3 Tips for Successful Networking
As consultants we’re often taught the best way to get clients is to network. Find groups, associations, or meetings where your ideal clients congregate… attend, meet people, and get clients.
The problem is that it usually doesn’t work that way.
While it’s definitely important to get out and meet people, as most consultants quickly discover, traditional networking often doesn’t result in new clients. Instead, you end up spending a lot of time, and money on chicken lunches and membership dues, and it does nothing to grow your client base.
Why is that?
Here’s my perspective.
At most networking meetings, everyone in the room wants to get something: new clients.
What happens when you put a bunch of people in a room and they all want the same thing? I think you can guess. Everyone is talking about what they do and trying to sell their services. Oh sure, some folks are better—or more subtle about it—than others. But for most of us it invokes that used car salesman feeling. It feels pushy and unnatural. And let’s face it, what do you do with all those business cards that get shoved in your hand? If you’re like most folks, they end up sitting on your desk, or filed in the circular file cabinet on the floor (read: trash can). Definitely not a recipe for success.
So, if you’re going to do traditional networking, here are a few things to keep in mind if you want it to work:
1. Recognize the event is just the first step.
It’s about meeting people and starting a relationship. It’s NOT about getting the sale.
2. Listen more and talk less.
Be interested in the people you meet. Ask them about their business. Who are their ideal clients? They’ll walk away with a good feeling about you, not because of what you said, but because everyone likes to feel listened to. And you’ll have gathered some information you can use to refer them a client if you meet someone who’s a good fit for their services.
3. Follow up.
When I attend networking meetings or conferences and I meet people, they’re always eager to give me their business card and ask for mine, but that’s usually the last time I ever hear from them. Take the time to follow up with the people you meet as soon as you get back to the office. And stay in touch. Send them articles you think may interest them, or simply check in periodically to see how you can help them.
If you view networking as a way to create new relationships instead of a way to get clients, over time if nurtured, those relationships may bloom into referrals or new clients. After all, people like working with and referring to people they know and like. By broadening your circle of friends, you will eventually grow your client base.
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