I’ve addressed the subject of Networking many times before on this blog. I make no apology for returning to the topic as it’s a key business skill for accountants who want more clients. And also for those seeking their first clients too.
Networking is not something covered by our professional training. But it has become a crucial part of professional life – other than for those lucky people who have a constant stream of high value work referrals of course.
Today let me simply debunk and correct some of the misconceptions many accountants have about networking:
- Networking is not about net-selling, net-eating, or net-drinking. Networking for accountants means getting to know and to be known by other business people, introducers and influencers.
- No one is born a great networker. Some accountants (but not many) have always found it easy. Most have learned how to be an effective networker.
- Don’t expect to pick up new clients when you attend a networking event. No one goes to such places to find a new accountant.
- Extroverts do not make the best networkers. They tend to be too self-centred. They have to learn to tone it down and to listen more to the person they are with, rather than try to dominate the conversation.
- Networking is not just about the people in the room. Your aim is to build your reputation with the people you speak with so that you are positively remembered, referred and recommended by the people you meet to the people they know.
- Turning up and telling everyone you’re an accountant, just like all the others they know, isn’t going to help you achieve your objectives.
- Attending a networking group once will rarely be sufficient to achieve your objectives. You need to build your reputation with the people you meet. So you need to return to the same group a number of time. Don’t waste time and money running from one group to another in a desperate attempt to find clients or to secure referrals.
- Don’t assume that networking is only possible at designated networking events. You can network with colleagues in other parts of your firm and all manner of business events where there are people present you don’t know.
- Effective networking is not just about what happens when you meet people. It includes how effectively you follow up afterwards.
- Don’t worry if there are other accountants at a networking event as you are different to them. The accounts and tax returns you produce may be the same but your service, experience, advice and approach will be distinct and special compared to everyone else.
- It’s not about how many people are there or how many business cards you can give out. It’s about how many valuable conversations you can have.
- You can’t start networking until you arrive at an event. Not true. Good preparation will enable you to have a more worthwhile time. One simple way to do this is to send a personal note through Linkedin asking to connect with someone you know will be at the event. You’ll STAND OUT from everyone else and are more likely to be able to have a conversation during the event.
And on a related point. Linkedin is best considered an online business networking website. It’s not a jobs website or a depository for online CVs. And it’s not a social media site like facebook, twitter or instagram. You can use Linkedin to short-cut the face to face networking process.