Keep Your Friends Close!

Surprise! Today’s newsletter is a pop quiz. Who are your best referral sources? List the top 10 right now. If you are a more junior lawyer in a law firm and don’t yet have your own clients, list the senior lawyers for whom you do the most work. 

How easy did you find it to make this list? This information should be at the tips of your fingers. If you don’t know who your top referral sources are, your activity this week is to find out. 

How often do you talk with the people who refer business to you? One of my clients recently realized that his top three referral sources send him seven to ten substantial matters a year, resulting in several hundred thousand dollars of business. That’s great news! But he also discovered a significant problem: as he’d become busier, he spent less time maintaining the connections that had helped to build those referral relationships. 

Sure, he sent business to his top referral sources when appropriate, he attended meetings with them frequently, and he went out of his way to send a nice “thank you” every time one of them sent a new matter to him. But he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had lunch or played golf one-on-one with these people. The business relationship was in place with each referral source, but the personal connections underlying it had grown weak. 

Relationships, like anything else, are constantly shifting. Are your key relationships growing closer or more distant? If you don’t stay in touch with your contacts on a consistent basis, the relationships will grow weaker and you may find that the support that you enjoyed shifts to others who are more attentive. The shift may be entirely unconscious, but referrals tend to go to those who are top-of-mind, and a distant relationship won’t keep you sufficiently visible. 

Take a few minutes now to calendar times to check with the people who think enough of you to send you work.  Reconnect and find out what’s going on with them. At the same time, express your appreciation for their referrals. And then set up reminders to check in with them at least quarterly.

Do you have repeat business or loyal clients?

I have a quote for your consideration today:

 

loyalty-5
There’s plenty of talk about the lack of client loyalty these days, and much of that is well-founded. That doesn’t mean that client loyalty doesn’t exist, though. I’d suggest that the basis of loyalty is trust. When a client trusts that you will act in his or her best interest at all times, loyalty becomes almost a given.

Today, ask yourself how much your clients trust you and what you can do to warrant even more trust. When you’ve reached your answer, build that into the client experience you create.

Loyalty isn’t a matter of happenstance… And neither is trust.

Progress or excuses?

One simple question for you today: are you making progress toward your business development goals… Or are you making excuses?

Here’s the tricky part: progress doesn’t necessarily require massive action, and action doesn’t necessarily equate to progress.

Take a minute and get honest with yourself. If you don’t like what you discover, do something different today. Making progress can be as simple as picking up the phone to call a strategically selected contact.

Client service = Value creation

A key focus of your practice must be client service, not just to retain current clients (though that’s critical) or to expand those relationships (though that’s desirable) but also to create a positive experience for your clients, one that may help to build your reputation.

Client service creates client experience, and client experience creates value for your clients. As you build value for your clients, you will also build the value of your practice. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. I’ve written extensively on client service and value creation (see here, for example, and here and here), but sometimes you need a quick checkup as from this summary article, The Ten Commandments of Customer Service. Almost all of the “commandments” are relevant, but a few deserve a highlight.

1. “Know who is boss.You are in business to service customer needs and you can only do that if you know what your customers want.” Though I must add that in practice, the client is not necessarily the boss. Sometimes your role as counselor (in egregious circumstances, your ethical duties as well) will require you to challenge a client’s request. That requires finesse, but when done appropriately it’s a beneficial point of distinction for you.

3. “Identify and anticipate needs…” Identify client service needs and create value for your clients by proactively providing useful information relevant to their needs.

5. “Help customers understand your systems.” Whether it is your system for workflow and client contact (which you may modify based on client needs) or the legal system relevant to the substantive matter, orienting your client will serve both of you well.

Take a look at the Commandments and spot-check yourself. What might you do differently to build more value for your clients?