite them to talk to you.

Do this even if your handle litigation or bankruptcy or another area where your clients are unlikely to need you again.

Why?

So you can find out about other issues or changes in their life or business that necessitate a referral to another attorney or to another professional.

Create your questionnaire or “legal checkup” checklist by asking other professionals to provide information. Ask an insurance broker, for example, for a list of questions your clients should ask themselves about their current risk-levels and coverage. Ask a CPA for questions related to taxes, a financial planner about investments or retirement, and other attorneys about their practice areas.

In addition to asking your “referral partners” to help you prepare your legal checkup, ask them to provide a special offer for your clients, if appropriate. A free consultation or document review, for example.

Once you’ve got your legal checkup up and running, help your referral partners do the same thing for their clients.

An annual legal checkup will allow you to better protect and advise your clients and stimulate referrals to you and your referral sources.

It’s a beautiful thing.

How to get referrals from other attorneys

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Have I got a deal for you!

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and everybody and his brother is having a sale. Everyone except lawyers. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the fun.

Do you have any clients or business contacts who are having a sale? Why not email your other clients and contacts and tell them about it.

Wait. Maybe your business clients are willing to offer a little extra to people who mention your name.

How ’bout them apples.

Your clients will appreciate you for tipping them off (and arranging the extra discount). Your business clients will appreciate you for sending business their way.

Could it get any easier?

What’s that? You don’t have any (or many) business clients or contacts who are having a sale?

No problem. Go knock on some doors.

Talk to some local business owners and ask them if they’re planning to (or willing to) put anything on sale. Tell them you’re sending an email to all your clients and you’d be happy to mention them.

Hold on. You’re not done. Ask if they know other merchants (businesses, professionals, etc.) you might talk to. Betcha they do.

This is a simple way to meet and introduce yourself to business owners, get on their radar and in their good graces.

Who knows, they might mention you in their newsletter. Or let you put some brochures on their counter or in their waiting room. Or send you some referrals. Because no other lawyers in town are promoting their business.

Leverage is a wonderful thing

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How to warm up a cold approach

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By far, the best way to approach a new business contact or prospective client is to have a mutual contact introduce you. When you identify someone you’d like to meet, go through your list of contacts to see if you know someone who knows them, or might know someone who does. Ask for an introduction or permission to use their name.

If you don’t know anyone who can introduce you, you can still approach them. But it will take more effort.

Whether you contact them by email or by phone, your initial objective is the same: to get their attention and stay out of the slush pile.

A few do’s and don’ts.

DON’T

  • DON’T pitch anything. Save that for later; probably much later.
  • DON’T ask for anything, e.g., a guest post, a link, etc.
  • DON’T brag about yourself; in fact, say almost nothing about yourself, focus on them
  • DON’T lie or exaggerate
  • DON’T ask them to read something or do something; they’re busy, just like you

DO

  • DO mention your mutual friend or contact. How did you get their name?
  • DO reference something you have in common (a mutual interest, cause, target market or industry, practice area, background, etc.)
  • DO mention something you like about something you heard about them or read, (their article, post, video, interview, etc.
  • DO tell them why you’re contacting them and what’s in it for them; give them a reason to listen
  • DO keep your message brief; get to the point
  • DO make the next step easy (ask them to reply, tell them you’ll call, tell them to watch their email)

So, what is in it for them? Why are you contacting them?

Here are some good options:

  • To offer information that will help them or their clients, or information about something that interests them
  • To discuss a mutual interest (an industry or local issue, similarly aligned clients, proposed laws or regs, etc.)
  • To invite them to speak at your meeting, to interview them for your newsletter, to participate in a panel discussion, etc.
  • To introduce yourself, learn more about what they do and how you might work together to your mutual benefit

To learn more about how to find and approach people you don’t know, and what to offer them, get this

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They key to better relationships

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Think about some of the successful professionals you know, the ones you like and trust the most. What is it about them that makes you feel closer to them?

My guess is that it’s because they’ve been transparent with you about certain aspects of their professional and personal life, revealing to you a weakness or flaw.

Vulnerability is a key to better relationships. Showing people that you have flaws, things you struggle with, problems like everyone else.

Contrast that with people who never have a hair out of place. They have a “perfect” life. Everything is under control. They don’t have any problems or weaknesses. At least nothing they tell you about.

And that’s the problem. We don’t trust this. It’s not. . . real.

If you want better relationships–with other professionals, with clients, with friends or family–one of the best things you can do is be transparent about certain aspects of your life.

Let your clients see that you don’t know everything. Let other lawyers and referral sources know you do better with certain types of clients or cases. Let people know about some of your mistakes.

Not everything. Not all the time. Selectively, with the right people at the right time.

You don’t want to blurt out your flaws, you want to be intentional about this, so I suggest you give this some thought and choose a “safe” weakness you’re willing to own up to.

What’s safe? Something that doesn’t irreparably impair your character or core set of skills.

You might reveal that you still get nervous on the first day of a jury trial. You might share the time you lost a case (and paid dearly for it) because you didn’t listen to your partner who warned you not to trust a certain witness. You might admit that you have a soft spot for clients who don’t pay on time.

A weakness, a flaw, something you’re not particularly proud of. You know, the kind of stuff that makes you human.

At the same time, be prepared to talk about what you have learned about yourself, or how you got the problem under control. For example, if you confess to being a perfectionist and how this causes you to take too long preparing documents, you might say that you have adopted a strict rule about the number of re-writes you allow. If you are lax about billing, explain how you’ve turned that function over to your merciless partner.

Once you have a few safe flaws you’re willing to reveal, look for safe situations where you might reveal them.

Not with everyone, not all the time. Selectively, when it is appropriate.

One thing you’ll find is that as you open up to people, they will often open up to you. They’ll tell you they have the same issue, and share how they dealt with it, or they’ll tell you about something else.

This is how strong relationships are built. Sharing vulnerabilities and trusting each other with that information.

Tell other lawyers what kinds of cases you do and don’t handle and get more referrals

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Who’s coming to your party?

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If you were opening your practice this year you might hold a grand opening. Invite friends and business contacts to come celebrate with you and get some information they can share with their friends and clients and business contacts. It’s a great way to generate some momentum, make some new contacts, and take the first step toward signing up a few new clients.

Well, guess what? It’s not too late. You can hold a grand re-opening party and accomplish the same thing. Only now, it will be better because you have actual clients and referral sources you can invite. You can use the occasion to introduce your guests to other guests, helping them make some new contacts and get some new business.

You can also use your grand re-opening to make some new contacts.

In addition to inviting people you know, invite people you don’t know but would like to. Invite prospective clients, professionals, business owners, and other centers of influence in your niche market or community. Invite people who can hire you or recommend you. Invite people who are influential with a big network of contacts you’d like to target.

It’s your party; you get to make the guest list.

Imagine what your practice will be like by next year at this time if you invite 50 centers of influence to your party this year.

Everyone loves a party. Start making your list.

Once you meet them, here’s what to do with them

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Who’s on your marketing shopping list?

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You want new clients. Okay, what kind? Write down a description of your ideal client. Do the same thing for your ideal referral source. And be specific.

Great. You’ve got yourself a shopping list. With people on it.

Why is this a good idea? Because by identifying who you want to come into your life, you are more likely to find them.

Instead of networking “anywhere,” you’ll go to events likely to be inhabited by your ideal client and the people who can refer him.

Instead of writing articles and posts that target “everyone” with a legal problem you handle, you’ll write posts tailored to the specific types of clients you want to attract.

Instead of waiting for things to happen, your shopping list will help you make things happen. When your list says, “commercial leasing broker on the Westside,” for example, that’s who you’ll find.

It works like this: once you get specific about who you want, your reticular activating system (RAS) sifts through the mountain of input you encounter each day, looking for clues, and alerting you when it finds them. All of sudden, you start seeing Westside commercial brokers everywhere.

You’ll look at their websites and social media profiles and learn about them. You might identify a mutual acquaintance who can introduce you. Or you might send them the article you wrote about issues important to commercial real estate brokers on the Westside. Before you know it, you’ll be meeting for coffee and finding ways to work together.

Can’t this happen without a list? Of course. But the odds of finding precisely the kinds of professional contacts or clients you want to meet, at random, are about as good as getting the Christmas gift you want this year without giving your family a list.

I already know what I’m getting from my daughter this year. Funny how that works.

How to identify your ideal referral source

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I’m like a peeping Tom

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I have a secret indulgence. I like to watch videos about building gaming computers and gaming desk setups. This wouldn’t be remarkable except I don’t play video games, I’ve never built or repaired a computer, and I know next to nothing about how computers work.

I just like to watch.

I find it relaxing. A mindless diversion from everything else I do.

Kinda lame, isn’t it?

Maybe not.

Some people read this and think, “Me too!” They love looking at water-cooled graphic cards and RGB lights and get a thrill out of proper cable management.

Some people like to watch cooking shows but don’t cook, or travel videos and never travel. Some have unusual hobbies, collect odd things, or do things that make the rest of us shake our heads.

And it’s all good. It’s all part of being human.

If you do something different like this, I challenge you to share it with your list. Let your subscribers, clients, and colleagues see a different side of you.

Some will say, “Me too!” They like to do what you do and will feel a connection to you.

Some will think you’re weird. Okay, maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone that you wear a Superman costume under your suit when you go to court.

But most people will appreciate your transparency and like you more for giving them a glimpse into what makes you tick.

So c’mon, out with it. Share your secret. I showed you mine, now show me yours.

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An imperfect plan implemented immediately

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Of all the lawyers who read yesterday’s message about reaching out to other professionals to see if they are open to some kind of referral relationship, how many do you think actually did it? How many will?

My guess is that most are still thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons, trying to figure out the best way to go about it, and most will eventually do nothing.

And that’s sad because the only way to get results is by taking action. As General George Patton said, “An imperfect plan implemented immediately and violently will always succeed better than a perfect plan.”

Anyway, one lawyer wrote to tell me he went for it and reported his results.

He’s a sole practitioner and identified a lawyer in his field who manages a mid-sized firm in a nearby country. The firm does a lot of marketing and could be a big source of referrals for him.

He sent the managing partner information about a new law in his country which might be relevant to some of the firm’s clients. The partner wasn’t aware of the new law and appreciated him for bringing it to his attention.

The solo broached the subject of mutual referrals between the two firms. He offered to add a link to the firm’s website on his website and asked if they would do the same for his.

He also asked if the firm would be willing to provide a (brief) free consultation to people he refers to them.

The partner said they would gladly provide a free consultation. The firm has a lawyer they already work with in his country, however, so they can’t post the link to his site or send him referrals. But, he said, when they have a matter that is outside their lawyer’s area of expertise, they would be happy to send the referrals to him.

An imperfect plan? You tell me:

  1. The solo can now promote the firm’s free consultation to his current and former clients, adding value to his relationship with them.
  2. He can promote the free consultation to prospective clients in his country who might have interests in the nearby country.
  3. By posting a link to the larger firm (and saying something nice about them), he will identify as having a relationship with them, and thus augment his credibility and prestige.
  4. He has opened the door to future referrals from the firm.
  5. Emboldened by these results, he can approach other firms in the other country and work out similar arrangements.

Not bad for a couple of emails to someone he didn’t know.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

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Referral marketing for lawyers–roots before branches

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Let’s say you want to get more referrals from your clients. Not a bad idea. Now, how will you go about it?

Your strategy might be to give your clients lots of attention, show them that you care about them, and make them feel good about choosing you as their lawyer.

Good. An excellent strategy. What techniques will you use to effect your strategy?

What will you say to them at their first appointment? What will you give them? What will you send them, and when? What will do, and how often?

Strategies before techniques. Roots before branches.

Strategies derive from your values and beliefs. If you believe it’s important to surprise and delight your clients with over-the-top service and extra value, if you believe that doing so will endear them to you and make it more likely that they will return to you, say nice things about you, and send you referrals, your actions will reflect those values and beliefs.

If you believe that giving clients lots of attention takes too much time and won’t produce more loyal clients or more referrals, however, your actions will be different.

If you believe that your clients can provide you with more referrals than they now provide, you will be more inclined to invest time equipping your clients with information and tools they can use to send you more referrals. If you believe that your clients do what they can and can’t do any more, you probably won’t.

What many lawyers do, I think, is implement certain techniques before they have firmed up their beliefs and committed to a strategy. They hear that it’s a good idea to send new clients a thank you letter, for example, so they do it, but their heart isn’t in it. They say the words, but they don’t feel the sentiment behind them.

Sure enough, when they speak to the client, their words and behavior often tell a different story.

Start by asking yourself what you want to accomplish and choose one or more strategies for accomplishing it, based on your values and beliefs. Only then should you examine the techniques that are available to you.

My new course, “Maximum Referrals,” can help you do that. It shows you both the strategies and techniques you need to build a successful referral-based practice.

Check it out, here.

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Faster than a speeding search engine

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Information. You need it, you want it, and you have it, thanks to the search engine of your choice. But there’s something that’s often better than a search engine. In many cases, it’s faster, too.

I’m talking about experts. People who have the answer to your query on the tip of their tongue. Their real-world experience allows them to instantly provide you with answers, or at least point you in the right direction.

Unlike a search engine, you don’t get 101 links of possible solutions. You don’t get sent down a rabbit hole of never-ending research.

You ask, they answer. Done.

We all need to maintain a list of names and contact information of people who know things, and who know people. A group of folks we can call upon to quickly get information,  recommendations, and referrals.

I’m not talking about paid experts, although we need them, too. I’m talking about friends and business associates and networking buddies who know things and know people and will help us out without sending us a bill.

If we have a computer problem, we have someone who can walk us through the solution, or recommend someone who can fix it for us. If we want to find a CPA on the other side of the country for a client who is moving there, we can tap into our network and get referrals.

An information and referral network can benefit you and your clients and other contacts.

Your network makes you better at your job and helps you bring in business. It also allows you to add value to your relationships with your clients and professional contacts.

Let people know that you know a lot of people in different fields and different parts of the country and when they need information or referrals, they should contact you first.

If you know someone, great. You’re a hero. If you don’t know someone, you can find someone you don’t know and expand your network. Nothing like contacting a professional and telling them you have a client who might need their services.

Your network will make you more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Build your professional network with this

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