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.
If your firm is like most, then you regularly host client appreciation events. And this costs the firm a lot of money. Are you getting the ROI you should from these events? Are your lawyers engaging with your clients? Are they asking questions about your clients businesses? Are they going deeper to uncover hidden opportunities for your firm to further serve the client? Well I suspect the answer to be no to all of these questions. And it’s a shame. You take the time to invite your clients. They show up. Your lawyers are taking time out to attend. And what is there to show for it? A few hangovers the next morning.
Why not put on a workshop ahead of your next event and arm your lawyers with tools and approaches in how to effectively engage your clients and learn more about them. Teach them the value of cross-serving and not only what it could mean for the firm, but also their practice. Help them understand the types of questions to ask of clients to start a conversation and go deeper to find further opportunities to help your clients.
I just presented on this topic to the LMA here in Vancouver last week. There was great interest on this subject. And why shouldn’t there be? There are business development opportunities at your next client event. Leverage them. My column next month in The Lawyers Weekly goes into further detail how to set this up.
Everyone networks whether we like it or not. And networking is still one of the best ways to find more people who need your services, find more referral sources and make it easier for them to find you. How about if you had a sure-fire way of getting the conversation started in a genuine and meaningful way? One of the best questions you can lead with is “What brings you to this event?” You’ll be amazed at the amount of information you can begin to gather about the other person when you start with that question. This is also a perfect opportunity for you to continue with your ‘soft’ target market research by asking them, “What other events do you attend and why? What publications do you read? And, What topics are of interest to you? You can gather market research, learn something about them, and keep the process natural and genuine all at the same time.
Let’s face it, if you aren’t following up with people you meet, then you’re wasting your time. Does this sound like you? Keep it simple and follow what I call the ’24-hour rule’. Within 24 hours of meeting someone new, do these two things:
1. Send them a brief email referring to something that you learned about them. Suggest you would like to continue the conversation, when are they available to meet for coffee?
2. Invite them to join your LinkedIn network. (LinkedIn is the easiest way to keep in touch and keep track of your contacts.)
Just try those two things following your next networking event.
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.