After training over 200+ professionals in the last 6 months on their networking skills, I noticed that there was a common theme to what people found hard to do when networking. This theme, went something like this: “how do I start and maintain an interesting conversation, whilst not being boring, but use this conversation to showcase what I do (but not selling)” Tough ask! Starting a conversation is easy – see my previous post on 27 great conversation starters. It’s the maintaining whilst highlighting your credentials, without being boring that’s tough. It’s also harder when your profession, like the accountants, has gained a reputation/stereotype (often very unfairly) for being boring. So, what’s the solution here? The first thing to think about is stories. People who you meet networking, don’t want a dry, detailed summary of your services when they ask you ‘so, what do you do?’. They want to be entertained and given lots of opportunities to create a conversation with you from your answer. Stories enable you and them to do this. [sc name=NetworkingPlan] But, I’m not just talking about any old stories. I’m talking about credibility stories – you may have heard of them as war stories or sales stories. These are stories which illustrate what you do, who you do it for and the results which you help your clients achieve. They are succinct and to the point and unlike most stories have no middle. Yes, no middle. A typical story will explain why the client hired you in the first place and the pain they were suffering before they hired you. Then, you’ll fast forward straight to the end of the story, and talk about the happy ending for the client, as a result of using your services. It’s always worth having a few of these stories which you can use at anyone time. I’ll explain why. These stories are the substance in your 60 second elevator pitch and need to link to what you are asking people for. They can be used as the answer to any of these standard questions which you will receive at a networking event:

  • how’s business?
  • what do you do?
  • got any interesting client work on at the moment?
  • what does you business specialise in?

Ideally, you want to tailor your credibility story to who is standing in front of you – which is why you need a few tucked away in your tool kit. Of course, these stories are just the ticket for meetings with prospects who want to know whether you can help them or not with their specific problems. What credibility stories do you regularly use? [sc name=NetworkingPlan]

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