March 29, 2021
As I have shared in past blogs, many people dread going to networking events, whether in person or virtual. When they finish with the event-- they breathe a sigh of relief and relax.
Several weeks later, they wonder why they have not reaped the benefits of going to the event-- or maybe even multiple events. If asked by senior partners or friends about their lack of business partners or career-building opportunities-- they will say I am out there networking.
The reality is that they are not networking at all. Networking is building genuine connections with other people. Authentic relationships do not happen after a glass of wine or a piece of cheese (virtual or real).
So what can you do to begin to build these genuine relationships? Remember, research has shown that it usually takes 7-20 substantive encounters to leverage a relationship.
Send a follow-up email or LinkedIn invitation. Do not send a generic invitation. Be specific as to where you met and why you appreciate the conversation with them. So rather than say I enjoyed the conference and speaker, say I enjoyed our conversation, and now you have me wanting to visit Barcelona. It does not have to be work-specific, but it must relate to what you discussed.
One of the most effective ways to build a relationship is by building trust and doing something for the other person. In your networking conversation, look for a reason to follow up. Listen to what they need. If you said you would introduce them to someone, send them information on Iceland restaurants or an article you wrote on the latest tax implications. Do it.
We all are bombarded with tons of information daily-- hundreds of emails, calls, and social media postings. Please take a moment to take the information you learned and capture it, and I mean to capture it all. This means writing down- whatever you talked about, their children (ages, names, schools), their business needs-- whatever it was that you discussed. I know this sounds contrived, but I even do this for some relatives- I have a ton of cousins with a ton of kids-- and I do care about them all-- but specific details escape me.
When communicating with them or when you think you may see them at another conference-- review that information and incorporate it into the conversation. For example, if five months down the line- (and hopefully this is not your only communication during this time- but let's say it is), you see that their companies are issued.
It is much better to start the email with:
How have you been? The last time we spoke, you were in the throes of the college admission process. I hope that everything has worked out for your daughter and she is happy with her choices.
I see that you now have this significant regulatory matter. You may recall from our conversation at the Big Law Conference that my firm...
Even if we don't fit your needs, I would love to grab a drink and catch up.
Clients and Colleagues are not mind-readers. They may guess that you are interested in developing business from them or learn about their career path or have them in your network, but unless you put your toe in the water, they won't know.
But putting the toe in the meeting, does not meant that after one meeting, you are making the Big Ask. Instead, it would be best if you offered something or asked for something that will deepen the relationship and educate them about your expertise and what it would be like to work together.
You could offer a CLE or a meeting to get to know each other better, including the work you or your firm does. When I was a client, one acquaintance just asked for a call to explain what she did. I knew she is a partner in a firm in a geographic area- we usually do not have work, but we scramble when we do. This call educated me on the breadth of her firm's geographic reach, and it was much larger than I thought. After that call, I referred additional potential matters to her because I now knew she could do it.
Remember, relationships take time. You should find ways to keep the conversations going and look for ways to continue to connect.
Even if you get to the point of the Big Ask and the answer I no- is just no- it is not never, and life is long, and things change. So you want to continue to cultivate the relationship.
Now I understand time is a valuable commodity, and you need to allocate it to the connections that seem to have higher potential. Assess your contacts and allocate your time accordingly and still keep doing the light touches- no matter what.
Light touches are items that don't take much time. For example, you see on LinkedIn, they are supporting an event or received an award. Share the event or send a note on the award-- or at least make a comment. You see, they are speaking at an event-- wish them well. You or someone in your firm writes an article, or you see a case on point-- as to something you two discussed-- send it with a personal note-- connecting it back to why you think it may be important to them.
Effective networkers create genuine relationships- their networking does not stop at the close of an event-- that is where the journey begins. If you consistently leverage these tips, you will start to reap the benefits.
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