By Beth Rosenfeld, Lisa Peskin and Brynne Tillman
Special to the Legal
Networking is not something that is accomplished at an event; it’s a process. Many attorneys tell us that they’ve tried to network and it hasn’t worked for them. When we ask what they’ve done, they usually tell us that they went to a few events, got nothing out of them and then stopped going. This is not how the process works. It can take years to build up your network to a level that translates into new business. There are no shortcuts to building relationships. Like most things that are worth doing, the process of networking takes time, effort and dedication. Farmers do not simply plant seeds and wait. They nurture their future crops with water, food and fertilizer and take an active role in helping them grow. This same effort is required to develop and cultivate sources of new business in order to make them flourish and bear fruit. There must be an overall long-term plan, and you must stay dedicated to it.
There are a few things attorneys can do prior to an event that will help their networking efforts be more productive right away:
- Do some homework before the event. Occasionally you can see a list of those who have registered online and you can make a list of the people you’d like to meet. You can also plan to go with a networking partner, learn about what type of people each of you wants to meet, and make introductions for one another throughout the event.
- Show up early and look at all the name tags. Identify whom you’d like to meet, and even ask the host if he or she would introduce you to a few select people.
- Go into the event looking for networking partners like CPAs, not just prospects. This is a great opportunity to build relationships. We call this fishing with a net vs. fishing with a pole. When we are prospecting for our next client, it is one pole, one line, one hook, and you might catch one fish. When you seek out strategic partners that can introduce you to into their network, it is like fishing with a net.
- Categorize the business cards you collect. Consider marking cards with a 1, 2 and 3 – a 1 means just connect on LinkedIn, 2 means connect on LinkedIn and schedule a phone call, and 3 is connect on LinkedIn and schedule a face-to-face meeting. Simple, yet a good way to keep things organized.
- Schedule follow-up meetings right there. Many of us have our schedules on our phones and can save a future step by requesting a meeting and placing it on our calendars while still at the event.
Networking does work, but it takes a good plan of action, follow-up and consistency.