An effective strategy for growing your law practice is to build relationships with professionals and referral sources who work with your target market.
Networking is a powerful tool to strengthen relationships.
Unfortunately, when most lawyers hear the word “networking” they do not respond with enthusiasm. Images of forced conversation, wasted time, phoniness, and collecting business cards tend come to mind.
In truth, the essence of networking is none of the above. The truemeaning of networking involves building relationships by giving to others and helping them succeed.
To be successful at building professional relationships, it is critical to focus on cultivating mutually beneficial, give and take, “win-win” relationships. The focus is on helping the other person to meet his or her goals. The mistake many “net workers” make is focusing on their own success and how the other person can help them meet their goals.
Here are eight steps you can take to increase your networking success:
- Do your homework before the networking event. Review the list of attendees and identify who you want to meet. Research the professionals on your target list before the event. (The internet and LinkedIn is an excellent resource for learning about people). Bring value to your target list by connecting them to other high influence professionals who are also attending the event. Relationships are formed when people believe you are authentically interested in them. This cannot be faked and the planning you do in advance will create a favorable impression.
- Know your core message. You will increase your confidence and ability to focus on other people if you know in advance how to respond to the following questions:
- What differentiates you?
- Who are your best clients?
- What value do you provide?
- At any networking event, show an interest in the person or people with whom you are conversing. Once the awareness shifts away from you and your goals to them and their goals, a connection is made with the other person and trust begins to develop. In most situations, once you have shown an authentic interest in someone else, they will respond wanting to know about you.
- Ask questions. When you have an encounter with other individuals, you have two options — make a statement or ask questions. By choosing to ask questions, you can learn valuable information about others and help them to open up.
- Listen actively. The best way to understand and meet the needs of the people with whom you are talking is through deep, genuine attention to what others are saying. Pay attention to your body language and what you are thinking as you converse with others. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is looking around the room and non-verbally communicating, “I have no interest in what you are saying.”
- Make a contribution. Once you learn about the other person and their goals and interests, offer to send information on resources that would be of value to their work, i.e. an article, book or web site. Show your interest in their success by introducing them to other professionals at the event.
- Follow up. After meeting with a prospective referral source from a networking activity, make the follow-up calls, schedule the lunch meetings, and email the article you discussed. Invite the person to join your LinkedIn network. Without proper follow up your will not see a return on the time and energy you invested in attending the networking event.
- Have fun. Networking is about building relationships. The key to success is to enjoy yourself and spend time with people and attend the events that you connect with both personally and professionally.