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What if you couldn’t prospect?

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My thanks to David Ward, a colleague who helps lawyers grow their practices, for this week’s hypothetical (which applies to all professionals): Imagine that a law were passed today, to take effect in three months, that prohibited you from purchasing and using lists, outlawed advertising or promoting yourself on social media and banned seminar-hosting or writing about what you do. This law would mean that all your business would have to come through existing clients.

Imagine further that under this law, you could serve your existing clients all you wanted, and if they referred you to a friend or family member, you would be permitted to take on that prospect as a new client—but that would be the only way you could bring in business. What would you do for the next three months until the law took effect? What would you do after it took effect? Would your business survive or would it fail?

First, I would imagine, you’d want to do everything you could to grow your existing client base through whatever means available during the next three months. What steps would you take that you hadn’t already been taking to quickly expand your client base? At the same time, you’d want to strengthen your relationships with your best clients. If there were ways in which you hadn’t yet served them, you’d want to start enacting those types of services immediately—even if the extra work would not generate any immediate income.

You’d want to let them know how important they were to you by astonishing them with just how thoughtful and giving you could be. After all, once our imaginary law takes effect, they’ll be all you’ll have to work with.

Could you survive and keep growing your practice based solely on additional and repeat business from your current clients and their referrals? Of course you could! Even if you only had 15 clients, you could make your practice work.

When you had finished serving each of your clients in every way you could, you could safely ask them to introduce you to people who weren’t already getting the same kind of support and attention. One introduction from each of your 15 clients would give you 15 new, highly qualified leads. Five introductions from each during the course of the year would give you 75 highly qualified leads. This is all very speculative, though—or is it?

What would happen to your practice right now if, instead of focusing on cold calling people from targeted lists or doing seminars or increasing your social-media efforts, you made your primary effort to upgrade your relationships with your best clients and to parlay those relationships into introductions?

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Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to