Referral generation tips: Or why you are not getting enough business from your network

I’ve been spending a large proportion of my time recently helping lawyers create their business and personal case for partnership. As a result of doing this work, I have asked all of them, ‘how much is your referral network worth to you and the firm?’ (By the way, do you know the answer to this question?)

This then led me on to wonder why so many professionals, not just lawyers, miss out on referrals from their network. Given that referral generation is the cornerstone of most professional services marketing or business development strategies, it’s still surprising how many lawyers, accountants, and consultants miss out.

In this blog post, I identify the 7 reasons why you are not getting the results and referrals you need, and share many referral generation tips.

Reason 1: You are your network’s best kept secret

They say that if you do a good job then your clients will become your best sales team. Unfortunately, far too many of us fall into this trap. Of course, there does come a point when you have a critical mass: when referrals from existing clients are all you need to grow or maintain the size of your practice. However, most professionals who want to grow their practice don’t have that critical mass – or they are getting the wrong type of referrals from their clients. (See point 5.) If you don’t get out and about physically or virtually and spend time with your network, how on earth will they remember you when they are asked for a referral? In other words, unless you get your name into the front of people’s minds, it is nigh on impossible to win clients via your network.

Reason 2: You don’t keep in touch consistently

If you go to an event and have 5 great conversations, and then don’t do anything to develop those leads, you may as well have stayed at home. A lack of consistent follow up is often the biggest barrier to winning work via your network. When I talk about following up, what I mean is consistently staying in touch so that you are always the first person they think of when asked about the field you work in. I don’t mean just add them to your email distribution list either. Take the time to create positive personal conversations and ‘touch points’ whether by email, social media or face-to-face.

Reason 3: You haven’t differentiated yourself

Differentiating yourself in the professions is hard. After all, so many lawyers do what other lawyers do, and so many accountants do what other accountants do. And don’t get me started on the auditors! However, if you are going to consistently win business and create work-winning opportunities via your network, you need to have something which makes you stand out from your peers. Of course, doing a great job and keep-in-touch consistently is one way. But, to really get the referrals for the clients you want, you need to make a case in the person’s mind to refer you and only you. This is where having a niche or specialism can pay real dividends (sorry for the pun!) If you need help to differentiate yourself, then I recommend you pick up a copy of The Go-To Expert. (40+ five star reviews on Amazon.)

Need more referrals? Then download our free short guide (email required) with over 50 tried and tested tips to generate more referrals. 

Reason 4: You have ignored your online footprint

My team is expanding and I am on the look out for a associates to join me on the ‘How to make partner’ side of what I do. My own network gave me names of people who might be suitable. Before I contacted them I looked at their LinkedIn profiles, Googled their names, checked out their websites, and generally did a great job of online-stalking them. As a result, I didn’t contact everyone. Your potential clients will do exactly the same as I have done. Regardless of how strong the recommendation is, they will check you out online to confirm (or refute) that opinion. If you have ignored your online footprint, especially your LinkedIn profile, you could be losing nearly half of your prospective clients. (Nearly 50% of all prospects will check you out on LinkedIn – read more about making LinkedIn work for you.)

Reason 5: You haven’t been clear about the right type of client for you

It is not enough to just get referrals from your network. You need to get the right type of referrals. Are you sending the right messages about what you do and who you do it for? Or are you still claiming to be able to help everyone? The content you create or share, as well as your website, will help educate your network who is the right type of client for you. Rather paradoxically, the more specific you are about the right type of client for you, the more referrals you will get from your network. If this is the reason you are missing out on referrals, you need to go back to your professional services business development strategy and do a rethink.

Reason 6: You are networking in the wrong places

Now I am not meaning you are in literally the wrong room. I mean that when you network you are not meeting enough of the right type of people. In other words, your networking strategy, or professional services business development strategy, is flawed. One of my clients stopped networking at general SME type events and only started attending industry specific events. He got a significant upturn in the amount of referrals from ‘working the room’ as well as from his network generally.

Reason 7: You have the wrong professional intermediaries in your network

The problem is that most accountants, like many other professionals, have the same usual suspects that they get referrals from: bank managers, IFAs, and lawyers. Your network’s networks are likely to be similar. They just don’t know the type of clients you want. Not every professional intermediary is created equal. Your aim is to choose very carefully which relationships you will invest in to produce regular referrals.

In summary

Networking and having the right people in your network does not always equate to a steady stream of referrals. The messages you consciously and sub-consciously give out to your network are just as important as the company you keep.

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