3 Strategies of Effective Networkers

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A professional acquaintance – friend – of mine, called the other day needing a little information and a coaching session. My friend, a CPA in a large law firm, was recently promoted. A terrific opportunity that comes with increased responsibilities and a strong emphasis on business development; and he is new to the role of business development. While he has always been responsible for some level of business development, the shifting economy, increased competition and the changes in the industry have brought a renewed and increased focus to the importance of business development on each member of his firm.

Feeling the pressure, my friend has ‘upped’ his commitment to develop business by increasing his time spent networking. Great start. However, while he is out there attending events, having coffee and going to lunch, he called me because he is growing a bit weary of not getting the results. I listened to him talk (and whine a little) about all he has to do just to get his job done and how he doesn’t understand why his firm is requiring business development of him too. Why did he have to do all the business development and networking especially if he is not getting results? Again, as I listened I thought he is really missing the point on networking, his job and how vital business development is to success.

First and foremost, clients and potential new clients are everything to a business. No matter the business you are in. In my opinion, there is no such thing as “business development” people in an organization. Meaning that business development is everyone’s role and everyone’s responsibility. Remember, no matter your business if there are no clients, there is no business, and in today’s world keeping your existing clients and getting new ones takes daily commitment.

Second, networking and business development are not a task, they are a lifestyle. Much like eating right and exercising. Committing to develop, nurture and attract new clients is a permanent change you need to make now, no matter what your position, to the way you go about your daily professional life.

So let’s start with networking. One of the most important business development lifestyle changes you can adopt in terms of growing your client base. I get it. I understand why my friend is getting frustrated. He believes, like most people do, that you go to a few events, you have coffee with a few people, and the flood gates should open, the waters should part, and the business should flow in. Luckily, it does not work that way. If it did, everyone would do it and it would never be the incredible competitive advantage that it is.

So how does networking work? What is it about networking that my friend does not understand? What are the inside secrets and strategies that make networking effective?

Long Game – Watch any, and I mean any, incredibly successful person and behind them you will find an incredibly powerful network. One they started building years ago. Networks are based on trust, mutual commitment and a true connection that takes time, investment, and commitment to the long game. Patience in networking is a virtue.

Strategic – Any good networker may invest a lot of time in networking, but the difference between their networking and the amateur networker is – their strategic approach. The time they spend, the people they choose to network with, the events they attend, and the relationships they build, align with their vision for their organizations, their teams and their clients. Their networking is a major part of their overall plan. And they go about it strategically.

Take Control– Watch good networkers and you will see they take control. Observe them at a networking event and you will notice they care little whether they talk about themselves, give out their business card, or recite their elevator speech. Instead they focus on the person with whom they are networking with, asking questions, listening and learning about who they are talking to and what connections and skills they have. Good networkers remain in control of the relationships they build, choosing who and when they will further build relationships.

Yes, networking takes time on the front end, skill, and strategy. Any smart networker knows that going in. But they also know that no other skill has a stronger return on investment. A strong network once built produces dividends for years to come. Building a strong network will produce bottom line results that last a lifetime.