You grow your client base in a lot of ways; networking is one of the most common and least expensive. But as with the elevator pitch, which we discussed in an earlier blog, there is the effective way and the way most people do it. Effective networking brings in new business for a number of reasons; one of them is because when you network effectively you stand out from the crowd, and that is always good in any crowded marketplace. The other is because you actually do it well, you are welcomed and seen as a valuable source of knowledge, experience, services, and products.
Why We Network
We want to meet potential clients, suppliers, and referral sources. We want to mix pleasure with business, and we want to save on our marketing budget.
Where We Network
Business owners, managers, and sales professionals network everywhere; that is why we perfect our elevator pitch. In addition to that, though, we attend meetings, conferences, classes, seminars, and network groups. We meet fellow professionals and fellow business owners as well as potential suppliers and clients. For many of us, potential suppliers can also become potential clients. Reciprocity is a great way to do more business.
How We Network Effectively
- Prepare Well
Have your elevator pitch perfect. Have that first question prepared so it strikes a chord with each different person you meet.
- Do Your Homework
If you are going to a networking meeting or one where you know you will meet other professionals, check the list of attendees before you go. Who do you already know, who would you like to get to know? Armed with that little bit of knowledge enables you to prepare what you will say, what you will ask, who you may want to speak with first, to get you into the swing of things.
- Get Comfortable
Your networking conversations are two-way. Other professionals want to network as well, and some want to do the talking. 50% of the people you are likely to meet in networking situations will want to establish themselves by talking, so let them. Encourage them. Be a good listener.
Before you approach someone, or as they approach you, check them out. Are they big and bold, very well dressed, use lots of hand gestures when they talk with others, do they look as though they like to command an audience? If so, they will probably want to do the talking. Are they slower moving, is their wardrobe more earth colors, do they look content to listen to other people? If so, you should have your first sentence ready for them to listen to.
- Always Exchange Contact Details
At an appropriate point in the conversation, ask for the other person’s card. Some people are nervous about offering their card, so if you ask for it, they have achieved their goal of giving you their contact details. It is only natural for you, then, to offer yours. They will probably ask for it as soon as they give you theirs.
Read the card; they may have an impressive qualification, a brand slogan, an interesting web address or Twitter handle, etc. First, it is polite to look at their card (especially if the person is, say Asian, where it is considered rude to take a card with only one hand, and not look at it) and, secondly, it gives you another opportunity to impress them by asking about something you read.
- Always Follow Up
As soon as possible after the meeting, send an email or a handwritten note to reinforce their memory of the meeting. Refer to something they said to emphasize you were there “for them” not just to build your own list.
A Final Note
As accountants, we don’t always find it easy to attend networking events. These types of functions push many of us outside our “comfort zone.” It’s very important to stretch yourself and operate outside your comfort zone as you never know who you will meet. I always tell myself that I can’t leave the event until I’ve talked to X number of people that I don’t know.
Get off the Wheel Systems and Procedures for Greater Profits & Reduced Stress
By: Diane Gardner
This Book is for you IF…
You are an accountant, bookkeeper, or tax preparer with employees and one of the following describes you: