The Truth About Networking ~ It’s all in the follow Up

How many networking events have you been to in the last 3 months?

3, 5, 10?

You usually approach the event in one of a number of states, but you tend to vacillate between:

Excitement;

Boredom;

Trepidation;

Uncertainty; or

Curiosity.

I have spent more time than I care to remember going to networking events, and, whether they are scripted or informal, they all tend to be focused on people pitching for work or practising a elevator speech of some sort. Sometimes, and I am sure I have fallen into this category, it feels like a plaintiff cry for work:

“Please think of us when you want to buy [legal services] …”.

My raison d’être has changed over time.

In the early days, I thought I was there to sell, and sell hard, but unless you are fortunate to join a group where they limit the number of attendees of a certain category, then you will often find that you are not the only show in Town. You might find that you even share a table with more than one lawyer. From a buyer’s perspective, how do they differentiate your service when you and your opponent are saying practically the same thing?

If you want to stand out I would strongly recommend that you read Bob Burg’s excellent books Endless Referrals or The Go-Giver. For me they turn networking on its head. I won’t spoil the plot of the books but in essence it is not a question of what you can get out of the event, but more a question of putting yourself in a position where you are seen as the Go To person for referring work. In other words, you are trying to be a pseudo matchmaker rather than expecting people to say “You are the best lawyer I have ever met”, and (on the spot) instruct you.

If you do expect to receive instructions in this way, then, at the very least, you have to be prepared to put in some air miles and turn up week after week, month after month so that in the end you start to feel part of the furniture and the other attendees will feel much more comfortable instructing you or at least trying you out because by now they know you, like you and (hopefully) trust you.

But if you want to take things to the next level then, apart from trying to refer work to others, you need to focus on the follow up.

In particular:

Remember the faces of the people to go with the business cards [should you take a photo?];

Send a thank you note – not email – to everyone you meet, and not just the ones you want to do business with;

Ask them if they will connect with you on LinkedIn and, if in the affirmative, connect with them [… and this is just the start];

Indicate that if you can refer business their way, you will;

Start referring work their way (as soon as you can) – this will mark you out as special from the rest of your fellow networkers;

Keep in contact with them but not by sticking them on your database and going “Ker-Boom” here is our latest offering;

Invite them to your events or speak at your events; and

Be nice to them even if they say they are using your competitor.

Networking requires a systemised approach. It is not something that should only be undertaken by a select few. You cannot expect your colleagues to always bat for you. Yes, it may feel uncomfortable, and you struggle with the whole notion of networking but, ignoring it, leaves you exposed to losing business to a competitor who is willing to put in the grunt work.

It doesn’t matter if you are a private client or commercial practitioner, all the best lawyers I have ever met were persistent networkers [and they joined a few charities along the way]. No they didn’t do all of the above, but by putting their firm out there in the market, sooner or later they were noticed.

If you are expecting to measure the ROI, then sure if you want to start mapping the process you can but, better still, give yourself a short-term goal of attending at least one event per week or every two weeks with a view of meeting 2 new people each time.

Start learning a new set of elevator lines for your pitch. Ideally, you need to rehearse some questions where you find your target client talking more than you. Or as Chris Brogan said “Grow Bigger Ears”.

Try to move away from the stock in trade stuff like “What brings you to this event?” and start thinking about questions that shows your supreme interest in the business or the person or their family.

The more you can listen the more you will learn about what is of interest to the person and their company so that ultimately when it comes to the day when you get the nod you have the insight to close the deal and retain the client over the long haul, subject, of course, to you coming up to the professional mark on your service and advice.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~

6 responses to “The Truth About Networking ~ It’s all in the follow Up”

  1. Miriam Said says:

    Networking is never about selling, it is always about making connections.

    I always looked at networking as an experience similar to the high school discos I used to attend, getting to chat to every one and making acquaintences as well as connections.

    Some see networking events as speed dating for businesses…I’ve always loved that phrase as it points to the start of a relationship of some sort, which is what you are there to develop.

    Don’t just attend the business networking events, attend other events where you may find clients.

    Recently I attended an area policing forum. There were lots of people in the audience, including a lot of business people who wanted to find out what our local police force were doing to protect their businesses. I got chatting to a man next to me and as it turned out he was from a CCTV installation company, another I chatted to was from a law firm and others were interested in the discussion we were having and joined in .

    The result was at least 6 businesses linked up just because I started talking to someone, and there was also immediate business for the CCTV person too.

    I gained no benefit from that myself, other than finding out what the police were doing to combat crime and having a good chat. If I meet any of those business people in the future, I now have an event that I can link to, to jog their memory. This is how I make connections, this is part of networking.

    And if you are offered a business card, always take it. I always write on the reverse the event, time and date of where I met that person and a brief note on what we talked about. Another memory jogger for when you do contact them.

    If you can allow someone to recall where they met you, the likeley chance is that they won’t speedily forget you.

    I know…I’m awesome….

  2. Miriam Said says:

    Networking is never about selling, it is always about making connections.

    I always looked at networking as an experience similar to the high school discos I used to attend, getting to chat to every one and making acquaintences as well as connections.

    Some see networking events as speed dating for businesses…I’ve always loved that phrase as it points to the start of a relationship of some sort, which is what you are there to develop.

    Don’t just attend the business networking events, attend other events where you may find clients.

    Recently I attended an area policing forum. There were lots of people in the audience, including a lot of business people who wanted to find out what our local police force were doing to protect their businesses. I got chatting to a man next to me and as it turned out he was from a CCTV installation company, another I chatted to was from a law firm and others were interested in the discussion we were having and joined in .

    The result was at least 6 businesses linked up just because I started talking to someone, and there was also immediate business for the CCTV person too.

    I gained no benefit from that myself, other than finding out what the police were doing to combat crime and having a good chat. If I meet any of those business people in the future, I now have an event that I can link to, to jog their memory. This is how I make connections, this is part of networking.

    And if you are offered a business card, always take it. I always write on the reverse the event, time and date of where I met that person and a brief note on what we talked about. Another memory jogger for when you do contact them.

    If you can allow someone to recall where they met you, the likeley chance is that they won’t speedily forget you.

    I know…I’m awesome….

  3. Thanks Miriam. You should be bottling your Brand and selling it at a (massive) premium. “There is gold in them there hills” as someone once said. We must parlay one day.

    J,

  4. Thanks Miriam. You should be bottling your Brand and selling it at a (massive) premium. “There is gold in them there hills” as someone once said. We must parlay one day.

    J,

  5. Miriam Said says:

    Thank you Julian.

    I forgot to mention the most important thing about networking…..

    Never try to network at a very loud musical event or concert unless you are the person singing on stage.

  6. Miriam Said says:

    Thank you Julian.

    I forgot to mention the most important thing about networking…..

    Never try to network at a very loud musical event or concert unless you are the person singing on stage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *