Not every business interaction is — or should be — online. While the Internet has opened up many ways to reach prospects and referral sources, sometimes there is just no substitute for getting out there and networking the old fashioned way: in person.
And since technology has been so ubiquitous for a number of years, it occurs to me that there may be a whole new generation of lawyers out there who simply don’t know how to put their best foot forward in a social setting. There are probably some others who need to brush up on those skills as well.
Networking is about establishing mutually beneficial relationships, not a contest to see how many business cards you can collect. And to secure those mutually beneficial relationships, you need to be strategic about the people you meet. Not everyone who crosses your path will necessarily qualify for that role.
Here are some networking tips — along with those in the infographic below — to keep in mind:
Join the right groups: Don’t focus on legal groups or groups where a lot of attorneys gather (unless you get a lot of your business from other attorneys). You need to go where the decision makers meet, not the gatekeepers.
Join elite groups: Groups that cost several hundred dollars a year are better than cheap groups; groups that require a member to sponsor you are even better.
Remember your primary purpose: Remember your primary purpose in going to networking events is NOT to get new clients. Your primary purpose is to build a relationship with potential referral sources and to offer yourself as a referral source to them. If you’re going to networking events to get new clients you are not only wasting your time, but you are also coming across as either pushy or desperate to the people you’re meeting.
When you understand the real reason for going to networking events, it takes all the pressure to perform off and keeps you focused on a more productive purpose—building relationships with people you could help and who may also be of help to you.
Ask open-ended questions: Use the 80/20 rule when you meet them — 80% of the conversation should be finding out about them. Ask open-ended questions like: What do you like best about the work you do? What are the biggest challenges your industry/company/profession is facing? How would I know if the person I’m talking to would be a good referral for you?
Be intentional in your follow-up: It does absolutely no good to go to a bunch of networking events, talk to people, collect business cards, and not follow-up. You must have a plan and reasons for following up with people you meet. Your primary reason is to learn more about their business and see if you would be a good referral source for them.