As you’re building or rewriting your business development plan for 2018, it might make sense to look at where improvements and efficiencies can be made. One critical area that’s typically overlooked is networking. Any networking event you attend or coffee meeting you conduct can sap away your time at lightning speed. Here are my top five tips for any attorney looking to hit the mark in 2018 on the networking front. Enjoy!
Tip #1: Go where the action is. While there are literally hundreds of events you can attend each month, it’s of critical importance to focus on going where your best connections will be. Think about the people who need your services and where they might be. Then think about the people who also provide services to those end users and where they might be, and go there.
For example, if you are a commercial litigator, your end clients might be GCs or CEOs. Where are they when out of the office? Also, what other service providers sell to those GCs and CEOs? How about middle market CPAs or E-Discovery consultants? In recent years digital forensics companies have noticed surges in demands for their E-Discovery services and therefore if you want your law firm to stay ahead of the trend, then investing time and energy into the financial and accounting sectors is crucial.
Furthermore, if you keep the end in mind when deciding what events to attend, you may improve your results.
Tip #2: Try talking less, asking more. While it is important to have a prepared infomercial or elevator pitch ready to go, it’s even more important to prepare yourself with questions for the people you meet at these events. The goal is always to get someone else engaged in a conversation where you can learn about her, what she does for a living and find common ground. I’d recommend staring with the easy questions and drive to the more involved. Here are a few questions to choose from:
- “Is this your first time to this event?”
- “This is my first time here, what do you like about this group (or event)?”
- “What type of business are you in?”
- “Do you live in the city or the burb’s?”
- “When you’re not busy working, what do you do for fun?”
- “What do you enjoy most about your business (career)?”
- “What types of challenges are you seeing occur in your industry?”
- “What types of people are you most interested in meeting?”
- “What should I be listening for in a good referral for you?”
Tip #3: Three words: qualify, qualify, qualify. One of the biggest mistakes networkers make is not adequately qualifying the people they meet as it relates to next steps. As an attorney, your time is literally money; so don’t agree to meet with everyone you meet. If someone is a potential client for you, a potential referral partner for you or someone very well connected, there is a direct reason to meet. All other meetings should be taken with great skepticism.
Of course there are exceptions, but choose wisely. This may include ‘paying it forward” with younger people who you can help with finding a job or launching a new business. Otherwise, you will find that you have just wasted an hour or two with a “nice person” or an annoying salesman who will steal time right away from you.
Tip #4: When you do meet people for coffee, it’s best to be prepared. LinkedIn, Facebook and Google are all available at your fingertips; you must use these tools to get prepared to meet someone new. It is simply unacceptable these days to merely show up and say, “So, tell me what you do?” Have your talking points and questions ready to go in order to make a good impression. This will ensure that you take the meeting in a positive direction from the get-go.
Tip #5: Always have next steps when it makes sense. Far to often meetings end with the usual, “Great meeting with you. Let’s keep our eyes open for one another moving forward.” It might be a love-fest, but it’s not good business acumen for growing originations.
Think about it this way. You meet with a doctor and see that he can make you feel better. Would you leave the next step open or flexible? Of course not! You’d get an appointment to visit again to cure the ailment. When finishing up a networking meeting where sparks are flying, do your best to set up next steps with your new friend. This could be another meeting, inviting her to a networking group where you belong or inviting her to sit on a panel that you’re organizing. Whatever the case, don’t leave a positive meeting without a specific next step forward. Just this one point will dramatically improve your chances of success when networking.
One of my favorite mantras is “There is no failure, only learning.” This is so true in networking to ensure you aren’t making the same mistakes year after year. Try to implement at least one of these tips in 2018 and you’ll see the benefits materialize right before your eyes. Also, please feel free to get tips like these and much more from my book, “The Attorney’s Networking Handbook,” available on Amazon.