Hey Lawyers, Do You Have Networkers Derangement Syndrome?

By Steve Fretzin

Today I met with Thomas, who fancies himself a “top networker.” I invested an hour over breakfast with him where I listened to him trash talk a half dozen people in our mutual networks. He would say, “this person is a loser” or “this person is a taker.” This went on and on until I stood up and thought, well, this was fun. I think it’s possible he has networkers’ derangement syndrome (NDS). Gotta love internal sarcasm.

As a business development and networking coach, there were at least a dozen ideas I had for Thomas that I wanted to share. But I knew deep down inside, my words of wisdom would have been wasted breath. He was clearly set in his ways and attitudes. The irony was that HE was the problem and didn’t even know it. Being angry and talking negatively about others is no way to be successful when networking. I would bet a dollar to donuts that I’m not the only one he’s been complaining to. For all I know, he’s talking about ME behind my back.

Well, for Thomas or anyone else who wants to be successful at networking, here are three tips that I know will help you stay positive when trying to build your network and drive in actual business.

Tip #1. Define Your Targets.

Somehow Thomas had it in his head that the key to effective networking is to just find good people to meet with. While I can’t argue this point, he’s totally missing the mark here. Find good people who have the most opportunity to refer you as their “go-to” choice. For example, it’s better for an estate planning attorney to meet with financial planners and CPAs than it is to meet with any old so-and-so around town. Identifying the adjacent players in your world is critical to success in networking.

I recommend reviewing where your business has come from in the past to identify common industries or types of lawyers who have referred you. Create a list of five to 10 strategic partner personas so that you can focus on meeting with more of those folks and less random “good people.”

Tip #2. Treat Networking Like Dating.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I dated A LOT!
Not to age myself, but this was right at the start of online dating being a thing, so I leveraged it to the hilt. While there were some first dates that went swimmingly well (I might marry this woman) and most that went badly (How can I get the heck out of here?), we need to think of networking in a similar fashion. Who should I ask out again and whom should I stay away from? Going back to Thomas’s story, he’s someone I would definitely stay away from.

You may recall in some of my previous articles about an acronym I use called TALENT.  These are the qualities I’m looking for in a solid referral relationship. TALENT stands for trust, authority, likeability, empathy, network and top player. If someone is missing one or multiples of these core principles, it might be best to move on and keep dating others. Your ability to QUALIFY people forward or out is instrumental not just to getting business but to investing less time with strangers and more time with your inside network.

Once you become effective at qualifying, you should then use the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) to save time. Initially, you may need to spend 80% of your time with strangers to develop the 20% that will ultimately refer you business. Once you have that 20% in place, you can then spend 80% of your time with them. This is a simple way to devote your precious time with less people and get more out of your valuable time invested. Pretty cool, right?

Tip #3. Look inward.

How much are you really giving? It’s always interesting to me that
networkers always seem to feel that they are giving much more than they are receiving. For me, I don’t feel that way — I know it. Why? Because I love it! I truly enjoy connecting people who can do business together. And while the accolades I receive are appreciated, I know in my heart of hearts that I’m bettering people’s lives.

However, many networkers can become resentful that business isn’t flowing in the way it’s flowing out. It can be frustrating when efforts aren’t paying the dividends one expects. Truly caring for others and being intelligent with your time are the two best tips I can give anyone who wants to grow their brand and business in today’s competitive environment. We know who’s out for others or just out for themselves.

Be a giver without focusing on the quid pro quo and simply track your efforts. See how things are being reciprocated and make good business decisions about who is being helpful to you — or not. If things aren’t going as planned, you may need to coach or train your strategic partners on what questions to ask their clients to uncover opportunities for you. This is a step that most networkers miss. While many lawyer-networkers struggle to just get out there to meet people, others struggle with the time it takes to get results. Regardless, it’s critical to become a student of the game to make incremental improvements along the way.

Lastly, a public service announcement. If you suffer from NDS, please see a doctor (therapist) immediately to help you overcome your anger and negative emotions. Side effects may include, losing friends and being seen as an a-hole. Seriously though, please keep a positive attitude about people and networking to be seen as a selfless giver. It will pay off in the end.

For more information about taking your law practice to the next level, please email me directly at steve@fretzin.com.

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