I am a big fan of effective networking. If you’ve read my book, The Attorney’s Networking Handbook, you will understand the emphasis and importance I give on this matter. I use the word “effective” because networking done improperly is just a huge waste of time. There are so many elements to networking that we can’t possibly cover them in one column, so I thought it would make sense to have you take my survey to better identify where your strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can work to improve upon them. Take sixty seconds to rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 (5 is always) and then we will review ways to improve each focus area. Enjoy!
- Question #1: When at a networking event, do you focus 100 percent on the person who is speaking with you?
- Question#2: When at a networking event, do you ask questions to identify how you can help someone else?
- Question#3: When at a coffee meeting, do you identify one or two ways you can help or add value for the other person?
- Question#4: During a one on one coffee meeting, do you help the other person identify contacts that would be beneficial to you, versus shying away from this task?
- Question #5: After your first successful meeting, do you regularly follow up with your best contacts to keep the momentum going?
Okay, now rate yourself and total up your score.
- If your total was 5-10, you have a lot of work ahead to improve your effectiveness.
- If your total was 11-17, you have minor adjustments to make.
- If your total was 18-25, you are doing terrific, but there are always new things to learn, so don’t get over-confident.
To get you started on the right path, here is one solution to each issue:
Suggestion #1: When at a networking event, focus 100 percent on the person who is speaking with you.
Don’t push your card at them, and stop worrying about impressing people with your canned fancy infomercial. Instead, ask a few relationship-building business questions to get your new friend talking. For example, if she’s an accountant, how about asking, “what do you enjoy about accounting?” or “How did you get into that line of work?” I’m sure there a story behind their career and discussing it is a great way to build rapport.
Suggestion #2: When at a networking event, ask questions to identify how you can help someone else.
Once you’ve built the rapport as suggested above, ask “What should I be listening for in a good referral for you?” There are two amazing elements to this question. First, you are being thoughtful to them and possibly helping them in their business development efforts. Second, you are NOT committing to providing referrals to this person -yet. Asking isn’t offering, which is important because you’ve only just met this person and shouldn’t be providing referrals yet anyway. It may be too soon.
Suggestion#3: When at a coffee meeting, you identify one or two ways you can help or add value for the other person.
Now that you know this person better, you want to demonstrate that you have something to offer. If you’re listening intently to your new friend, she should be cluing you in on whom she is looking to meet. Take some notes and identify someone worthwhile for her.
Question#4: You help the other person identify people that would be beneficial to you, versus shying away from this task.
This is the one step that good networkers forget. They make referrals, which is terrific, but forget that people need to be led or coached to help you. Take the lead and help her to help you. Work cooperatively to identify one or two good referrals that would work for you. In addition to walking away from the meeting with some traction, you are also able to test out your new friend to see if her follow-up skills are up to snuff. A win-win!
Question #5: You regularly follow up with your best contacts to keep the momentum going after the first meeting was successful.
Another major mistake good networkers make is not staying tightly aligned with the referral partners who you’ve had success with in the past. It’s either a hit-and-run, where you’ve gotten something and moved on, or you’re just busy and forgot that this person has value to you and your business building efforts. Make a list of your best strategic partners and follow up with them monthly to ensure they stay with you long-term.
It is important to follow some process, thought, and methodology in networking to make any time spent on it worth while. Take note of these guidelines and you’re sure to see improvements in your networking skills.
This is a modified version of the article published by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on October 5, 2017.