I had a most enjoyable lunch with two lawyers yesterday. Here’s the second of two follow-up emails I sent them the next day (I have changed the names to protect the identity of those I’m writing to and about):
Hi John and Stuart.
Again, thank you for lunch yesterday. It was great catching up.
Here’s some follow up/additional info on things we discussed. (By the way, I think this is something everyone at your firm should take a look at.)
- Per our conversation, building relationships with referral sources is not a “one and done”. Let’s be clear on this: if you take someone to lunch/meet them for coffee one time and have a nice conversation followed up by a thank you note, you might get a referral. But you’re not likely to get a stream of referrals over time. You’re not likely to be remembered for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. You’re not building the connection, the friendship, the relationship.
The first meeting is just the first meeting. It’s essential that the first meeting leads to a second meeting, and to a third meeting, and a fourth, and a fifth, and so on for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. In other words, your first meeting is the beginning of a long relationship. You’re looking to stay connected to your referral source FOREVER. That way the referrals will keep coming year in, year out, FOREVER. And so to FOREVER that happen, it’s important to create and stick to a ‘rigid follow-up and stay-in-touch system’ so you don’t drift away from your contact.
I recommend a 90-day cycle that repeats over and over again. Here’s a plan that works (feel free to tweak it to suit your specific situation):
Day 1: Buy your contact lunch or coffee.
Day 2: Send a follow-up note.
Day 30: Send a note on something pertinent. Look for something helpful, interesting or relevant you can forward to your contact. Ideally, you identified an issue where you can be of assistance and you’ll communicate on that topic. See my email to Mike in point 3 below which talks about looking for opportunities to pay it forward.
Day 60: Send another note similar to the previous one. Go ahead and propose some dates for another get-together around day 90.
Day 75: If you don’t yet have a lunch or coffee planned, then go ahead and schedule something now. Place a call if necessary and get the next lunch/coffee in your diary.
Day 90: Buy your contact lunch or coffee.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Eventually, your relationships will become less structured and more casual, but until that happens stick to a 90 day cycle like the one I have described here.
This is the way to grow and maintain your relationship/s. You want to stay in touch and you want to stay top-of-mind. Ideally, you’re having additional interactions with your contacts. Maybe you’re running into them at networking and industry events, out at restaurants and coffee shops or in other places. Maybe you’re working on something that came up at the first meeting. Maybe you play a regular round of golf together. Maybe you plan dinner with your spouses. Along the way, your contact is getting your monthly newsletter, you’re inviting them to your seminars and parties and you send them a birthday card. — All of this kind of activity will place you prominently on your contacts radar screen. Hopefully, you’re able to send thank-you notes for your referrals. Hopefully, you’re finding ways to make your relationship mutually beneficial. In my email to Daniel in point 2 below, I talk about the many ways you can keep the ledger balanced with your referral source.
The first meeting just ended. The rest of your networking relationship/friendship is ahead of you. Use the system above to build and grow and nurture and take care of your relationships with referral sources. Be patient and let things evolve and the referrals will come — then you’ll be having many more good revenue days.
- I mentioned Daniel (name substituted to protect the innocent) the accountant who asked “how do I manage my business relationships with two law firms. Here’s the email I sent him in response to his question:
Thanks for your email asking “how is the best way to manage business relationships with a couple of law firms?” And you went on to say “opportunities to refer to a lawyer don’t come through weekly”.
Here’s my response first to your question and second to your comment about a lack of opportunities to refer………
First up, let me say you’re not Robinson Crusoe with this referrals “thing”. I ‘m frequently asked, “How can I maintain lots of relationships with lawyers/accountants/financial planners/finance brokers, etc. when I can only refer to a few or just one or two?” “How can I ask them for referrals when I can’t refer to them?
Daniel, every professional who is actively building up their referral source network faces this same challenge—-like you, they don’t have enough referrals to hand out to everyone. When you’re trying cultivate multiple referral sources, you can’t possibly reciprocate with a referral every time. Nor can you proactively feed all your referral sources with a regular flow of referrals—-and it’s especially challenging when your referral sources are in the same profession as each other.
Ultimately, networking relationships are reciprocal. There’s a quid pro quo. You give to me and I give to you. If these relationships aren’t win-win, if they aren’t a two-way street, if they aren’t mutually beneficial they WILL sour and end.
So the question is, “what can you give?” or “what can you give back?” when you can’t give referrals so that you can fulfill the need to make your referral source relationships reciprocal?
Answer: Plenty! There are many ways you can pay referral sources back for making a referral You don’t always need to respond to a referral with a referral. And you don’t necessarily have to give referrals to a potential referral source in order to turn them into an active one.
My article (accompanying this email) entitled “Inexpensive, Creative Ways To Build Business Relationships” provides a toolbox of ideas for not only keeping the ledger balanced in your networking relationships, but also proactively nurturing those relationships to generate more referrals for your firm.
In a nutshell, you need to actively manage your referral sources by staying in regular personal touch to see what they’re up to and what’s the latest with them. Personal phone calls, personal emails, personal text messages and the occasional breakfast, lunch or drink after work with them are the ways to do this. It’s vital that you continually show that you’re interested in THEM and show that you care about THEM by maintaining regular personal contact.
And you need to look for opportunities to give value (or pay it forward), without expecting anything back in return.
* You introduce him/her to someone who can refer to him/her. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You invite him/her to your parties That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You donate to the charity s/he cares about. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You answer questions for him/her about an area you are an expert in. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You help his/her spouse/partner/kid by writing a letter of recommendation/introduction. That’s value That’s paying it forward.
* You give him/her ways/ideas to profit more, produce more, sell more in their business. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You teach him/her a few marketing ideas or help them do a better job with their current marketing efforts. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You remember his/her birthday and send a card. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You set him/her up for a speaking engagement. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
You may not be in a position to send him/her business, but can nurture the relationship with something else of value.
* You go to the funeral when his/her mother passes. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You visit him/her in hospital> That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You ask him/her to give you a tour of their place of work so you can better understand their business That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You send him/her back comments about a piece in their newsletter. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
You’ve got to do something if you want to be remembered.
* You invite him/her to a networking event with you where s/he might enjoy meeting desirable prospects and referral sources. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* I repeat, you buy him/her breakfast or lunch. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You refer him/her to reliable service providers and vendors (e.g., copywriters, printers, internet experts, business consultants, etc.) That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You offer to provide a free service to their clients. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
There’s no reason to limit your relationship to trading business. Saying “I hope to send you something” means nothing. If you can’t send business the other way, try something else.
* You add him/her to your referral list on your website. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You see if any of your LinkedIn connections could be of value to him/her and make the connection for them. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You write a recommendation of him/her on LinkedIn. (That’s incredibly powerful and no it’s not the same as an Endorsement).That’s value. That’s paying it forward. (That’s incredibly powerful and no it’s not the same as an Endorsement).
* You nominate him/her for recognition and awards. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
If you want to turn your relationships into referrals you’ve got to keep reminding your contacts that you exist—and not with a sales pitch or a brochure featuring your products or services, but with VALUE.
* You connect with him/her on LinkedIn. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You “like”, “share” and “comment” on his/her LinkedIn updates. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You use his/her hashtag and handle (example:@gonetworking). That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
* You comment on and share his/her blog posts. That’s value. That’s paying it forward.
As you can see, there are so many ways of giving and giving back to your referral sources as you build and maintain your relationships with them. Again, I invite you to read my article attached, “Inexpensive, Creative Ways To Build Business Relationships” where you will find a whole host of other approaches to making your networking relationships mutually beneficial.
More food for thought……………..
* Be up front and honest in your networking relationships. If don’t think you can send business to your networking associates, explain to them why.. Then ask them what else they want and help them get it.
* Maybe you CAN refer business their way. You just need help in recognising or uncovering the right opportunities. Ask your referral sources questions like, “What are some typical indicators that show there might be a need for your services?” “What are a few questions I could ask my clients to confirm whether there really is a need if I uncover one of those indicators?” “How can I recognise a good business opportunity for you?”
* When opportunities to refer to a lawyer, financial planner or other service provider come up, always give at least two names. Your clients are entitled to choose people they work with and they might not share your opinion about who would be good for them. You also cover your assets a bit by giving two or more names ― if your client ends up disliking the person s/he chooses s/he knows s/he had other options. There’s another reason why I like to give my clients two or three options — no one can say that I’m benefiting (financially or otherwise) by referring only to the one person or firm. It’s a credibility thing for me ― and for you too, I might suggest.
* Let the client make the contact, but give a heads-up if you can. Your client, not you should decide whether to contact someone about this matter. That said, I always ask the client if s/he wants me to call the person I’m referring him/her to, to let them know my client might be calling, while assuring my client I won’t be discussing his/her matter with people whose names I’ve given. Giving your referral source/s a heads-up does two things―it lets them know that you’re thinking of them, even if your client doesn’t call, and it can ease your client’s concern about calling someone s/he doesn’t know.
Some further reading…………….Check out my article attached, “Building Referral Partnerships”. It’s full of real-world advice and approaches on how to build, grow and manage referral source relationships.
Daniel, I hope this helps.
- I also mentioned another accountant in Mike who wanted to know how to ‘ace’ his first up coffee meeting with an insurance broker and potential referral source in Jonathan (again, I have changed the names) Here’s the email I sent to Mike:
Yesterday I was thinking about the meeting (hopefully the first of many, many more over the coming years) you’re going to have with Jonathan. I want to share a few things with you that will ensure this first meeting is a good one — both for you and Jonathan.
- Before the meeting, do some research on Jonathan. Look him up on LinkedIn—see if you have things in common and if you share common LinkedIn connections. Review his company website and make a note of a couple of things you’d like to learn about the business.
- Spend your time together asking questions. Try not to talk too much. The more Jonathan talks, the more he will like you. That’s just human nature at work. Keep him talking by being interested and leaning about his world. If you find yourself talking too much, wrap it up with a good question and get back to listening. Think of this is meeting as the first of dozens of more meetings during the life of what could become a 5, 10 or 20 year relationship. Certainly, you’re in a hurry to build your clientele — you want more business — I know that. Realistically, however, this is a long-term project and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about your needs and objectives IF you hit it off with Jonathan and take the relationship to the next level. Give trust time to blossom. This is not the time to sell or ask for business. This is the time to connect.The referrals will come. I promise.
2.5. If you want to be good at networking, building relationships, business development and getting referrals, be good at listening. Think about it: who do you like more, the guy who talked the whole time or the guy who asked you good questions and was interested in your answers.
- Come to this meeting well prepared to ask Jonathan about his interests at work and outside the office:
* What gets him excited about what he does?
* What drives him crazy?
* How did he first get interested in the work he does?
* What services/products does his company provide?
* What are his typical client problems?
* Who are his favorite types of clients?
* What makes the ideal referral for his business?
* Who are his best referrals sources?
* What are the key frustrations in his business?
Mike, it’s likely that Jonathan is going to want to know these things about you too so be prepared with your answers — but keep them short and get back to listening with a good question.
4 Some things you should be listening for:
* What is the spouse’s name? Figure out how long they’ve been married.
* What are the names and ages of the kids?
* What’s the work history?
* Where did he grow up?
* What did his parents do? Are they living?
* What are his interests outside his work?
* What are the big issues in his life?
* What are his worries, concerns and anxieties?
* What are his goals, objectives and needs?
Mike, you need to capture these things and write them down. You’re going to have many, many more meetings with Jonathan. You don’t want to repeat the first meeting over and over again at every meeting for the next 20 years. I always take notes when I’m in these types of meetings and so should you.
- As the conversation progresses, you need to look for opportunities to pay it forward, look for opportunities to help. The surest, fastest way to build any relationship is to help the person. Revisit my article “Inexpensive, Creative Ways Tom Build Business Relationships”and you’ll be reminded of 50 plus ways you can pay it forward and help your contacts.
- Remember, this first meeting is just the first meeting. It is essential that the first meeting leads to a second and to a third, a fourth, a fifth and so on. Eventually, your relationship will start to blossom with Jonathan referring business your way. Remember, this is a long-term project — and if you handle it right the payoff in terms of new clients for your practice will be BIG.
6.5. If this meeting takes place at your office, plan the next one at Jonathan’s office. Don’t forget to bring the muffins.
Good luck with Jonathan. I’ll be in touch.
John/Stuart, I hope this helps.
Author: Ron Gibson, Alliance Advisor with ATL Network