Whether you’re a lawyer, accountant, bread baker, or candlestick maker, business professionals realize that networking is a great way to meet prospective clients and build their businesses.
Certainly, networking isn’t exclusive to chamber of commerce meetings and after hours business mixers. People build their networks in all kinds of scenarios—at PTA meetings, at their son or daughter’s basketball practice, at the gym, etc. At times, the idea of networking can be intimidating, often because we think we need to be “selling” ourselves and our services at all times. It can feel uncomfortable, disingenuous… and maybe even ineffective.
It’s commonly known that people will buy from people they know, like, and trust. Networking, then, is more about planting the seeds for relationships and much less about hitting everyone over the head with our sales hammer.
As with anything else, to be effective at networking requires the proper tools. When meeting someone new, kick things off by saying, “Nice to meet you, Bill. So, what are you working on these days?” It sounds overly simple, but the magic behind this phrase is that it opens the door for people to talk about whatever they feel is important. It could be their business, the triathlon they’re training for, the book they’re writing, or the cottage they are building at the lake.
The key is to create conversation and seek connection! Get them talking about their interests and try and find some common ground.
7 Questions for Your Networking Toolbelt
- How did you get started in the gizmo contraption business? (People love telling their story)
- What do you enjoy most about your profession? (Begins to reveal their passions)
- What separates you and your company from the competition? (Gives them permission to brag)
- What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail? (Gets them dreaming and uncovers ways you might be able to help them)
- What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business? (Marketing is something all businesses have in common)
- What would be the best way for someone to describe your business to others? (Puts them at ease knowing that you understand them and their business)
- How would you describe your typical client? / How would I know if I came across someone who could use your service (Shows that you support their work and better enables you to give them the ultimate compliment—a referral!)
By asking these types of questions and showing a sincere interest in the other person, it can go a long way towards establishing rapport and trust with the people we meet.
The challenge, as always, is finding the time to genuinely plant these relationship seeds—not to mention nurturing them as they grow in the long term.
How’s a lawyer to make the time for these types of business development strategies?
While practice management software will not make you a better networker, the right software will improve the organization of your practice, help you with business development, and give you more time for working on your networking and building your business.