How great would it be if everyone in your firm was excellent at networking? If they all could connect with prospects and clients, engage in interesting conversations and talk about what your firm does in a compelling way?
Everyone in your firm should have the tools to network well. It’s vital for the growth of your firm. No matter how much technology is changing how we do business, the ability to connect with someone and have an engaging conversation will always be relevant.
Making connections and building relationships is one of the most important skills, if not the most important skill. Business leaders need to grow their organizations organically. The problem is, very few people in firms know how to network effectively.
This results in three main issues we see firms having:
Little desire among staff to network. Can you blame them though? It’s intimidating to think about going to a networking event without the skills needed to be comfortable and productive.
Missed growth opportunities. Your competitors are winning work that your firm is better qualified to do, all because they sent someone to the networking event that was better at networking.
High-potential networkers that never shine. You currently have on your team individuals that have great potential for being effective networkers. Most likely, they have personal and professional relationships that would be valuable to the firm, but are untapped. Because they haven’t been taught the key skills to effectively network, they will never fully “shine” in this area.
The truth is that everyone in your organization is capable of networking in a way that is comfortable and natural to them. Anyone interested in having more meaningful conversations with new people they meet can apply the following three strategies.
1. Have a Clear One-Liner
When at an event, conversations often start with, “So, what do you do?” We give (or hear) a boring answer like, “I’m a Partner at XYZ CPA firm” or “I work at XYZ CPA firm.”
Immediately, we see the other person start to look over our shoulder and scan the room to talk with someone else. Why is that? Because, as humans, we are always looking for people who can help us “survive and thrive.”
If the other person doesn’t see you as someone who can help them survive and thrive, they quickly lose interest in the conversation and move on. Having a one-liner allows you to tell others what you do in a compelling way that gets people interested in how you can help them.
A one-liner consist of three parts:
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Reward
For example, let’s say I’m a Partner at XYZ CPA firm and I’m attending a small business networking event. Here’s a more compelling conversation starter:
Small Business Owner: “So, what do you do?”
Me: “Do you know how most small businesses struggle to keep up with their accounting and bookkeeping? We have an all-in-one solution that takes care of any business’s accounting and bookkeeping needs. We free up small business owners to focus their energy on serving clients and growing their organization.”
Which answer do you think will generate more business for your firm? Telling them where you work or what you can actually do for them?
2. Ask Questions
Let’s be honest, we all enjoy talking about ourselves. A great networker is someone that can set up others to talk about themselves. The best way to do this is by asking good questions.
The best framework for asking good questions while uncovering business opportunities is by asking ones that fall into three categories:
- Surface Questions
- Business Questions
- Personal Questions
Below are a couple of examples in each category:
Surface Questions: “What are some of the biggest opportunities in your business right now?” “Have you tried to find success in those areas before?”
Business Questions: “How critical are these opportunities to the success of your business?” “What are some of the biggest obstacles standing in the way?”
Personal Questions: “What would it mean for you and your role if your business found success in these areas?” “What type of work in your company would you like to be doing five years from now?”
While the above questions are just examples, the main point is to start with Surface Questions and work your way down to the Business and ultimately the Personal Questions. This simple framework is powerful in creating more meaningful conversations.
3. Follow Up
Everyone you have a meaningful conversation with at a networking event should receive a follow up from you. In addition to the “it was nice meeting” pleasantries of a general follow up, challenge yourself to provide a “value add” of some kind.
This “value add” could be many different things including an introduction to someone you think they’d benefit speaking with, an article you wrote or read that pertains to the conversation you had with the person, a video of a presentation, a free assessment or evaluation or even a book.
Following up is one of the most important things you can do to become a better networker. Why? Because most people don’t do it! To follow up well, you must actively think about ways to provide value to the person you are speaking with while you are speaking with them. This shows them that you are someone that can help them “survive and thrive.”
If you master the above networking strategies, I guarantee you will generate stronger relationships and ultimately more business. The joy of these three strategies is that anyone can do them. They are not limited to years of experience, role in the firm or personality styles.