“He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.” Confucius
You know the drill. If you want a bigger and more stable client base, you need to network. That means getting out there, talking to people, building relationships. But what if you need clients NOW? What if you don’t have the time to spend socializing without guaranteed results? What if you go around visiting and visiting and visiting and never getting any business out of it? Can you really afford to spend time at functions you have no desire to be at if there is no guarantee that you will meet someone that will bring business in the door? Thoughts like these are exactly the sort of thing that discourages many attorneys from embracing the networking road to business development. I understand. I’ve been there. So is there a way to short circuit the process to get to the good stuff? “Yes” and “no.”
Networking takes time. There is no way around it. In fact, it is more likely that scientists will finally develop an anti-fat pill that safely burns away pounds of unwanted fat overnight without regard to food consumption than anyone developing an alternative to the time investment necessary to network your way into a stable flow of business. BUT, there are things you can do to improve your chances of success and likely speed up the process.
To achieve success, take instructions from the best. Years ago I was listening to a self help tape that suggested that to be successful, one should identify someone who is wildly successful at a given activity, figure out what they are doing, and then copy what they do. While natural talent and circumstances may influence the results, chances are if you do what they do, you will achieve at least some success. So what do great networkers do to bring in business?
For starters, they act like they mean it. They don’t just show up to some association meeting where the number of attorneys trying to sell their services outnumbers the prospective clients. They join the association and they get involved. They join committees. They work on problems. They come up with ideas and answers. In short, they contribute. They give back. Because of their contribution, and here’s the good part, THEY GET NOTICED. The prospects notice them, even better, the prospects want to talk to them. They want to know their opinions. They want their help with their problems. Demonstrate your commitment to solving your prospect’s problems by your service and activity for the group and the prospects will come to you! No need to give a sales pitch on what you do and what makes you good at it, because you will have already demonstrated that. You become known for your expertise and ability, and you are trusted because of your voluntary contribution of your time and know-how.
But this takes tiiiiime (extra i’s intended to emphasis sing-song whine). Yes, but if you are smart about it, you can target your efforts to get the most bang for your buck. Before you join the association, research it thoroughly. Make sure it not only includes a large number of the prospects you are targeting, but also, and equally important, that it is something you are interested in and can be passionate about. If you don’t believe in the cause, your lack of enthusiasm will likely show through and as a result, keep you from being someone the prospective clients sees as a solution to their problems. Likewise, if you don’t believe in the cause, you will be much less likely to stick with it long enough to reap the rewards, and therefore lose all the time you invested thus far. Besides, if you don’t believe in the cause, maybe that is a signal that you should be looking elsewhere. Why try to represent clients and interests you are not interested in? Where’s the fun in that? And speaking of fun, if you are passionate about the subject and you do get involved, it will not feel like networking. You will feel good about what you are doing and what you are contributing, you will enjoy it and feel like your time was well spent, and the rest will come naturally.
In short, research the association, make sure it is one you are interested in and passionate about. Make sure the members include a good supply of prospective clients, join it and GET INVOLVED. The heavier your involvement, the faster you will see results. And because your activities will be publicized to the group at large, you will have demonstrated your worth to a large number of prospects all at the same time. There will still be an investment of time up front, but you will feel good about it, and it will be worth the stream of clients your association activities and contributions generate.