Ahhhh… Referrals. It’s probably safe to say there isn’t a successful professional out there who doesn’t appreciate the value of a good referral. More powerful than a Facebook ad or Avvo rating, a referral from a trusted colleague can be the determining factor for the decision-maker in need of your professional services.
Unfortunately, the number of individuals who ask friends and trusted colleagues for attorney referrals is on the decline.
Percentage of people who ask friends and relatives for attorney referrals:
2005 – 65%
2014 – 29%
This means that the competition for referral business is tough out there! It is safe to say that other professional services providers (consulting, litigation services, mediators, business coaches, etc..) are in the same boat. So the BIG question is:
What are you doing to keep those valued referrals coming?
We have noticed that for a majority of our clients, their most consistent referrals come from past clients (side note: how are you marketing to them?) and colleagues. This post will focus on maintaining that high value referral relationship with your colleagues.
No matter how niche your practice area or line of work may be, chances are, someone does something relatively similar to you (similar, at least to the average person, and similar enough to another professional). For example, a wealth manager may focus specifically on working with lawyers, but to many professional acquaintances, that person is first and foremost a wealth manager — and the competition arena for wealth managers (much like personal injury lawyers and business litigators and family law attorneys) is tough. So how do you differentiate yourself amongst your peers and really ingrain in them what you do? Like your mama said: With a thank you.
And not just any thank you. A thank you plus.
The Thank You Plus
What is a thank you plus? The thank you plus is that little extra something that sets you apart from the others in your field (aka your potential referral competition). It’s human nature to remember extreme memories; i.e. something quite positive or quite negative. If you refer a new client or potential new piece of business to a trusted colleague and, as a thank you, receive a bottle of wine / steak dinner / flower bouquet in return, are you or are you not more likely to remember that person and refer business to him or her down the road? Some of the savviest and most successful attorneys we know send a thank you plus in addition to a referral fee. In a world of competition, it pays to stand out — for the right reasons.
On the other hand, a colleague can go out of their way to refer a new client to you and, in passing, you can thank them for the new business and go on your way. No one feels special (certainly not the referrer) and you have done nothing to strengthen that relationship or ensure new referrals down the road. The competition for referral business is tough, by not showing the referrer that you value and appreciate their trust in you as a professional (which is what a referral indicates), you could very well be setting yourself up to be replaced.
Don’t Wait for a New Lead
The concept of a thank you plus applies even if you are in the business of thanking a referrer with a referral of your own. We live in an era of instant gratification and generally speaking, the cycle for new leads is not immediate. Rather than waiting for the opportunity to ‘thank’ that referrer in the form of a new client, create the opportunity with a thank you plus… And again later on, the lead when it comes across your desk. You will be thanked in return ten fold.
Remember, the thank you plus takes the referrer’s interests into consideration and shows that you appreciate their business and reminds your colleague that you recognize they had a choice in referring their lead, and made the right one with you.
For more tips on how to maximize your referral business, contact the professional relationship enhancement experts at WebPresence, Esq.