I know a lot of lawyers. But when I was out with friends the other night and one of them asked for a referral, John’s name popped into my head so I sent the business his way.
I wish I could tell you that I recommended John after careful consideration of the many alternatives in my network. I wish I could tell you that John was the best fit for the client. All I can tell you is that I had just seen John earlier that day so he was top of mind.
The experience reminded me of a key business development principle: top of mind is top priority. You may be the best at what you do, but that doesn’t guarantee that your referral sources will think of you for relevant opportunities. In fact, it’s naive to assume that just because your colleagues know what you do, they’ll remember to send you appropriate business opportunities. No one wants to think that hard. The truth is, they’ll remember whoever is easiest to remember, even if that’s nobody.
So, to realize the full potential of the people in our business network, we must all develop systems that consistently place us at the forefront of their consciousness. Perhaps it’s regular meetings with a “short list” of referral sources. Perhaps it’s the strategic use of PR or social media—or some combination thereof—but we must keep in mind that in today’s overcrowded, overstimulated world, long-term memory is becoming an endangered commodity.
If you don’t have a system in place, start thinking about how you can message your unique value to your contacts in the New Year. In the meantime, here’s a simple exercise that can yield a quick result:
Think of someone who used to refer to you fairly consistently. Why do you suppose they stopped? They’ve already demonstrated that they have a pipeline of business for you. Chances are you’ve fallen off their radar. Schedule a conversation with them to get back onto their agenda. Do something that benefits them so that you become a priority again. Then add them to your new system so that you stay top of mind.