Building Business Relationships 101-Where to Begin?

Building relationships with potential referral sources is an important part of building your law practice. But given the huge range of possibilities about who you can spend your time with, where do you begin?

The starting point of course is deciding who you identify as your ideal client. Once you have established this, your next step is to identify who are the referral sources who work with these same clients. These can be other professionals who provide different services to the same clientele; they can also be other lawyers who are billing at a different rate and need a lower-cost alternative to refer work to when prospective clients cannot afford their fee.

Beyond this, how do you spend your time efficiently and focus on good “potential referral sources”. The following is a four step process for making that determination:

1. While your referral source may serve some of the same clients that you would like to serve, is that referral source well-connected to that clientele? Does that individual seem like someone who is interested in relationship building and do they seem well connected to those clients?

2. Is the individual the type of professional who likes to connect professionals with each other? In other words, is the person a connector who has a helpful personality and who will go out of his or her way to try to make connections on your behalf? (This certainly does not describe many professionals you may encounter, not because professionals are antisocial; rather, because being a good connector is a skill in and of itself – so look for the bright spots.)

3. Is the individual someone you like and someone that you feel you can relate to? Don’t underestimate the value of spending your time with people who you like and whose company you enjoy. If you focus on this group, you will be much more motivated to spend time with them, and you are much more likely to make connections that will result in referrals.

4. Does the individual have any shared interests? This of course is related to item number three. If you both happen to enjoy baseball, then not only will you have more to discuss, but you may have an activity that you can spend time doing together. In contrast if you think you have a good referral source but you have nothing in common with that individual and you don’t particularly care for their company, it will be very difficult to form a relationship with that individual.

While this may all seem like common sense, it is easy to fall into the trap of chasing individuals with whom you have little in common and whom you do not care for. We have all met charismatic individuals who seem to be the key to our future success. While these individuals may be seemingly well-connected to the clientele that you want to serve, the barrier of trying to build relationships with these individuals is likely to be high.  So aim for your ‘best’ prospects when putting together your list of potential contacts

Instead you are much better off trying to spend time with people that you do like and with individuals who share your interests. This is the foundation that relationships are built on this is the kind of trust you need in order to generate referrals.