Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
The beginning of a New Year always offers us so much hope. Hope for a new start. Hope for another chance. Hope to improve, learn and grow. Hope for whatever it is that we want more of.
That brings me to my all-time favorite quote. It comes from one of Goethe’s couplets:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can-begin it-boldness has genius, power and magic in it”
I find far too many lawyers put too much pressure on themselves when it comes to networking. And most of the time, the solution is in the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of networking. What is networking after-all? Well it’s not sales. You are not there to pitch yourself or your services. Networking is about meeting people. Outside of work, you meet people all the time and it’s natural. Why not take the same approach to your professional networking. This should be fun folks, not painful as it is for so many.
The way to make networking more natural for you is by taking a keen and curious approach to the people you are meeting. Get to know them. Ask questions. Questions which will lead you to understanding more about them and if you think it’s worth investing your time in building a relationship with them. One of my favorite questions to get a conversation started is “What brings you here today?”. Others include, “what do you hope to learn today?”, “how long have you been coming to these events?” Not only will you feel more comfortable when networking, but you will actually learn something about the other person, which if you choose to, you can use when following up with them.
Standing out in today’s economy is tougher than ever. More and more people are price sensitive. So how do you stand out from your competition? One of the ways is to add more value. Become indispensable to your clients. The pathway to doing that is to understand the big picture. Go beyond the services that you offer. Understand more about your client’s needs, challenges, goals, and the legacy they want to create. Find more ways to bring more to the relationship and you will stand out.
The networking ninja arrives early at the event, enters the room, looks for people they don’t know and goes right up and introduces them self They ask a question like “What brings you to this event?” Followed by, “How long have you been coming to these events?” “What value do you find by coming here?” “What other events do you attend and why?” This gets the conversation started.
From there, the other person will likely ask similar questions. So the networking ninja has their story short and succinct What they do (not their job title), where they do it, and what value if brings their clients. Then the networking ninja makes some notes and follows up with this new contact within 24 hours. The ninja searches for them on LinkedIn and sends them an invitation to join their network. Then the ninja sends them a direct email referencing something they learned at the event, with an invitation to meet for coffee. The word ‘when’ and not ‘if is used. The networking ninja has learned that a natural and genuine approach to meeting for the first time always works best.
You too can become a networking ninja.
My clients often get tied up in coming up with that ‘perfect pitch’. And I tell them over and over again, “don’t pitch, ask questions”. Get to know what they need, what their challenges are. Use that valuable time to build or strengthen your relationship with and them demonstrate a willingness to listen and learn about them.
If you ask the right questions, your contacts, clients and soon-to-be clients will tell you everything you need to know in order to market to them and serve them well.
Many sales training programs will be framed around how you can control the process. I totally disagree with this approach. It’s unnatural for you and your prospect. Instead take a real and genuine approach by asking questions. When your prospect asks you a question, answer it to the best your ability at that point. If you don’t have enough information to answer their question, let them know.
Keep in mind that many of the people you will approach have been ‘trained’ to expect a pitch. When they don’t get one, they might be a little confused. They might even become impatient. That is why it’s important to answer their questions and not try and control the conversation or process. When you are prepared, you are in a much better position to go with the flow. Both you and your prospect will be more comfortable. And you will go a long way in differentiating yourself from your competitors approach.
Many of my clients previously got caught up in rushing to the solution when first meeting with prospects. While I believe this comes from a genuine desire to help, this is a habit you want to change immediately. Take more time and care to learn more before you offer your solutions.
DO NOT even bring marketing materials with you to that first meeting. Bring a list of carefully thought out questions so that you can learn as much about them as possible. When you think you know enough, keep asking more questions and find out even more.
On a call today, one of my clients asked me for some practical advice on how to overcome feeling intimidated when meeting more senior people at events. First, I say the same thing everytime, ask them questions. Make it about them and not you. People generally love to talk about themselves. An example question might be, “What is the most interesting thing you have worked on recently?”
Once you get the conversation started just follow the information and it will allow you to come up with follow up questions. And don’t forget, this is a great time to do some of your market research-“what do you read and why?”; “What brings you to this event?”; “What are some other events you attend and why?” Create an arsenal of questions and always be ready.