Tom Kane at Legal Marketing Blog, inspired by Bruce Allen, addresses this question in "Do You Get Referrals From Those To Whom You Refer Business?" As Bruce Allen had noted in his own post, “no need to keep watering dirt if grass just refuses to grow.”
I have a somewhat different perspective (big surprise, huh?)
In my own legal practice and now with my Rainmaking clients, I teach them "Problem Solving Selling".
In brief, that means we focus on identifying and solving the problems of our clients, prospects and potential referral sources. We find this to be a highly rewarding way to market a small law firm, both personally and professionally.
As such, how many referrals someone has sent my way does not figure into the equation. If they are the best fit for the problem I am helping someone to deal with, they get to be part of my team.
Of course, all things being equal, the person who has referred business to me has the advantage. However, in all of the solutions I have come-up with for my clients. And in the thousands more solutions all of my Rainmaking clients have come up with for their own clients, I’ve never found the proverbial "all things are equal" to objectively exist.
There is always a difference that makes one professional a better choice for the referral (unique experience, price, proximity, personality, etc.) As such, I come back full-circle to my original point about not allowing the "referral ledger" (nice term)to cloud my judgment or affect my actions when it comes to who will be the best fit for a particular client’s needs.
Anyway, that’s my $0.02.
NOTE: I need to acknowledge that the first two sentences above come straight from Dan Hull’s What About Clients? blog. Try as I might, I just couldn’t figure-out a way to set-up the sequence better than Dan did ~ Thanks Dan!