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Client satisfaction surveys can help explore whether your clients recommend you to other businesses. The surveys I've seen ask directly, "Have you referred others to [firm]?" When the answer is "No," surveyors follow up with "Why not?" 

For many years, the most common reply to "Why not?" was "No one ever asked me to." (Dissatisfaction is another plausible reason why not. BTI Consulting reports that only 25 percent of survey respondents would refer their primary outside law firms to others.) 

So, why are lawyers reluctant to ask for referrals? 

  • Fear that the client will decline the request, creating at least a momentary awkwardness. A "No," however, might also cause us to confront the real possibility that we're doing just well enough to avoid getting fired, but not well enough that they're proud to refer us to their business peers. 
  • Fear that asking for a referral will make them sound needy or desperate for business.
  • Fear that asking for a referral will make them sound like a used-car salesperson. Relax; you won't. Realize that your best clients want to help you succeed. 

It's all in how you go about it. Consider the following: 

  • Asking who might want to hire you is self-defeating, simply because it's not possible for someone to know who wants to hire you.
  • However, people can and do know who needs you, or at least needs someone like you. They may know a number of people likely to face the business problem your service solves, and that's endemic to their industry. 

We call these demand-triggering problems Door-Openers, because they open the door to relevant conversation. They affect most members of a group, such as an industry. Most potential referral sources will easily recognize the correlation between the business problem you mention and the industry that faces it with frequency. They'll easily see the legitimacy of introducing someone knowledgeable about the issue -- such as you -- to discuss such issues with others.

Let the Door-Opener facilitate this interaction. (Unless you're clumsy enough to be in someone's face, pushing them to reveal names, there's zero risk of coming across in a negative light.) Rely on Door-Openers to simplify this critical exchange for your client and you. 

Mike O'Horo

Learn how easy it is to develop and exploit a reliable Door-Opener for your primary service. RainmakerVT online lawyer business development training will teach you the "how" of this high-impact principle -- affordably and conveniently.