Our approach to sustainable business development has for several years encompassed a six-part strategy involving:
- Repeat business from existing clients;
- Referrals from existing clients to their contacts;
- Strategic alliances with other professionals in allied fields;
- Networking in the local professional community to find new potential allies and sources of introduction;
- Keep-in-touch programs to ensure all of the above remain aware of our presence; and
- Showcase - all the publicity materials, including website, seminars, articles, publications, etc. that bring you to the attention of the relevant market.
Repeat, Referral or Recommendation
At a recent law management section seminar I chaired at Chancery Lane, David Gilroy of Conscious Solutions delivered a very interesting speech on this subject, in which he identified that amongst their client base (over 200 law firms) the overwhelming majority of incoming work came, in essence, from three sources. He said that 92% of incoming work came from Repeat, Referral or Recommendation.
This fits very closely with our view that the first three sources in the list above produce the major part of the new work (terms of both quantity and quality) coming into practices – and that "your next piece of work is likely to come from someone who knows you, or someone who knows someone who knows you".
So, in a recent speech to a group of specialist niche practitioners, I focused more closely on the top three issues - repeat work, referrals and strategic alliances - but christened them "the 3R's of Legal Business Development" - i.e. Repeat, Referral and Recommendation. In the follow up questions this simple piece of phraseology seemed to have caught the mind of the audience more than any other single aspect.
Asking the Question
We often find in interviewing clients they say that the best work comes by the recommendation route - either from satisfied clients, or from other professionals. However, when we ask the supplementary question "how often do you ask your clients for a referral?" the answer is usually “very rarely”. Even when we ask "how often do you ask other professionals to recommend you?" the answer is “rarely more often”.
As the Americans would say, "every time you don't ask, you don't get" - so learning to ask constructively for more work from existing clients or close contacts is one of the most important skills for any lawyer. After all, as 92% of your work is likely to come from these sources, learning to do this simple thing well will put you ahead of your competitors.