How to avoid getting the wrong referrals

This is part four of a series on the top five concerns lawyers have about getting referrals.

To recap, I have just concluded a survey of small law firms where I asked then what their biggest concerns were in regard to getting referrals from people within their professional network.

From their replies we have arrived at the top five concerns lawyers have with getting referrals.

They are:
1) What can I offer to a potential referrer so that they get something out of the referral?
2) How do I consistently get true referrals as distinct to an incentivised referral?
3) How do I approach busy potential referrers without being a nuisance?
4) How to avoid getting the wrong referrals such as time wasters?
5) How can I price my service to attract high quality referrals?

In the last three articles I addressed the first three issues. If you missed them you can find the links at the bottom of this article.

In this article I will address issue four.

4) How to avoid getting the wrong referrals such as time wasters?

If you have read any of the previous articles in this series, you may notice that one of the conclusions I came to from this survey, is that lawyers generally are looking for quality rather than quantity when it comes to referrals. This question really demonstrates this.

Lawyers are busy professionals and the last thing you need is the wrong type of potential client eating into your time, when you can’t help them anyway.

So how can you reduce the chances of getting the wrong referrals?

In answering this question, it is important to note that there are two types of referrals that you may get and the approach is different for each.

The two types of referrals are referrals from your existing clients and referrals from your network, generally your network of professional colleagues.

The approach I take with existing client referrals is firstly to note and apply one of the basic principles of people, which is often expressed as the old saying “ Birds of a feather flock together”.

From the point of view of your clients, clients with similar attributes tend to associate with other people with those same attributes.

To give a practical example of this in practice, an IP lawyer was bemoaning the fact to me that they often saw “dreamer” type clients who had an off the wall idea for an invention, but it was never going to progress and consequently the client just wasted the time of the lawyer, with nothing constructive coming from the meeting. In the next sentence the lawyer explained that these clients often referred their friends and (no surprise) these people had equally off the wall ideas that were going to waste more of their time.

When dealing with fellow professionals I find myself talking a lot about their ”ideal clients”. One of the many benefits of spending time to identify exactly who you want to be spending your time working with, is that it makes it easy to identify those clients within your existing clients.

Having identified who you really want to be working with, these are the people that you want to be encouraging to refer, as (no surprise) they are likely to refer other people who are likely to be your ideal clients as well.

It sounds easy doesn’t it; and it really is, but you would be surprised how few professionals do it and as a consequence waste a significant portion of their career working with the wrong clients.

With your professional network, the approach is similar, but the execution is different.

With your existing clients, you already know the client you want, so it is easy to target them for referrals but with your professional network you are relying on a middleperson (the referrer) to do the job for you.

So how do you do it?

You need to explain to the person who you want as clients.

Once again this can be easier than you might think.

Assuming that you are already in practice, no doubt you have been receiving some referrals from your professional colleagues. If you firstly know who your ideal client is, then you can analyse your referrals and you can quite quickly see who is referring you the clients who match your ideal client.

Having done that minimal amount of work, you can probably already see that at that point a number of simple strategies open up that can help you to get more of the clients that you really want.

A really simple one could be to contact your refer who has recently referred you an “ideal” client and thank them again (because you obviously would have already thanked them a first time) and reinforce to them how you have been able to help that client and that you really enjoy working with that type of client and/or that particular type of problem.

If you have been complaining about the wrong type of clients wasting your time, then these simple strategies can help you to ensure that you spend your time working with the clients that you really want.

Have you missed the earlier three articles? You can find the links to them here:

Article 1 The top five concerns lawyers have with referrals

Article 2 How to consistently get true referrals as distinct to incentivised referrals?

Article 3 How to approach busy referrers without being a nuisance?

For the next article in the referral series, click on the following link “ How to price legal services to attract high quality referrals?”