Alvah Parker

Article Summary:

How to build a referral-based business by fostering strong relationships with their network.

Building A Referral-Based Practice Through Networking

"It is all about relationships", I said to the woman lawyer with whom I had worked for several months. She was about to open a new law practice. She had some established clients from her previous office. She planned to maintain the relationships with these clients and begin to identify new people to approach.

"All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust." says Bob Burg in his book Endless Referrals. So how do you get people to "know, like and trust" you?

It takes many exposures to you to build that trust so the sooner you begin to build your network of relationships the better.

Who are the people you want in your network? From a business perspective you want potential clients or people who know potential clients. How do you find those people?

The amazing thing is that you never know who other people know! It is said each one of us knows 250 people. The first step is to write down your own 250. Start first with family members, then friends, school colleagues, professional colleagues, vendors, etc. You are on your way.

The next time you meet with someone on your list, will you be able to tell them about your work and who would make a good client for you? If not you will need to prepare that.

Prepare a short statement that gives the benefit to the client of the work that you do. Saying I am a lawyer and my specialty is trusts and estates doesn't lend itself to more conversation. You are more likely to hear something like "Oh, isn't that nice." and a new subject brought up.

A better short statement might be I work with caring people who want to plan for the security of their family members or I help people to prepare for the natural events that occur in life. Here they might ask, "How do you do that?" Then you can talk about what trusts and wills can do for people.

You also want to tell them who would make a good client for you. So you might add, "A good prospective client for me would be someone who is expecting or adopting his/her first child. Do you know anyone like that?"

Networking is a give and take process so you want to be sure you listen to what the other person does and who would make a good client for that person. Part of the whole business development process is helping others too. When you are generous with your referrals you will get many in return.

You've started with your own personal network but when you expand this network, you'll want to think more strategically. Who are your most likely referrers? Past clients are a strong possibility. If they liked your work, they will be willing to recommend you to others who have a similar need. People who have frequent contact with your target market would be another group that offers possibilities.

Finally we all know a few naturally gregarious people who love telling people about someone they know who is great at ______ - the person with the big rolodex that loves connecting people. This kind of person can be a great resource for you!

If business is all about relationships then it is up to you as the business owner to keep those relationships going. As you begin to see referrals, you will know who your best referrers are. Treat them well. Stay in front of them so when a potential client for you comes their way, you will be the first person they think of.

Take Action

1. If you have never done this before, make a list of your friends, family and other connections. How close to 250 do you get? Remember this does not mean you know the people well. Check your Christmas card list!

2. Make a list of your current and past clients. Do you know which ones are referring business to you? Take an action right now to let all your current and past clients know you appreciate referrals.

3. Make a list of good strategic partners for you. If you know names, put them on the list. If you know occupations or categories of people, put them on the list. Think about ways to meet these people either by going to a meeting or asking someone you know to introduce you.

Alvah Parker is a Practice Advisor for attorneys and Career Transition Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. To subscribe send an email to join-roadtosuccess@
go.netatlantic.com. Parker's Value Program enables clients to find a way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. She is both a Practice Advisor and Coach to attorneys, sole practioners, and works with people in transition to find a fulfilling career. Alvah is found on the web at www.asparker.com. She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

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