If you are a seasoned professional, you already know.
However, there are plenty of young accountants and college students who are wondering just this – what is networking – do I need to do it – and where do I begin? Frankly, as a young staff, I questioned how my partners were heading out into the world and bringing back stacks of new clients for me to work on.
I was mystified and oh so innocent…..It looked like *magic*.
What else could it be, except maybe an underground society known as networkers, who ventured out into the world, performed some secret handshake, and produced clients from thin air?
But, where was this secret society? Did they have a secret location… like – The Bat Cave – a giant underground warehouse where they plucked potential clients off the shelf and checked them out at the front of the store?
Was that it?
I longed for someone to tell me…..I had to know the answer to this secret networking magic.
So on a particularly busy day, with a new client file in my hand, I stared into the face of my partner and asked. “Sir, where is the Bat Cave?”
“Oh my child,” he replied as he looked down and shook his head. “I know of no Bat Cave. But if you want, I will introduce you to Robin, one of my referral sources.”
O ‘M God – Awkward!
And so began my enduring quest for the mysterious Bat Cave, a secret place teaming with clients patiently waiting to be plucked from the shelf.
And yet, I wasn’t alone in my quest. For you see, as with all quests, I have my fellowship, my team of White Knights, a trusted alliance – my – referral sources – who like all trusted guides are there to lead the way.
So fellow seekers, during your networking journey, you are bound to roam lost and alone – until you too find your trusted alliance. And, In order to help you in this endeavor, I have graciously compiled these tips. Good luck travelers…. And let me know if you find the Bat Cave…because unfortunately, I never did:
1) Begin your quest by sharpening you craft. In order to sell your services, you need some services to sell. Have your “elevator speech” ready. Practice what you will say when people ask you questions about your profession, your employer, and your background. Treat it like an interview process because that is what it is – a five second interview meant to grab someone’s attention just long enough for them to find you interesting.
2) Socialize Socialize Socialize. Okay, so networking is directed socializing – meaning it’s about meeting people, in a particular profession, with a particular goal in mind. But as intimidating as that might sound, all it really is, is dating… In fact, networking for referral sources has many of the same elements as relationship dating. Don’t think so -Let’s explore the typical referral dating scenario:
First you attend a social event, you meet someone who interests you, you exchange phone numbers, you call the next day and set up a “referral date”, typically coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you explore whether this person is someone who is going to help you get what you want, and then you consider if a more committed relationship is warranted.
Ummm sounds like a typical date to me. So sharpen your dating skills, be sure to follow up [you know, call the next day], be engaging, have fun, and for heaven’s sake, act as if you want to be there.
Now the question is – how to find people to “referral date.” Here are some ideas:
a. Join a business-networking group – this can help you to focus your energy towards people who have the same business goals.
b. Volunteer your time – besides just being a rewarding experience, you will undoubtedly broaden your social horizon.
c. Join social clubs that interest you such as a running club, bicycling club, softball team, the girl scouts… well you get the point – again the more people you know…
d. Tell people you are looking for clients – hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask – and if you don’t ask – frankly people might not realize that you are looking.
e. Get on the internet – write a blog, create a web site, join online social networking groups, send out email reminders with handy tidbits of info to people in your network – the point is to remind people you are around so when someone needs a service, your name is on their mind.
3) Be fearless in your quest. And I mean just that. Don’t be afraid – get out into the world and tell people what you do. Ask for business. Hand out your card – and do it over and over and over again until you find the right, group, network, or formula that works for you. Keep in mind that your partner’s journey may be different from yours. As networkers, we each have our own styles. So don’t get discouraged if someone else’s journey isn’t for you.