We are told that networking is the best way to win new business, whether from new clients or existing clients. In this blog post, Heather Townsend author of The Go-To Expert, answers the question, what do you actually need to generate new business from your network?
Two essential ingredients needed to get results from your network.
Networking, whether face-to-face, on-line, internal or external, is all about attracting opportunities. (It’s not about selling, despite what many professionals may think and do when networking!) However, to be successful at attracting opportunities you need to be both credible and visible. Yes, your firm’s brand will go some way to helping your credibility but you will need to do more than just rely on this to get your opportunities when networking
Visible: What do we mean by this?
Very simply this means being present where your ideal client or introducer is present. This could be turning up to events, intimate lunches or dinners or keeping in regular contact with them via email or phone.. For example, if you want to use Twitter to gain business, you need to tweet more than once a day.
All too often I see people from the Big 4 and large firms think that networking = external to the firm. Given the size and scale of the internal marketplace within these large firms, your internal firm network is just as important and possibly more important than your external firm network. After all, it’s much easier to win work off an existing client than go out and win a new client. In fact the internal firm network may represent your best chance to quickly building up a book of business.
Remember the internal firm network is as important as the external firm network.
Networking within your firm is more than just turning up to meetings and company social events. It could be contributing to the internal firm newsletter, running workshops or training sessions or speaking at internal company team/department meetings.
Before people will refer you opportunities or business, they want to build up a relationship with you. But it’s not just about the relationship, they need to know that you are in it for the long haul. For example, as soon as one of my associates mentioned that they were going back to full time hours with their existing company, I started to mentally cross them off my resourcing plans for the future. By having a high visibility with potential referrers, you will be ‘top of mind’ when they have an opportunity which would be valuable for you to obtain.
Need to grow your reputation or be more visible to your ideal clients? Then join our Go-To Expert System Programme to never have to worry about winning clients again.
Credible: What do we mean by this?
To be credible, means many things. Of course, your firm brand will help your credibility enormously. In fact, you may find that being part of a big firm makes the difference to whether or not you get a first meeting in the diary with a possible new client.
But you can’t just rely on your firm’s brand to be your credibility. You need to do more than this. Firstly, it means that your messages are consistent over time. If you completely change your focus or niche, do be aware that you will temporarily lose credibility until you have re-established yourself. Make sure that when you are out networking, you are focused on finding out ‘who do you know’, rather than the heinous crime of selling whilst out networking. There is nothing quite as damning for your credibility than a sign on your forehead that says ‘I am desperate for business’ or ‘I am selling’.
Your credibility can often increase the great the degree of expertise you are perceived to have. For example, a niche specialist is often seen as more credible than a generalist when it comes to opportunities in the niche. Every time you refer someone your reputation is on the line. So it makes sense for you to want to refer the expert over the generalist for all opportunities baring the low budget low value jobs.
A niche specialist is often seen as more credible than a generalist
Being credible means taking the time to build up relationships, and also give into relationships. For example, make sure you take the opportunity to arrange 1:2:1s with people you feel a connection with. If you go out networking with the sole purpose of helping people, work will always follow. When I mean helping people, it can be as simple as introducing them to a member of your network.
Your credibility is vulnerable after a networking event. Fail to follow up – or renege on your agreed actions, and your credibility will take a hit. The brand that you want to cultivate when networking is of someone who is ‘helpful’, ‘well-connected’ and ‘delivers on their promises’. Unless you have agreed specific actions with someone you have met, a follow-up can be as simple as a short e-mail saying that you enjoyed meeting them. It does not mean, signing them up to your mailing list without their express permission.
Need more clients? Then join our Go-To Expert System Programme to never have to worry about winning clients again.
This article originally appeared in a different form on the How To Make Partner website.
About Heather Townsend
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the The Go-To Expert. She is the author of the award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’, Poised for partnership and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, and ‘The Go-To Expert’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices.