Monday, September 05, 2011

Leveraging Your Referrals - by Paul Grabowski

Today's Guest Blog Post is byPaul Grabowski.  Paul is a nationally recognized leader in the legal marketing arena and has successfully guided several law firm's business development and marketing efforts.  (NOTE: Paul and I worked together several years ago in the marketing department at Andrews Kurth LLP)

Leveraging Your Referrals 

Generating new business can come from three sources. First, you are fortunate enough for a new client to find and retain you. Second, you reap the rewards of obtaining business that previously belonged to someone else. Finally, you mine your contacts for new business. While many lawyers spend a great deal of time and effort hoping for new clients to walk in the door or for them to leave someone else, hope is not a strategy. Leveraging your referrals has the greatest potential to generate a significant amount of new business without the time, money and effort sometimes needlessly spent pursuing other avenues.

Relationships Matter 

People do business with people they know and like. Taking that one step further, people are more apt to refer people to others that they know and like. This is what makes relationships so important. If you have the ability to strategize about your business development plan and plug in those relationships who can lead to additional business, you can then take action.

The first step is to obviously organize your contacts in such a way as to see what relationships you currently possess to a particular industry or market sector. In doing so, consider ranking these relationships in such a way as to which ones could be your best referral sources for new business. Think in terms of the history of the relationship, position within the company or industry and how likely they would be willing to assist you in these efforts. Keep in mind that while the present goal is to generate new business sources through your relationships, it is not always the title of that individual or position in their respective company that yields the most prosperous opportunities. All relationships on some level and at some point have the potential to be referral sources.

Approaching Your Referral Sources 

For lawyers who remember their Latin phrases, approaching referral sources should be considered on a “quid pro quo” basis. If you plan on asking one of your contacts for assistance in generating new leads and introductions, remember that at some point you need to return the favor. However, it is much easier to do this with other service providers because of the level of credibility and strength of your relationship. With most professionals, receiving a referral from a credible source goes a long way in opening new doors.

Once you have gauged the strength of your relationship to your referral sources, the next step is to simply ask them for assistance. While some individuals will be reticent about using this approach, the worst that can happen is they say no. It is also recommended that you do your homework before just blindly asking for referral assistance. One of the easiest ways to determine if one of your contacts knows someone at a particular company or industry is to check out their LinkedIn page. It is now easier than ever to determine if a relationship exists through them to someone you want to meet. If you believe you have a strong relationship with your contacts and are interacting with them on a frequent basis, it is much easier to ask them to act as your referral.

Develop Something of Value 

Once your referral source has made the introduction, it is always best to lead with something of value to the new contact. Remember, this is potentially a new relationship and again, the quid pro quo will come into play. It is important not to just make the connection but moreover deliver something that your new contact will find of use to his particular company, industry or present situation. Some suggestions include leading off with a question regarding a new piece of legislation and informing them that you may have some sage advice or inviting them to an upcoming seminar because you think it would be to their benefit. The bottom line is, don’t go in empty handed.

Other Approaches That Work 

If you are apprehensive to directly ask for introductions from your referrals, there are other approaches you can consider. If you like to write articles or are serving on a panel at a conference, ask those in your network for a suggestion to an expert in the field who might to comment or participate in the program. Another opportunity for utilizing your network for referrals is to create a networking breakfast roundtable program and asking your contacts for recommendations for those who might want to attend. Finally, you can create your own seminar or program on a particular topic or industry of importance to you and extend invitations to your contacts with the offer for them to invite others from their network.


Alfred Montapert, the author of The Supreme Philosophy of Man, once said that “all lasting business is built on friendship.” Utilizing existing relationships as referrals can be an excellent method to establishing a strong book of business. The key is to analyze your existing relationships, establish a quid pro quo in working these relationships and offering something of value that your new contacts will find of benefit.

Paul S. Grabowski, Esq. has over 20 years experience in law firms, Fortune 500, private facility management, and professional and collegiate sports marketing and business development. He has been recognized for his efforts in building effective marketing and business development campaigns for businesses and individuals and can be reached at

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