I’m back in Boston today. This morning at 9:00 I will be helping lawyers in a firm start to prepare their business plans for 2016. Have you and your colleagues given any thought to your plans for next year?

Several years ago I read a book titled: “Endless Referrals” by Bob Burg. I recommend it to the lawyers I coach.

In an early chapter Burg identified:

The one key question that separates the pros from the amateurs.

That question is:

How can I know if someone I’m speaking to is a good prospect for you?

The power of the question is that you demonstrate you are interested in your contact’s success.

What question could we ask that would separate us from other lawyers? I think it might be:

What can I do off the clock that would help you and your company?

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Rusty Gray is a partner in Chattanooga who I coached 10 years ago. I have shared some of his ideas before.

When we were working together he found a very valuable way to help a client off the clock. Here is the story Rusty shared with me:

When I heard that my client primarily focused on billing services for hospital-based physician groups, it occurred to me since our firm represents quite a few such groups across the south that both my client and these other clients might benefit from being introduced to one another. I also saw an opportunity for our firm when my client’s president mentioned he was not thrilled with the healthcare legal advice he was getting.

I then told him that we may be able to help his company grow its business by putting them in contact with some of our clients. When he expressed interest, I suggested that we really need to get together in Nashville to explore with our healthcare lawyers, free of charge, how we can help the company grow its business.

We had some scheduling difficulties, but he persisted in getting the meeting scheduled and the meeting could not have gone better.

I am not sure how much business that we got from them, but I do know that we led them to some important contacts.  My business with this client has probably increased three-fold.  I am convinced that at least part of that increase was my offer to help them expand their business with our firm’s contacts.

Cordell, the most important thing here was something that we have talked about before:

1. Simply ask your client about its business and listen carefully to the response;

2. Be interested in (better yet, fascinated by) the business; and

3. Know your firm and what it does. Know the other lawyers and the businesses for whom they serve.”

So if you are looking for referrals, how can you help your contacts be more successful?