How to Be the “First Name on the Brain”
On Wednesday at my BNI meeting, my networking education piece focused on a networking strategy that makes you the “first name on the brain” when the need arises for someone in your profession. Here are the steps which I presented:
1. Meet As Many People As You Can. Networking groups and networking events are occurring almost every day. Whether it be a BNI chapter, a Chamber of Commerce, a Meetup Group or some other niche networking group (for example, I’m part of networking groups focused on cleantech and greentech business and doing business between Minnesota and China), or a one-time only networking event, try to meet as many people as possible. Do NOT ever assume that someone is not worth talking to simply because at first glance their profession does not seem to be compatible with yours.
2. Follow-Up. If you go to networking events and fail to follow up, you wasted the time spent at the event. Keep a pen with you at the event and take notes on the back of each person’s card. After the event, review your cards and schedule 1 to 1 meetings with the people you met at the event (you do not have to meet with everyone; I usually make appointments with the handful of people that I really want to get to know more about, but if someone who’s not in that category invites me to a meeting, I take the meeting).
3. Prepare for the Meeting and Listen at the Meeting. Do some advance research before any 1 to 1. Review the person’s website and do some other internet research to learn more about the person’s business. Come to the meeting with questions and listen to what the person says about his or her business and the answers to your questions.
4. Create a Contacts Database. Whether you use Outlook or some other program, create an electronic database of all of your networking contacts, and make notes in each entry as to information pertinent to that contact.
5. Make Referrals Among Your Contacts. I find that, as an attorney, it is not always easy to have a piece of business to refer to one of my networking contacts. However, I am almost certain that I have at least two people in my database who (a) have never met; and (b) have the possiblity of doing some business together. Anytime I have a 1 to 1 with someone, I leave them with at least one contact out of my files who can help them grow their business. The best thing about this? The persons you introduce usually return the favor with an introduction of someone new to you.
6. Take Advantage of Social Networking. We cannot possibly network face-to-face every minute of every hour of every day. That’s where social networking comes in. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are my favorites, and they are great ways to stay in touch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I’ve recently found, as you can see by reading this, that blogging is another great way to stay in touch with your network.
7. BE SINCERE. This is the most important step of all. You have to be genuine with all of your networking efforts. If you are thinking only of yourself, others can see this and your networking will not be productive. You have to have a genuine desire to help the people you are networking with grow their business. There is a fine line between sincerity and selfishness; finding it is the key to effective networking.
The steps I’ve outlined above do work; I’m proof of that, as I’ve grown my law practice by leaps and bounds through effective networking. I’ve used networking to be the “first name on the brain” when someone needs a lawyer, and so far, the strategy has paid off.
Networking is the best, most cost effective form of marketing, and in this economy, it’s a must!