John wakes to the blaring noise of his alarm breaking through his slumber.
He blearily drags himself out from the warmth of his bed, throws himself into the shower, gets dressed and heads out the door to the reason his alarm has gone off earlier than normal today – a dreaded early morning networking event.
When he arrives, John stands up in front of a room packed full of people (most of whom look as tired and bleary-eyed as he does). He gives his rather dull 60 second pitch, then moves aside as someone else does the same.
The room is filled with people with false smiles, promises of referrals and business cards exchanged only to later end up at the bottom of the bin.
Does this picture sound familiar?
Dreading going to networking events and then doing a half-hearted job whenever you do?
If that’s the case, you definitely won’t see much benefit from networking events and they won’t be anywhere near as powerful for your business as they could be.
Networking – when done well – can be an incredibly powerful lead generation tool for your accounting practice.
So, how can you ensure you don’t end up like John and instead you ace networking opportunities that lead to new clients coming on board?
1. Know your ideal client
Before you even think about pitching to anyone, you must first identify your ideal client.
Ask yourself: who is the ideal client that I would absolutely love to spend my time working with?
Ask yourself all the questions you need to in order to come up with as clear a picture as possible of your ideal client. This should include what their pain points are, what you can help them achieve and anything else that’s relevant.
2. Perfect your pitch
How often do you find yourself talking about something and then an hour later you think of something you should have said instead?
It might just be a little detail you forgot to mention that’s really rather important, or it might be a completely different way of saying whatever it is you actually said.
I bet it happens to you frequently, because I know it happens to me too!
And, this counts for pitching too.
You can’t expect to just pitch perfectly in 60 seconds without properly preparing first.
Don’t just say “I’m an accountant based in A and we do X, Y and Z for our clients. If you know anyone looking for an accountant send them our way”
Like Amanda C. Watts explains in this great video on Linkedin, all this approach does is leave people wondering whether you’re cheaper than their current accountant. They don’t know what you specialise in, what your areas of interest are or what types of clients you work with.
But, if you’ve already worked out who your ideal client is, then you can tailor this pitch perfectly to them. You can convey that you know who your ideal client is, you already know the pains that this type of client faces and the ways in which you can help them.
So, your perfect pitch would be something more like this:
“We are an accounting practice who specialise in working with <IDEAL CLIENT>. We help them with <XYZ>, so that they can <ACHIEVE BIG GOAL/DREAM>”
“We are an accounting practice who specialise in working with young tech start-ups. We help them to manage their cash-flow and finances so that they can attract investment and grow rapidly.”
See how much better and more effective that is?
I saw another great tip on Linkedin from Alexandra Bond Burnett who suggested telling a story of how you helped one of your ideal clients during your 60 second pitch. Storytelling is powerful because we remember them much more than others types of content.
3. Track your referrals
Once you’ve mastered your perfect pitch for networking events, you’ll want to track how many referrals you give to people and how many they give back to you. After all, you don’t want a one-sided referral relationship!
If you realise you’ve given a few referrals to someone, you then have the leverage to ask them for some in return. People are always more willing to give to you if you have already given to them.
Robert Cialdini wrote about this phenomenon in his book Power of Persuasion. People feel inclined to give back to you if you give to them first – this is called reciprocity and is an incredibly powerful feeling.
So, if you start referring people, they’ll be more likely to then refer people to you.
4. Get your team involved
If you’re the only person out there networking for your business, you’re bound to feel lonely and a bit disheartened at times.
One of my clients became fed up of being the only person who woke up early to go to networking meetings and going to meetings after work too. He decided something had to change and so he made the decision to involve all of his senior team in networking.
He made networking part of their job roles and created clear targets for how much business they were expected to bring in.
After all, the more people who get involved in networking, the more referrals you’ll end up getting!
What are your biggest pain points when it comes to networking? Do you have any networking tips or advice to share?