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January 4, 2013

Free Book Excerpt Delivers Effective Techniques for Getting Referrals

5110733_bigThe Lawyer’s Guide to Building Your Practice with Referrals is a book intended not for natural rainmakers, according to author Stephen J. Shaer, but “for the rest of us.” It is for lawyers who are motivated to be successful and efficient at business development but who also recognize that they need to work at it. The recent release, published by the _ Law Practice Management Section, offers new ways to achieve this goal. Following is an excerpt from The Lawyer’s Guide to Building Your Practice with Referrals, available from ABA Publishing:

There are a few techniques that can be used either singly or in combination to prod that associate into giving us a referral, but we also need to remember that people’s need for legal help is event-driven. It is not as if a referral source can just open an Outlook file or Rolodex and give us a few clients that are just waiting there. Here are some ways to approach this:

The direct approach: The direct approach is just directly asking for a referral or asking about referrals. There is no reason we can’t ask the people we consider partners, or even the strong players in our lives, if they have any referrals for us. In the same vein, we can even suggest that they think about us if referral opportunities come along. This directness is an inherent characteristic of having a partnership. If our mutual goals are in alignment, then we can ask them anything.

The reciprocal approach: There is a general principle of reciprocity in business and in life. If we go out of our way to give someone something, there is an implicit expectation by all parties that they should give us something in return. If we go out of our way to provide referrals, the receiving party is often more motivated to give us a referral if for no other reason than feeling guilty. Using the direct approach after we have tried the reciprocal approach can be effective because we are calling attention to a deed we have already done for our referral source.

The indirect approach: The indirect approach is what I also call the “Midwestern approach” because I noticed that people on the coasts tend to be more direct and people from the Midwestern states are more indirect. How do we ask for a referral indirectly? One way to acquire a referral indirectly is to remember to use the strategy of storytelling. We can sew into our conversation with a referral source how another referral source recently made a referral to us and how grateful we were and how well things worked out for everyone involved. This little nudge may yield a referral.

The “social proof” approach: Social proof is the concept of people doing things that they see others doing. The social proof concept is based on the idea that people will often think that others around them possess more knowledge about a situation than they do. If a referral source learns that other, and possibly more prominent, people in the community are giving us referrals, they are more likely to give us referrals themselves. If a more prominent person recognizes our competence, trustworthiness and accessibility, then our other referral sources also have permission to recognize these characteristics in us.

The direct approach to asking for referrals can be a delicate matter. We should ask for referrals in a positive rather than a negative way. For example, putting someone on the spot about why they haven’t given us any referrals is probably not going to be helpful in getting referrals and may even compromise the relationship. However, a lighthearted “I am surprised that in your business you don’t run into people who need my services” leaves the other person with a little latitude to be reminded without being put totally on the spot.

I have found that most people don’t respond well to being put on the spot, either by being asked for a referral or asked why they haven’t provided any referrals. In fact, putting a person on the spot may work against us by making us seem less accessible. If I know that when I see or speak to a particular lawyer, I am going to be put on the spot and asked about referrals, I am going to be less likely to call or meet with this lawyer. I don’t want to be made uncomfortable, so I will avoid calling. Putting people on the spot can also lead to the perception in the other person’s mind that our relationship is only “about the money,” or our relationships are based on how wonderful the other person thinks we are — while we all know that this isn’t always true. We don’t like to be reminded of the reality that there are often more material things at play in a relationship.

Excerpted from The Lawyer’s Guide to Building Practice with Referrals, available for purchase from: http://apps.americanbar.org/abastore/index.cfm?pid=5110733§ion=main&fm=Product.AddToCart  2012© by the _. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the _.

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