You are probably looking to be the The Go-To Expert in your profession because you love what you do. Yes? Makes sense. You probably didn’t start because you love forging relationships with strangers. However, that’s what you have to do. Network. What’s more you are probably busy and need to make time to network. If you want to develop your portfolio and build your business you need to have built and nurtured a network to will help you bring in clients. Very few people relish it, and it takes time and effort, so this article shares 7 networking tips to make time to network effectively.
1) Understand why you need to make time to network
Most people go networking without a good understanding of why. Typically, most professionals have a fairly vague understanding of why. For example:
‘it will be good for my meeting people’.
‘my partner asked me to go to this event’.
There is often little thought about how they are going to use their networking activities to help them achieve their goals. Consequently, they end up wasting time attending the wrong events, speaking to the wrong people and not having the coffees, lunches, drinks and phone calls with people who could really help them grow their client portfolios.
You can avoid this mistake by understanding how networking can help you, having a clear plan for how you are going to network (see Tip 4) and then you’ll be more likely to make time to network.
2) Who can shortcut your path to your goals?
This is probably one of my best networking tips! On my workshops and in my presentations on networking I always talk about why I want to meet George Clooney. Yes, it’s very tongue-in-cheek – but it also gets me a smile and a laugh. To me, George represents someone who can help me achieve what I want in the short and medium future – someone who can help me shortcut my way to achieving my goals.
Most networkers can’t think of their equivalent of ‘George’. Consequently, they spend a large amount of time arranging to meet the wrong people and then get disheartened because they never seem to get the outcomes they need from their network. So, before you do anything else, identify who your ‘George’ is. Now, look through your contacts – where should you focus your limited networking time? Now you may need to make less time to network!
3) Don’t go networking, build and nurture your network
The tried and tested networking method for many established professionals is to attend networking events. The myth becomes that attending networking events is seen as the way to grow your profile and win business. Far too passive!
There are many better ways of building and nurturing your network than hoping the right people will turn up to the same event as you. Once you have found your ‘George’ (when you know who you need in your network and why), you can use a whole range of ways of find and build the relationship. How about meeting for a coffee? Sending them useful information? Using LinkedIn to engineer an introduction to someone you want to meet? The list is almost endless!
4) What’s your relationship action plan?
If time is tight, people often cut down on the wrong thing! Most people cut down on the follow all-important follow-up with existing contacts, rather than going to events.
To get round this identify your top ten contacts and write a relationship action plan for each of them. Now, get out your diary (yes, your diary) and translate those plans across into your calendar. If you are going to attend a networking event, allocate at least an hour to following up with people the next morning.
5) Spend 15 mins a day or 1 hour a week nurturing your existing network
We all live busy professional lives, but you can find 15 mins a day to develop your network. Put this time in your diary and just do it – either 15 minutes every day, or 1 hour every week. LinkedIn makes it easy for us to find people and keep in touch, these 15 mins can be done at your desk using up some dead time, and enjoying a coffee.
6) Use your PA or secretary
Many of our successful lawyer clients do this very well. They delegate most of the relationship management to their secretary or PA. You don’t need to do it all yourself, your PA can keep you on track and set up the appointments. Can you use any of your firm’s marketing resource to research the prospects or introducers with whom you should be building a relationship?
7) Don’t forget the internal firm network
It’s an easy mistake to make: you focus all your networking time on the external world. But, we remind our clients all the time that their internal firm network is just as important, in fact possibly more so, than their external firm network.
How will you use these 7 tips to make time to network, and grow your portfolio?