Scheduling your next steps
"If you hear of anyone who could benefit from my services, I
would appreciate the referral."
How many times have each of us used this expression? It sounds
like a good way to generate referrals. It is not too aggressive, it
is broad enough to encompass all of the services we provide and it
expresses appreciation for the act of making the referral.
In general, however, requests like this are unlikely to produce
the referrals we want. With e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn,
advertising, traditional media and even the old-fashioned
telephone, we are all inundated with a lot of "noise." General
requests for referrals have a hard time cutting through all that
noise. General requests do little to differentiate you from anyone
else who might provide similar services.
If you have one meeting with another professional and understand
what that individual does, you may remember what they do for a day,
a week or perhaps a month. But if no opportunity to make a referral
happens in that relatively short period of time, it is unlikely
that you will think of that individual unless you do something to
continue to cultivate the relationship.
The general rules of relationship building apply here. The
better you get to know someone, the more likely it is that you will
think of that individual at the appropriate moment (i.e. when you
hear about someone who may need those services -- and of course,
The way to overcome this problem is that you should always be
thinking of a next step. What can you do to continue to cultivate
your relationship with that individual and when will you do it?
What that next step is depends largely on where your common
interests lie and how it is that you think that you can be helpful
to each other.
On a personal level, for example, if you both enjoy doing
something recreational, make a point of scheduling that activity on
a regular basis so that you have the opportunity to connect with
the individual. If your common interests simply rely on having
common sets of clients that you would like to share with each
other, make sure to mark on your calendar a date to follow up
within two months. In the meantime, continue to think of ways that
you can be helpful to that individual. Be aware of their interests.
Forward them articles or links of interest.
In the short run you may simply be following up on making an
introduction that you promised to make in your initial meeting. Two
months down the road it may be following up to see if that initial
introduction was of any help to that individual.
Come up with specific ways to cross-market together (co-author
articles, give joint presentations or participate together in trade
association activities). It is critical to mark something in your
calendar that reminds you to circle back to the individual so that
you can continue working on that activity. Real work has a way of
derailing us from our marketing and relationship building
Writing an article together or giving a presentation to a common
set of potential clients, can be an effective way to cultivate your
relationship with each other and get to better understand each
other's capabilities. Of course the expectation is that you may end
up finding opportunities to identify clients for each other. But
just as important, you are spending time getting to know each other
and doing this will dramatically increase your chances of thinking
of that individual at the appropriate moment.
It is very easy to make broad sweeping promises about making
referrals. But in general they are not effective. Look for specific
ways to connect with the individuals in your network
and over time your opportunity for leads will grow
significantly. If you leave it to chance, "let me know how I can be
of help to you" becomes a platitude that has little effect on your
Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal
Consulting and Coaching.
Published June 13, 2013
To learn more about the Law Practice Management
Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members,
contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice
Chair Cynthia E.