When I say “there are three types of networkers at legal networking events,” this isn’t about me defining individuals for you ahead of time. Rather, this blog is about helping attorneys learn to hone in quickly on how valuable a connection is for them personally in a business sense. If you’d like to learn more about how this system can work best for you individually, call me at (312) 981-0119 for a consultation.
The strategy I’m talking about is to evaluate or rate the people that you’re meeting at a networking event. After briefly speaking with someone and then receiving that person’s business card, take ten seconds as you walk away to rate that individual as a potential prospect or strategic partner by jotting an A, a B, or a C (or a number sequence) on the back of the person’s business card.
Your “grade” on the card represents how quickly you should follow up with that person. But be sure to exercise caution when assigning your rating and do so after you’ve left the conversation. It wouldn’t take much for a person to figure out that the not-so-discreet letter C you wrote on his or her card represents your assessment of him or her after a few minutes of conversation.
An A grade represents the “cream of the crop,” those individuals who may directly need your services or who might become a beneficial strategic partner for you. For those contacts you classified with an A, you should make sure to follow up within 24 hours of the event. If you’re able to work it in, these people are worth trying to schedule a coffee meeting with for the following week, even while you’re still chatting at the event. As long as it makes sense for both parties, the sooner you book a meeting, the better.
The Bs would be the second of the three types of networkers you meet at legal networking events. those individuals you’d like to get to know better or at least continue the conversation with by telephone to determine whether there’s a possible connection. Follow up with these contacts within 48 hours of meeting.
Lastly, there’s the C category, which is for those people who don’t appear to be a connection you think worth pursuing. This isn’t to say that no connections can be made with your C acquaintances, but you’ll want to make sure that, if you agree to meet with a C, the person is someone with whom you had a successful initial conversation. Use as your barometer the value of your time to determine whether you should follow up with this person.
With respect to your As and Bs, it’s imperative that you follow up quickly with these new networking contacts. New deals and strategic partners can be lost due to poor follow-up skills. If you have a stack of business cards on your desk awaiting contacts right now, that’s a big no-no. These cards should be processed and calls made as soon as possible. Think of it this way: you’ve made the reservation at a five-star restaurant, bought the ring, and have champagne chilling. Are you going to drop the ball with the proposal? Following up is the most important element of all in successful networking and the whole point in ranking the three types of networkers you meet at legal networking events. You’ve got to prioritize your best potential connections.
When you do schedule a meeting, try to find a quiet meeting space that will allow both you and your contact to focus on the conversation. Your private office or the contact’s office are good options. A quiet hotel lobby can also work, especially if you’re traveling. Although it’s sometimes inescapable, try to avoid meeting at bustling coffee shops like Starbucks because they’re not conducive to communication. Between blenders whirring and multiple conversations swirling, it’s extremely easy for you and your contact to become distracted. Whenever possible, you want to have your new friend’s full attention and to provide yours in return.
Being able to evaluate a contact quickly at a networking event is a skill best learned through practice, and I’ve coached many attorneys in this area and others. Contact me today at (312) 981-0119 and I can help you get started on making the most of your networking experiences.