One of the biggest barriers I hear potential partners tell me about is actually finding and making the time to grow their own client portfolio. After all, it is often the lack of a client following which stops so many talented professionals make the step up to partner.
Networking is often seen as the silver bullet to generating new clients – get it right and you will have new clients falling over you (or so the thinking goes). However all to often, professionals find their networking activities a huge drain on their time, energy and spirits.
In this 3-part blog post series, I will look at what you can do to spend less time networking, but more time winning business.
1. Stop collecting contacts
Effective business networking is the process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. So, why do so many lawyers, accountants and consultants spend their time hunting for new prospects at networking events? All this ‘hunting’ activity does is collect contacts, without the all important building and maintaining part of the process.
From time to time I am contacted on LinkedIn by professionals keen to have me as a client. Whilst, this is always very flattering, I am very upfront and honest with these approaches – i.e. I will explain that I am happy to talk to them, but I am not looking to change my supplier. After this polite rebuff, I never hear from these people again. What a waste of a message to me? If you’ve been given the chance to have a conversation and start the relationship with a prospect or intermediary (regardless of whether they say they need your services) take this opportunity. Be realistic with your expectations, you are not going to get the sale based on one chance meeting or email.
2. Have a goal
Going networking because you feel you have to is frankly soul-destroying and a form of professional torture. In fact networking is so ingrained in so many professional practices psyche that going out to networking events becomes part of the way ‘we do business around here’.
It doesn’t need to be this way. In fact, the sooner you decide on the purpose and reason for building up a network, i.e. having a goal, the sooner you can ditch the networking events which are a waste of your time. (OK, there will always be occasions when you receive a call asking you to sub in for someone else at the last minute – but that should be the exception rather than the rule)