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There’s nothing like an economic collapse to kick us all into action. Our networking course has been selling like hotcakes.
But things look different now.
Taking a referral source to lunch isn’t the same when we’re wearing masks, sitting six feet apart, and scrubbing up with hand sanitizer.
I used to worry about drying my hands carefully in the restaurant restroom, so that I wouldn’t have to do the damp handshake. Now we can elbow bump. At least something will be easier.
Things are different, but they’re the same
The virus has changed our work patterns. We’re doing things differently, but most of us still need to accomplish the same goals. We still need to generate business. The best clients still come from referrals.
Building your referral network gets more important when circumstances change and the economy is in turmoil. We need a healthy web of interdependent connections, organized to generate new business for our law firm.
We’ve adapted our networking program to this new world, and we’re launching it again on May 1. The adaptations are all about networking remotely. I’ll show you how you can build a network without going out to lunch. You’ll do it without meeting up at Starbucks. We may have to be physically distant but that doesn’t mean we can’t have powerful connections, build sustainable relationships, and demonstrate caring for others. That’s a recipe for more cases, more referrals, and more revenue.
Building your network matters–now more than ever.
Take my advice, detailed below, to build a stronger, more effective, more productive referral network. Referral marketing has been the cornerstone of my success. It’ll be a huge boost to your business as well.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Do it every damn day
Building a referral network isn’t a background activity you can squeeze in between other things. It’s about people, and people matter. We don’t squeeze in our spouses, partners, or kids, and we can’t expect to squeeze in our referral sources.
We have to maintain existing relationships and, importantly, start new relationships. It’s the starting part which sometimes stops us dead in our tracks.
Who would have thought that a group of grownups could be so afraid of making a phone call to generate referrals?
What is the worst thing that might happen? They’ll reject you sometimes–so what? This is too important to let a little fear of rejection get in the way.
Unfortunately, sometimes that fear of rejection stops us dead in our tracks.
How do you get past it?
You push yourself–through brute force–to take action. You stop telling yourself you can’t do it, and you just do it. Dive into the pool, eat the frog, jump out of the airplane–just freaking do it.
Then don’t stop. Stopping takes you back to fear.
Moving forward keeps you going forward. Fight off the fear with action. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
2. Communicate on every channel
How do you reach people today? You find them where they live. They’re out there and accessible, more now than ever. It’s easy to initiate connections.
Of course you can still call and email. But you can also find people actively engaged on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. Who’s there? Everybody. Even the President of the United States is on social media–all day long.
Be an online stalker to initiate relationships, and then take it private. I’ve got chats going on all the platforms I’ve mentioned, as well as on Instagram, Whatsapp, Skype, and Zoom. Some of my sneakier friends insist we communicate on Telegram and Signal.
We’re living in a time when people–lawyers especially–are desperate for connection. We miss hanging out at the coffee pot. We’re people who enjoy talking to people. This is your moment, so get online and find some new friends.
3. Use a script
Scripts are your friends. Chart the path you’re going to follow. Write some notes.
I meet lawyers for whom lack of preparation is a badge of honor.
Let’s not play that game when building our professional network. Think through the conversations you’ll likely have as you get to know more people. Get ready.
It’s smart to have prepared scripts for introduction calls. Knowing how you’ll handle your Zoom meeting before it starts is valuable. You may have done a thousand networking lunches in the past, but we’re in a new world today. Get yourself ready for it.
More important than knowing the words you’re going to say is knowing the questions you’re going to ask. Come prepared with questions for each person you meet. A little online stalking is no longer spying; it’s expected. If I put it out there, then I expect you to know it. We all live online now and you’re expected to be in the game.
4. Be curious
The most interesting people are interested in people. We all like interested people, especially if they’re interested in us.
Ask questions, find things out, care about the people you meet. Your curiosity translates as friendly, fun, likeable, smart, and interested in my favorite person–me.
Make sure every meeting involves the other person talking about their favorite topic–themselves.
Ask questions–lots of questions–and then ask some more questions. Do some Googling, search Linkedin, look them up on Tinder. Be ready for the meeting with questions that actually interest you. Learn from your referral partner. The things you find out might be business-related, but they might also be life lessons that will help you avoid some big mistakes. People know things. Learn from them.
5. Use your feedback loop
Some of your referral source meetings will go well, and some will be an awkward mess. Great. You’re getting feedback.
Watch yourself and observe what’s working and what isn’t. Look for patterns. Change, experiment, stretch, and you’ll get more feedback.
Don’t drive yourself nuts with self-examination, but it’s important to use each and every interaction to learn, so that you can make the next interaction better.
The more contact you have with referral sources, the faster you can close the feedback loop so that you can gather more data.
Move quickly and keep talking to people, so that you can rapidly iterate and improve.
6. Stay goal focused
I don’t want to get overly mercenary on you, but this isn’t a game: it’s business. The bottom line is still the bottom line. We need deposits going into the bank account.
Some of us feel awkward asking for referrals. We don’t want to damage the relationship. We want to demonstrate that we’re interested in our clients, rather than in ourselves.
I get it. But business is business, and we’re all out there hustling. The person you’re talking to is hustling too.
Sure, it’s important to build caring relationships. But realistically, this relationship is going to disappear if it’s not economically viable. Referrals are essential to what’s happening here. Don’t forget that.
Keep score. Know the value, in real money, of each relationship. If a relationship doesn’t prove profitable after a reasonable amount of time, cut it off.
Sure, you can be friends outside of the business realm, but this activity is about swiping credit cards, receiving wire transfers, and finding checks in the mail.
7. Build trust
Building trust requires frequency, proximity, and vulnerability.
We get together to talk. In our current environment that might simply be text messages, or it could be video chat. One day we’ll be back to lunch and coffee.
We do it frequently. Seeing someone once a year works to maintain a trusting relationship, but the relationship can’t get started without frequent contact at the outset. That’s why the person you sat next to in your contracts class is still your friend, but the person you sat next to on the airplane (remember airplanes?) isn’t.
Finally, we open up. We don’t go crazy the first time and admit to being off our meds. But we talk about our families, our concerns, our dreams. Then we go deeper, and over time, in a reciprocal manner, we explore our fears, our anxieties, and our problems. Relationships deepen in parallel. Both sides go on a journey together, and we connect in ways that never break.
Being a good listener is the secret sauce here. It’s important that you trust the other person enough to open up. That’s how the environment becomes safe. But once the floodgates are open, the key is to take it all in, process it, acknowledge it. People want to be heard, understood, and cared for. Listening is how you demonstrate that you care.
Good questions are rocket fuel for listening. Be prepared.
You need this now more than ever
“How’s business?” I asked.
“Fine,” she replied. She stammered a bit, and explained that her practice area is “recession-proof.”
I started my practice in a recession. Then I went through two more. Now this …
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody is recession-proof. Sorry.
If you’re busy, doing well, and feeling good right now, then you’re in the calm before the storm.
A lot of lawyers are still coasting on work and retainer payments from February,
and assuming that things will go “back to normal” in a couple of weeks.
What we’re experiencing right now is the new normal, and if your plans for
staying in business hinge on things going back to how they were in 2019, then
2020 won’t be pretty.
Join me for the next month. I’ll be with you each day, and each step of the way, as we build our networks remotely, virus-free, safely, and solidly. We’re going to need our networks more than we’ve ever needed them. Let’s build something important–together.