How to get referrals from your network

Confidence is essential if you want to establish a good pipeline of work via referral from your network. But the question is how to get referrals from your network? However, you often only get the confidence when the work starts to come through by referral. It’s the age old problem. What came first, the chicken or the egg? When it comes to getting referrals from your network, it’s often about doing the basics well until the referrals start to appear AND your confidence then rises. In this article, I share with you an 6-point checklist to build your confidence so that you know you are doing all the right things to generate a steady stream of referrals from your network.

1. Are you too junior to be winning your own work?

It is easy to under estimate how much easier it is to win work with partner on your business card. Being a partner is a badge of credibility and often a door opener to the bigger pieces of work. Sometimes to get access to the big deal or big ticket work in a Big 4 or large City Law firm you will need to become a partner. If you are reading this and thinking, well I am not a partner so what hope is there for me for business development, do not despair. Go and speak to your mentor and fee earners who you trust who are one or two levels above you. Ask them what is a realistic expectation for you to have regarding business development. However, in my experience those associates and managers who are winning their own work and bringing in referrals for the firm tend to have invested in building their profile within a specific niche or network.

2. Are you niche enough and credible enough to become the obvious choice for a referral?

A referral happens when the following things are in place. Your referrer sees an opportunity. He/she then thinks who would be a good person for this referral? Then, who is the most credible? And then, do I want to help them?As a result, you need to become an obvious choice for your referral sources. This means you need to be seen as the expert and a very capable pair of hands. Your LinkedIn profile needs to clearly state who is your ideal client and the value you bring to them. Having looked at far too many LinkedIn profiles over the last 12 months, many lawyers, consultants and accountants tend to claim to be all things to all people. Unfortunately, this can leave your referrers muddled as they don’t know exactly what is the right opportunity to refer to you.  If they are muddled they will probably recommend someone else in their network who is easier to recommend and probably a safer pair of hands.
If you are unsure about your niche or specialism, then my suggestion here is to take a long hard look at your positioning from the viewpoint of an end client i.e.
  • Who is my ideal client?
  • What value do I deliver them?
  • Why choose me to do this work?
One of the problems I find is that when lawyers, accountants and consultants start to get worried or ‘desperate’ to bring in work they tend to make their marketplace wider rather than narrower. The narrower your marketplace, the easier it is to be seen as credible and an expert, the easier it is to make your marketing comms resonate with your ideal client, the easier it is to stand out from your peers and competitors.

3. Do you need to educate your network on what would be a good referral for you?

I know that this is common sense, but do your referral sources actually know what type of clients you are looking for AND how to spot them? What would they be saying? How would they be feeling? What situations would they be in which would indicate that you can probably help them?

4. Are you keeping in touch consistently with the well-placed referral sources?

Lawyers are well-known (as well as consultants and accountants) for only coming out to hunt for business when the workload is light. If you want consistent referrals you need to be consistently staying in touch with the right referral sources via face-to-face methods and social media. It doesn’t need to be grand gestures, just little and often.

5. Are your referral sources really the best people to give you referrals?

Be honest with yourself, are your referral sources really well connected to the people who would be a good client for you? If they are well-connected, how willing are they to give you referrals? It’s worth asking the question, e.g. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but in what circumstances would you send me work?”. This would be a very good question to ask of all your referral sources and will probably give you some clarity about your situation.

6. Are you actively making introductions and finding referrals for your referral sources?

People always want to reciprocate. So the more you help your network, the more they will help you.