Rainmaking Recommendation #234: 10 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Referrals

Referrals can be one of the best Rainmaking tactics you can use to grow your book of business.  But, many lawyers aren’t getting the quality or quantity of referrals that they would like. 

Here are 10 reasons you’re not getting referrals:

  1. You aren’t top of mind

I’ve often said that people do not wake up one morning saying, “I think I’ll hire a lawyer for the heck of it.” Hiring a lawyer is almost always for a specific reason.  Even if you’re a lawyer working for large corporations, there is always a reason the General Counsel needs you.  But, if you are out of sight, you are out of mind.  And, in the case of referral marketing, this is a truism that you do not want to experience.

Instead, it would be best if you found a way to keep your name in front of people at all times.   Blog posts, videos, social media, networking, email marketing, newsletters, all of these are designed to keep you in their minds. 

2. People don’t know what you do

Yes, you are an attorney, but more than 1.3 million other people in the United States can say the same thing.

You need to specifically explain exactly what you do while you’re networking, on your firm’s website bio, on your social media sites, and everywhere else where people may go to find out more about you.

3. People do not know who your ideal clients are

You must have a definition, a description of your ideal clients, and articulate this to others. If you say, I work with small business owners, for example, and then most people will not be able to send you the right clients. Because their definition of the small business owner may be very different from those you seek to help. Instead, if you said, I work with family-owned businesses or work with fewer than 1000 employees, that becomes more specific. 

When you provide your referral sources with your ideal clients’ specifics, what happens is that when they hear or meet someone who fits that description and needs an attorney, your name will be the one who pops into mind.  

4. You pitch too much rather than educate

Before the internet, you had to ask a salesperson for the information to get knowledge about a product or service you needed or wanted to buy. In fact, the entire sales profession has changed because of the internet. 

Now, when people need a product or service, they research before purchasing.  They already know a lot about you and what you do when they call you.   People no longer want to be “sold.” Most people have already decided on what they want to buy by the time they do.  This is because all of the information is already available to them. 

So what you want to do is educate them.  Education means showcasing your knowledge; education means providing them with the reasons you are the best choice, and education means providing free information that helps them make the decision. 

Regardless of whether you are referred directly by a friend, colleague, or client, the very first thing that the person will most likely do is go to the internet and look you up. 

5. There are negative reviews about you on the internet

You think that you are doing a fantastic job for all of your clients, and you believe that every one of them is thrilled with the work you’ve done for them.  Hold onto your hats – believe it or not, you have clients who are not happy with you. 

The legal field is incredibly adversarial.   I know, not a newsflash, but there are winners and losers in almost every case.  Or maybe you have clients who wanted more than you could provide.  Managing expectations from the outset of any legal proceeding are essential, but that still doesn’t mean that a client will not be happy with the outcome – even if you do win.  And nowadays, they have a place where they can take out their frustrations – the internet. 

You must start vigilantly monitoring what is said about you online and find a way to either “remove’ it from the internet or mitigate its impact by obtaining favorable reviews. 

6. You expect to get all of your referrals from other attorneys

Many years ago, when there weren’t so many attorneys, you could and would get referrals from other attorneys.  Nowadays, according to some statistics, referrals from other attorneys only account for 25% of any referrals you will receive. Usually, this is because they are conflict of interest cases that the first firm cannot take on.  That means 75% comes from other people.

Additionally, in Big Law and Mid-market Law firms, if the culture and compensation system does not encourage collaboration, then your colleagues in another practice area are going to be hesitant to refer their clients to you for fear that you will “steal” the client from them.  Hopefully, this is not your firm.

But, there is a way to obtain more referrals from other attorneys from your firm. You can create a networking group where each person practices in a different niche and/or practice area. For example, if you are in a law firm where there are multiple practice areas, then have one attorney from each practice area come together a few times per month and discuss clients and ways to refer them to others in the firm.  This is cross-selling in law firms.

7. You haven’t determined your best Strategic Referral Partners

Strategic Referral Partners are the companies and individuals who are already doing business or know the people with whom you would like to cultivate as a client.

Think beyond the obvious.  Some so many people do business with your ideal client.  The trick is to define your ideal client and find the others who work with them.  Then reach out.  Yes, you have to actually reach out to create a relationship with these Strategic Referral Partners.  This can be done by:

  • Joining associations in which they are members;
  • Finding them on social media and connecting with them on the site;
  • Directly emailing them;
  • Calling them.

8. They don’t know, like, or trust you

Yes, you’ve heard it before (and probably from me) – people do business with people they know, like, and trust.   How you create this is by being authentic.  Your personality must shine through at all times, in your marketing, social media, blogs, during your networking, etc.  Rainmaking is about creating relationships. This takes time.  You need to use all of your marketing and business development not to sell but to develop those relationships.  This leads to clients and referrals.

9. You didn’t ask

I’m going to tell you something very, very important – your referral sources, whether it be clients, former clients, strategic referral partners, or anybody else, do not think about you.  They think about themselves.  Therefore, for you to be considered, you must ask your referral sources for referrals.  Many lawyers fear asking for referrals (which will be the topic of another Rainmaking Recommendation), but this is not about being a sleazy salesperson.  It is about creating relationships with your colleagues, clients, and Strategic Partners.

(By the way, I also want you to understand that recommendations and testimonials are also referrals.  So anytime you can ask a happy client to provide a written recommendation or testimonial for the internet, you should do so.)

10. You didn’t show gratitude for the referrals they already gave you.

People want to be thanked when they give you a referral.  It doesn’t take much more than either calling or sending them a note to say thank you. I always suggest a handwritten note. 

Show gratitude even if they did not refer you an ideal client or they referred a client whom you cannot help for some reason – whether that is a subject matter reason or a conflict of interest with other clients.  Even if they did not refer you to the right client, thank them anyway and let them know why you can’t represent the potential client.  Then take the next step – explain to them what qualifies as your ideal client.  This way, they will not make this same mistake in the future. 

I have a list of various vendors, professionals, and other attorneys to whom I can send referrals.  However, if they do not find a way to say thank you, they are removed from my list. 

Even if you fix one of these reasons, your referrals can start coming in regularly. 

  • If you are a 4th to an 8th-year associate who would like to become a partner or a partner looking to become a Rainmaker and are interested in individual coaching but would like to take it for a test drive, schedule your FREE Rainmaking Coaching Session
  • If you are a law firm leader and would like to discuss bringing a virtual training program or a Rainmaking Webinar (with Ethics CLEs)  email me.

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