Establishing a routine can maximize professional relationships long term
It’s easy to say you build your practice by word of mouth, but how do you really know whether word actually is spreading?
It is more beneficial to have a set strategy you follow consistently in order to fully reap the rewards of your professional relationships. This is why it’s crucial to build a strong network of referral partners or centers of influence to help develop a steady flow of qualified referrals.
Read on for tips on how to create a profitable stream of referral business.
Identify top partners
Depending on the focus of your practice, your top sources of referrals might vary. For the most part, you want to look for service providers who already are working with people who would make good clients for you, as well. A strong referral network for an attorney often will include an accountant, trust officer, financial advisor, banker and realtor or mortgage broker.
Offer your knowledge
One of the best ways to build credibility to referral sources is to offer your expertise when it is needed. A good way to get in front of CPAs, who make great attorney referral partners, is to get a presentation certified for continuing education credits. You create a win-win situation by offering something they need and also getting yourself in front of an audience to speak about your areas of expertise.
Want referrals? Be prepared to give them out, as well. By offering referrals to your top-tier centers of influence you build trust and create a positive working relationship. If you are passing on qualified referrals most of the time the recipient will feel compelled to return the favor.
Don’t be shy
One of the easiest ways to get referrals is one that often is overlooked: simply ask. However, make sure you set the correct expectations up front, such as if you will reciprocate. After you have connected with a referred prospect, make certain to follow up with the referrer to keep them updated on the progress and outcome. They are entrusting you with their client, so this communication is essential to keep your rapport and credibility high.
Make it easy
When you talk with potential referral sources about your practice, be concise. Although your practice might focus on several different areas, focus on one at a time depending on the contact. Leaving someone with a specific example makes you more likely to stand out. For example, an intellectual property attorney could emphasize his or her work to protect new products and processes for manufacturing companies and then ask the contact whether they have any manufacturing clients.
Meet on a regular basis
Set a consistent schedule to meet with your most important centers of influence. Whether it is a half-hour monthly office meeting or a lunch, it is important to keep each other up to date on new projects and opportunities. Each time you meet, you should have a new ideal client in mind to help specify your work for potential referrers. This will help your practice stay fresh in their mind as they meet with new clients.
Say ‘thank you’
Once you receive a referral, it is important to recognize the person who gave it to you. A simple call, email or, even better, a handwritten thank-you note will go a long way. Add a special touch by offering an invitation to a business or community event as your guest. Most organizations already have an established referral recognition process, so make sure you check what is appropriate within your firm.
It is important to remember that building strong referral relationships does not happen overnight, it is an ongoing process. Follow the tips above consistently and before you know it, your professional referral network will grow and so will your practice.