Sometimes we have to break the rut of our networking to find any new successes. If you’ve run into the same people at the past three networking dinners or non-profit events with little to no success, it might be time to diversify your approach a bit. These basic techniques and perspectives will allow you to capitalize on your potential for client acquisition (and hopefully with less effort than previously necessary).
- Look in your natural environment: You might not immediately associate the parents of your children’s friends as a potential ground for networking refferals, so your son's Little League game is probably not your first thought when talking shop. However, you might find that you have a natural ability to affiliate with the other parents there as a result of your shared expeiences. The points of entry for you to bring up your job in conversation will be much more apparent and natural if you already share a similar experience with those you approach.
- Talk about anything other than money: I’ve been to enough events with financial advisors to notice a slight, albeit apparent, inclination to turn the conversation around to money as quickly as possible. Whether it’s by way of money as a cultural theme, a business tool, or the actual money in the hands of those in conversation, it always seems to come up. My advice is, don’t give in. Try to maintain the natural course of conversation as much as possible. It’s interesting to see how partnerships form between people discussing things other than money. These kinds of relationships may have a longer lead time, but they often result in stronger client relationships and more referrals.
- Be yourself first, then your role: You might find that natural synergies tend to surface with potential clients more easily if you present a little more of who you are in your personal life first. A potential client will eventually understand what you do professionally, but use the time when you first meet to present more of who you are personally. This will create a foundation of trust in the partnership even before it has officially begun.
- Make it easy: Bring business cards and a pen with you wherever you go. If you do end up talking shop in a social conversation, jot down a few of the things that came up for you when thinking about that person as a potential client before handing over your business card. Also write down some days and times that you can be contacted to discuss further. You’re really teeing yourself up for new business, but you’re also creating less stress for them as a result.
- Don’t offer opinions for which you can’t gauge the reaction: Unless you understand the position of the person with whom you’re speaking, try not to bring up controversial topics that might offend or turn someone off. The first interaction should be about them feeling comfortable, as that is how they should feel throughout all their interactions with you. Networking success is just as contingent on your social skills as it is on your sales skills. Ideally you won’t have to use any sales skills at all to land your next meeting.
Powerful coaching questions from this article:
- In what unexpected places have you made a business connection that could provide you with more opportunity?
- Think back to your first conversations with your most successful clients. What worked in that situation that you could repurpose for others?
- Where do you feel most comfortable interacting with others? Have you used it as an opportunity to tap into your expertise, even if it’s a non-professional environment?