Most legal professionals scoff when I tell them that their best referrals come from their best clients, “Of course they do, the most satisfied client is the one most likely to give a referral.” However, they are missing part of the equation. While satisfied clients are certainly willing to give more referrals that doesn’t necessarily mean they are providing solid referrals. Quantity isn’t quality. Target your best clients that appreciate your service and use them to generate valuable referrals.
Our best clients know and love what we do. That familiarity and enthusiasm is the key to unlocking valuable referrals. Even happy clients can have a hard time identifying criteria for a good referral. They don’t deal with the firm development side of your practice so even well intentioned introductions can be a bad fit. Part of a legal professionals job in generating referrals is painting a clear picture for clients on who they would like to speak with. Our best clients create a shortcut to painting that picture.
Some of the qualities that pull us toward certain people might be overt, like a similar sense of humor or similar interests. Some are less obvious, like rate of speech or terminology. In our daily activities we tend to gravitate toward people like us. This is a built in human quality that good clients can use to make good referrals.
When we discuss the type of referral we are looking for we can refer to our client's own qualities and experience. As an example, “Is there anyone in your personal network that might be in a similar situation to the one you were in where they seem to have clear estate planning needs but have not formally set up the plan?" This short sentence carries a lot of information. Some more fleshing out might be necessary but we are defining the referral as being like them in very concrete ways. This will help narrow down all their personal contacts into a useful subset. Since the list is smaller our best clients are typically willing to make personal introductions which vastly increases credibility with the referral.
Our best clients provide the best referrals because they are looking for people like themselves. This is a shorthand to weed out poorly suited introductions and spend time with good referrals that have a solid probability to become great clients.