time now I have been espousing the power of gifts (giving of your time, doing
favors, making connections and sharing your knowledge) as a means to increasing
referrals to you. But the key to producing proactive referrals to your practice
is not the act of giving, it is the act of giving without the expectation of
reciprocity- a key component of the give and take of referrals that I observed
exclusively in the behaviors of top rainmakers.
I coined the
term, ‘Favorking’, to capture this behavioral theme of demonstrating compassion
and genuine interest in others by listening for and giving, without the
expectation of reciprocity, small gifts and favors of your experience, connections, knowledge
and position. The key difference between $1 million book of business plus rainmakers
and those that actively work the relationships in their networks but do not
produce significant results is that the rainmakers are ‘givers’ who seem to help
others without the slightest hint of expecting their assistance to pay off in
the future. They often help people who are in no position to reciprocate. The
language and gestures they use are genuinely helpful and they avoid any talk
suggestive of a payback. Even when offered, they decline preferring instead to ‘pay
it forward’, authentically taking the recipient off the hook from having to
find a time and means to re-balance the scorecard.
‘takers’ try to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in
return. Takers help only when they expect the personal benefits to exceed their
time and attention. Their assistance is calculated and unknowingly transparent
resulting in few referrals to their practice.
fall somewhere in the middle. These are “matchers” where the norm is to help
those who help them, maintaining an equal balance of give and take. Although matchers
benefit from referral collaboration more than takers do, they are inefficient
vehicles for exchange, as people trade favors in closed loops. That is, they dip
into their existing network of ‘qualified’ referral contacts, limiting
themselves to only those that they believe can help them in return.
A new book by
Harvard Professor Adam Grant entitled Give
and Take supports my hypothesis but goes
one step further by demonstrating the financial rewards which companies with “giver”
cultures experience over those with “taker” or even “matcher” cultures. In his
just released book, he provides evidence from several studies that demonstrates
that the frequency with which employees help one another (without the
expectation of reciprocity) predicts sales revenues in pharmaceutical units and
retail stores; profits, costs, and customer service in banks; creativity in
consulting and engineering firms; productivity in paper mills; and revenues,
operating efficiency, customer satisfaction, and performance quality in
So, am I
going too far to extend this theory into referral tactic success? I don’t think
so. But I will acknowledge that there are very real cultural and operational
obstacles that obstruct the average attorney from adopting this behavior as
part of her regular business development routine. These include the entrenched ‘tit
for tat’ assumption that many have in regard to referrals, close monitoring of billable
hours, competitive ‘eat what you kill’ pay structures, a fear of the time being
perceived as ineffective or wasteful and other challenging issues.
referrals suffer from the similar, if not more pronounced, obstacles resulting
in reduced cross marketing and mentoring effectiveness in law firms. There may
be support for this view as well. According to Cornell economist Robert Frank,
many organizations are essentially winner-take all markets, dominated by
zero-sum competitions for rewards and promotions. When leaders implement
forced-ranking systems to reward individual performance, they stack the deck
against giver cultures.
It is undoubtedly a leap of
faith to make it your mission to find ways to help others. But, I believe that
if you look closely at the best rainmakers you know, you will find that they
are living this important distinction of ‘givers’ and act without the
expectation of reciprocity. Better yet,
try being a giver to the next person you meet, qualified to return the favor or
not, and see if doesn’t make you feel good. Believe it or not, acting with kind
intent toward others comes back to you in good referral karma.
As always, if I can help you become a 'giver', please don't hesitate to call me at 502-693-4731. You'll find that I am an eager resource and that is costs nothing to talk.