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In this blog post, I explore why accountants, lawyers and consultants need to do more than just be a diligent networker if they want to win business via their network.

jigsaw pieces

A good friend of mine took the plunge and turned freelance 6-9 months ago. Like many accountants (and other professionals), he had done his research. He knew that networking and ‘getting’ out there was the best way to win work. He’d also attended all the courses on business development that the big professional service firms offer before leaving. It seemed like he had a piece of the jigsaw missing.

Add into the mix, my friend, as he had a mortgage to pay, and a family to support, was very committed to getting out there and winning work. He had lists and structured plans of who he was going to target, and how he was going to do this. He was lucky, he also had plenty of well-placed friends who wanted to help him.

Everything was in his favour – even the fact that the economy had started to come out of recession. He went through his little black book of well-placed contacts and also got all the introductions he could do to potential clients (with budget). He’s now an expert in quiet hotel bars to meet, as well as conveniently placed coffee shops. But has any of these nice chats and coffees come to anything? Very little, is the honest answer.

What’s the problem? After all, he’s done everything the text book has said, but not yet had an avalanche of work from his very diligent networking.

Herein lies the problem. It’s a problem which many professionals face when trying to build up a client portfolio. Meeting people is not enough. Even meeting the right people, as my friend found out, is not enough.

Before you start to spend time on pressing the flesh, you need to have done some homework. That homework will help you move from cosy chats into a situation where you have a motivated buyer for your services, with a budget to be able to work with you (or your firm)

What homework is needed?

  1. You need to have something to say. Regurgitating the same-old same-old isn’t going to cut the mustard. People that you are meeting can get this from the internet. Everything is pretty much out there, if you look hard enough. What do you know about the industry which you can share? What pieces of thought leadership – whether published articles, or blog posts can you share? How can you show that you’re the The Go-To Expert they need, and in what? What’s your thing? Potential clients don’t want to just chat away, they will want you to come up with some ideas or thoughts which will help them. To help you decide what content to share, download our free guide to content planning from the Resource library, it's free and waiting for you right now in our JoinedUp Networking toolkit. This toolkit is a resource library stuffed with goodies to help you get better results from your networking (email address required). Click here to download it.
  2. You need to know your potential client’s buying criteria. What are the barriers to them buying? If you can’t find a way of removing these barriers, then you will struggle to get work from your network, regardless of diligent you have been networking with the right people.
  3. Do you have a solution which you can offer your network? Now, I’m not talking about selling here. Typically, from your networking meeting you want to gain a commitment from the person you are meeting. This could be an introduction which would help you, or maybe an offer for a further conversation (whether or not there is a piece of business that you can help them with). Without some clearly defined and targeted solutions or services, which are tailored to the sorts of clients you want, then the cosy chat is likely to stay a cosy chat.

To help you decide what solutions to offer your client, download our step-by-step guide to writing a marketing plan, it's free and waiting for you right now in our JoinedUp Networking toolkit. This toolkit is a resource library stuffed with goodies to help you get better results from your networking (email address required). Click here to download it.