How often have you wished that your staff, supervisors, managers or other fee earners would proactively ask for referrals. Yes, we all know that referrals are the lifeblood of professional service firms, so why do so many professionals struggle to ask for referrals? (Whether proactively or re-actively)
1. They don’t know how to ask for a referral
If you read any literature in this subject, how to ask for a referral normally starts with, ‘just ask them’ or something like using a phrase ‘who do you know?’. This doesn’t really tell you how to ask for a referral! Consequently many fee earners just don’t know how to ask for a referral – and ‘who do you know?’ is rarely effective outside of a formal networking group or club.
2. They don’t feel comfortable asking for a referral
Most professionals didn’t join their profession out of a love of business development. It was because they wanted to become Abi accountant, lawyer or consultant. Consequently, many professionals don’t feel entirely comfortable with asking clients and their network for referrals; resulting in the question never getting asked. Couple that with a lack of knowledge of how to ask in the right way and is it any wonder that our fee earners never quite get around to asking for referrals?
3. They haven’t had much success in asking before
You can probably relate to this one. You return from a course with lots of ideas and ways to do things differently. Then you find that it doesn’t quite work as well as you had planned. So you give up and go back to what you always did before the course. It’s the same with asking for referrals. A couple of bad or unproductive experiences when asking for referrals means your fee earners, if not supported to keep at it, will just stop asking.
4. The billable hour gets in the way
Engaging in a conversation about referrals and work-winning opportunities takes time. Time, which if your fee earners are ethical, they can’t charge to the client. Consequently, many firms actually disincentivise their fee earners from even trying to ask for a referral, by focusing on just one metric to evaluate performance, chargeable time.
5. It’s someone else’s job
Well, who do you think should be doing it in your firm? Do your team think it’s you and you think they should be too? That’s before you get into a firm with a couple more fee-earners or partners. In my opinion, it’s everybody.
Step one to getting more referrals is to ask for more, but that’s too obvious! Perhaps you should start by why you (and the team) are not asking for referrals.
What prevents your team from asking for referrals?