I spend several days most months working with professionals, such as lawyers, accountants and consultants, helping them improve their business networking skills. Very often I am asked by delegates on my workshops, how to go from networking to ‘show me the money’, i.e. how to win business from my networking activities. Firstly, before we even go into the specifics of how to win business from your network, I think it is important to address a huge myth that many professionals have about networking. They believe, whether logically or rationally, that if you go networking you have to go out and come back with real invoice-able business. In the world of professional services we don’t sell a £20 widget – which means that what you are selling is a considered purchase. A considered purchase is one where the price is high and the risk to the buyer of something going wrong is high. This means that before someone will buy something from you, it’s going to take more than one chance meeting and a cup of coffee after that meeting, before enough trust and credibility has been established for a business development conversation will take place. So, why do we kid ourselves to make some quick wins with business development from networking? For more help with your networking, how about buying a copy of my book ‘The FT Guide to Business Networking‘? Now that we have addressed that huge myth, there is still the question of ‘how can I go from networking to winning business from my network’. Or as I have said it before, from coffees to instructions. Most professional service firms win over 80% of their new business from referrals. e.g.
- existing clients wanting more from the firm
- existing clients recommending the firm to others
- professional intermediaries recommending the firm to others
With this fact in mind, you may have noticed that the two most important types of people to win new business are from existing clients and professional intermediaries. Therefore, the question to ask yourself is as follows:
- Does my networking activities bring me into regular contact with existing clients and professional intermediaries?
- Am I putting in place relationship plans for existing clients and professional intermediaries so that I can remain ‘top-of-their-mind’? This is essential to do, particularly when you have no current matters on your desk to deal with for a client.
- Does my network know the kind of opportunities or referrals I am looking for?
- Am I spending over 70% of my time deepening and maintaining existing relationships with clients and professional intermediaries within my network?
When you can answer these questions with a ‘yes’, then you will have cracked the code to how to win business via my network.