Meet the Right People
Networking, when done right, will grow your accounting practice. But I’ve encountered many accounting professionals at networking events who don’t really understand its function. Pressing your business card into someone’s hand, especially when they didn’t ask for one, hurts your business. Unfortunately, most accounting professionals never fully take advantage of everything networking offers.
You tend to like people who are similar to you. So, you naturally gravitate to groups who share your interests. This makes a lot of sense. However, creating connections only with those groups limits you. It lacks diversification.
Actually three primary types of groups exist.
- Networking Up. These are professionals who are more successful than you.
- Cross networking. These are your peers, although they may not be in the same profession as you.
- Networking Down. Don’t dismiss this group; they’re valuable and important. In these groups, you’re the networking up connection. It’s not about their current level of success. The value lies in what they do and building relationships. You don’t know who they know.
The Father of Networking
Recently I attended the BNI National Conference. Business Networking International (BNI) is a networking organization. Attending this conference is an opportunity to connect with some of the best networkers in the country.
Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, described his networking up experience. Through a series of introductions, he eventually received an exclusive invitation from Richard Branson to visit Necker Island.
Networking up strategically connects you with meaningful people who you perceive as more successful than you. Who would you like to meet that is more established than you? Once you identify that person, or a group of people, then build relationships with them.Networking up strategically connects you with meaningful people who you believe are more successful than you. #growyourbusiness Click To Tweet
Frequently my business coaching clients will tell me, Loren, they already claimed the top position, I can’t compete.
Realistically, plenty of room exists at the top. It’s the bottom that’s really crowded. So look for those game changing opportunities. With consistency and time, you’ll develop these strategic connections.
You build your circle of influence with one introduction at a time. Then that person introduces you to someone else, who then introduces you to another person. Each introduction is your opportunity to build another meaningful relationship.
Dr. Misner shared his lessons learned from networking up.
- Don’t sell to them. Never ask someone to buy from you if you don’t have a relationship. Basically, everyone is interested in selling to people of influence. Avoid getting lumped into that category. Connect in another way. If they’re interested in your services, they’ll ask.
- Hang out. Hang out with people who force you to uplevel. Your local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club or, BNI group are great starting points. People who are more successful than you will be in those rooms. Eventually evolve to a volunteer position with a select non-profit organization. That’s where you’ll meet people higher up than you. Take little steps. Success is a ladder where you take one step at a time. Be a giver and focus on building relationships. Over time, these steps lead to invitations with more successful organizations.
- Google. When possible, tap into Google. If you know someone you want to meet will be at an event that you’re attending, then Google that person in advance. Get on the internet to find out about that person before walking up to start a conversation. Technology can even let you do some research on the spur of the moment during the an event.
- Interest. Figure out that person’s interests. It’s why you want to Google them. Look them up. Find information regarding her interests. Then, focus your discussion around her interests. When you connect through overlapping interests, you’ll be memorable.
- Embrace discomfort. If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re not aiming high enough. Use this as a barometer when connecting with people. Uplevel. Discomfort is okay.
- Don’t complain, EVER! Especially, when networking up. Don’t tell someone at the top of an organization what’s wrong with her company. It only works if you never want her to speak with you again. Build a relationship first. Then eventually speak with her about the challenge.
- Don’t kiss up. When you’re over-eager, it repels people. It’s the exact opposite from what you want. Highly successful people get tired of having people yes them all day long. Be respectful and sincere. Share the impact her service has on you. Remember, to do this in a professional manner.
Advanced Networking Tips
- Context. Connect within the context of the setting or the discussion. Say, I’d enjoy getting together again.
- Add value. Offer something. Do something. Promise to refer to someone who can help her with a specific challenge. The 5 magical words of service How can I help you? Stand out by adding value. Of course, there will be times you do everything right and it never goes to the next step. That’s okay. Be true to your values, build relationships, add value and be genuinely interested. It’s okay to have goals. Whatever you do, remain professional.
- Mistaken identity. Don’t assume she will remember you. Plus, don’t test her. You may not like the answer and then it becomes awkward. Make it easy for her. Introduce yourself and give her context about when you met before. Here’s an advanced tip. If you send an email, it’s okay to also include a picture. The photo helps to jog her memory. Plus, this helps to create the right kind of connection. By prepping her, whether in person, by phone, or email, she may actually remember you.
- Don’t sell. This reminder bears repeating. Don’t ask for business before there’s a relationship, especially when networking up. You doom the relationship when you pitch too soon. If she has some interest, she will eventually ask you.
- Success. If you’re always the most successful person in a room – you’re hanging out in the wrong rooms!
Start Networking Up
Get out there and practice these things. Expect to make some mistakes as you do this. It’s okay.If you consistently attempt to do something, you will eventually succeed. If you always quit, then you will never win. #growyourbusiness Click To Tweet
We have minimal control over succeeding or failing. On the other hand, we do control whether we choose to pursue something or quit trying. If you consistently attempt to do something, you will eventually succeed. If you always quit, then you will never win.
Networking is about building relationships. It’s about getting to know people. As you move through the know, like and trust process people will help you build your accounting practice. When we all work together, we all do better.
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