Referrals from your professional network (or your Centres of Influence (COI’s)) can be one of the best sources of quality new clients for a small law firm.

Centres of Influence are simply people who are in a position to refer their clients or customers to your firm.

Who are your Centres of Influence?

For property lawyers and conveyancers, typically key centres of influence are real estate agents and mortgage brokers. With the rise in popularity of Self-Managed Super Funds though, it is likely that accountants and financial planners could now be potential referrers, particularly with existing commercial properties being transferred to super funds.

Family lawyers often receive many referrals from lawyers who don’t do family law but increasingly those Centres of Influence could be health professionals such as psychologists.

Commercial lawyers, may cultivate a network of accountants and financial advisers.

The Benefits of Centres of Influence Referrals

The real attraction of Centres of influence when compared to say client referrals, is that while a client may know at best one or two people who need your services and they could refer to you, Centres of Influence may know hundreds.

I would suggest also that the quality of these clients may well be higher. A client may not know if a friend or colleague pays their bills on time, but another business will.

It is unlikely that a good Centre of Influence will consistently refer clients to you who don’t pay their bills. This reflects poorly on them and their professional judgement.

In the same vein a good Centre of Influence is unlikely to send you referrals of clients that they don’t like working with, for the same reasons.

Even if you are already getting some referrals from Centres of Influence, it is always handy to have a system to build more referral relationships as COI’s retire and change occupations, just like the rest of us.

Why Some Potential Referrers Never Refer

It is likely that new COI referral relationships may take some time to blossom and there is a good reason for that.

The reason relates to the concern that all referrers have when they first start to refer to you.

All referrers worry that the person they refer will have a poor experience which in turn will reflect poorly on them.

It is perhaps the key reason why many people simply don’t refer at all.

You may never get over this concern with some potential COI’s.

Consequently knowing what a step your COI’s are taking in referring to you, gives you even more reason to give them and their referrals Rolls Royce service.

How to Build a Referral Relationship with a New Centre of Influence

I am going to outline five elements of an overall strategy for building new COI relationships but all of these elements relate to existing COI relationships as well.

Just like it is easy to focus on new clients and overlook existing ones, the same applies to COI’s.

1.Help your COI’s

It is likely that your COI’s run a business just like you do and have similar issues and concerns to you. How could you help them?

If you are prepared to provide some value, it will help your potential COI appreciate your value and the value you can provide to their clients.

It stands to reason that if you help someone, that they will want to help you back.

2.Stay in regular contact with your COI’s

If you don’t stay in regular contact with your COI’s, you run the risk of being forgotten or worse, being replaced by someone else.

Think about how this contact can add value to your COI’s or their clients.

For example just having coffee with a potential COI is nice but potentially adds little value and actually costs them money in that they have to leave their business to spend time with you.

Is there some information of value to the COI or their clients that you could discuss over coffee? The more you know about your COI and their clients, the more likely you will be able to tailor this information, so that it has even more value.

3.Thank them

Just like with a client referral, it should be mandatory that you thank your COI if they refer a client to you.

It doesn’t have to be with a gift, a simple thank you is likely to be enough. The more personal that thank you is though, the better.

4.Think about things from their point of view

While you want referrals, simply asking for referrals from someone that you don’t know very well, is not a good recipe for success.

Your COI’s listen to the same radio station that most of us do, WII- FM (What’s in it for me?)

Knowing that, make sure that every contact is focused on them and the benefit that they will get

5.Refer to them

The law of reciprocity dictates that “what you reap is what you sow”. If you are prepared to refer work to your Centres of Influence, it is highly likely that they will return the favour and refer work to you.

If they don’t, then find a new Centre of Influence.


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