How to Network Your Way to New Clients
Are you afraid to network? Many bookkeepers are.
You see, they’re master technicians of their craft who usually stay in the cozy confines (either alone or with staff) of their home or work office to deliver their results for clients
It’s safe there, with little interaction with absolute strangers in a social setting. Most bookkeepers would prefer it that way. But, what if they had access to free networking tools to help them overcome their fear and actually attract new clients as a result of crawling out of their comfort zone?
During an episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International (BNI), which is the world’s largest business networking and business referral organization. It has over 7,800 chapters and 213,000 members in 72 countries. So, he knows something about business networking and can definitely help you.
Before going forward, there are a couple of things to understand:
- You must learn to manage your social fears.
- Once you do that, you must build trust with people in order for them to become your referrals and buy from you.
Typically, introverts truly struggle with social experiences, but Dr. Misner has some tips that can be of assistance.
Tip # 1: Assess the room. You’ll see people standing in open twos or closed twos. Imagine putting two hands together as if you’re praying. Place your palms together, then separate the top of your left and right hand to form a “V” shape. That’s called an open two. It’s easier to speak with people in an open two.
Assess the open groups that are standing in an open stance, so you can slide in and nod at some point then say, “Hello,” and then you can ask about each of them. Always look for open twos and threes.
Tip #2: Attend networking meetings, where you know someone there. If there are people you are familiar with at the event, ask if that person can introduce you to people in the room. If you’re an introvert, it’s a great technique because your friend will be doing the networking work for you.
In regards to building trust with potential prospects, Dr. Misner says introverts have a great advantage.
According to a 3,000 person online survey he conducted with various entrepreneurs, the results showed that the #1 characteristic of a great networker is being a strong listener.
Introverts are usually observant by nature and can potentially provide deeper prospect/referral connections because their listening skills have enabled them to show genuine interest in the person they’re speaking with, which creates trust and rapport.
Of course, once that person knows, likes and trusts you, she’ll be open to finding out more about you, including what services you provide, which can lead to a potential client relationship.
So, how do you find the RIGHT networking group?
Before we get to that, Dr. Misner emphasizes that business networking is a long-term game. You don’t just go to one event and that’s it. You’ll need to commit. Typically, being a part of a weekly networking group would be ideal.
When you’re searching for the appropriate one, keep these criteria in mind:
Look for quality business professionals. When entrepreneurs are speaking with you, take careful note of what they say they do professionally. How good are they at what they do? Do they have credible testimonials that highlight their excellence? Also, how do they dress and communicate? Remember, you want to network with winners.
Quantity of the members. If you’re in a room of 16, you won’t generate a lot of business. Sixteen people have 216 connections. Thirty-two people have 1054 connections. Look for a group that is at least 25-30 members. If you can find a chapter of 40-50 members and they are quality, go for it.
Engagement of members. How active are they? Do members attend consistently? Do they take their attendance seriously? During these networking sessions, is it more about having a social experience or more focused on the business of getting referrals?
Once you find the right group, Dr. Misner says, “Don’t use networking as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity.”
If you’ve been to a networking event, you’ve probably encountered people who always try to SELL, SELL and SELL to you. No one likes that. Networking is about building relationships and having conversations with people and helping them.
Hopefully, by this point, you realize you can do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert – you can still be an effective networker. If you have the mindset of genuinely wanting to link people together who need each other’s services, that will serve you. People will eventually seek you out.
All you need to do is take the first step.