Your brilliance doesn't matter much, but who you know does.
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Sales Tips & Strategic Issues

Your brilliance doesn't matter much, but who you know does.

November 3, 2014

by Tony Vidler

There’s too much emphasis now placed upon “what you know. I know…I know…heresy!  I shall probably be crucified after a public flogging for saying it out loud….

But here’s a radical thought: most professional advisers today actually know enough.  So enough already with the emphasis upon “knowing more and more” technical stuff.

One of best known truisms in business is “it’s now what you know, but who you know” – but somehow that is downplayed in the rush to be ever more technically brilliant. This is especially true in financial services and accounting where there has been so much emphasis in recent years upon attaining a level of technical competency that professionals are underinvesting in the “people side of the business”.

I’ll be the first to argue for the need for professionals to have excellent technical knowledge, and furthermore to be continually working on honing their craft and technical brilliance. However at some point there is “enough” base technical knowledge, so that it is no longer the most important area of focus for business development.

Your brilliance at networking will matter more.

In one of the most popular posts I’ve written we had a look at the lessons we can learn from the greatest salesman in the world (see Get More Clients Than You Could Imagine… if you missed it).  The most obvious lesson was “Your success at networking makes a massive difference to how many prospects you have, and how many clients you can create“.

So what are the keys to making networking work?

  1. Attitude: This is the thing that makes or breaks networking efforts.  You really do have to be thinking about the “triple wine” right from the start.  How can you build relationships where you provide value and help another business person create a win?  How does that help customers create a win?  Finally, is there a potential win in it for you?  Your attitude has to be about creating the first two wins well before the third one- help them win first is the key.
  2. It is a 100% of the time activity.  Everything and everyone in business is a networking opportunity.  Everyone you met is potentially a great potential centre of influence or advocate.
  3. Be the adventurer.  Somebody had to be the first person to venture forth and discover new worlds….be that adventurer. Be the one who is willing to open conversations and meet people who are just as nervous as you are about meeting new people…
  4. Be interested.  Find out about them, their history, what they like…find out about new business contacts firstly as people – then worry about finding out about their business. Be interested in other people as human beings first, and as business owners second.  People like other people who show a genuine interest in them first.
  5. Be interesting.  Bland is boring and kills networking opportunities.  This is where your own value proposition is so incredibly powerful – being able to create interest and intrigue when it is your turn to introduce yourself can make or break networking opportunities.  It may be 5 minutes into a conversation before you get your 30 seconds to be interesting (because you focus on them, and are “interested” first, right?) – but when that time comes you need to be interesting.  There is nothing more bland than wheeling out an industry title or job descriptor – you know what I mean: “I’m an accountant specialising in tax planning….” or “I’m a financial planner specialising in portfolio management….”  Yawn.  Move on….networking opportunity dead!
  6. Follow up. Don’t let the 10 minutes of conversation just become 10 wasted minutes of 2 people’s lives.  Follow up afterwards.  Send a thank you, mail some information of interest to them, connect on Linkedin, follow them on social media platforms – reach out and engage.  Make the contact count.
  7. Use the Law of Reciprocity.  Do people small favours.  Introduce them to other potentially useful people. Send some business opportunities their way.  Put in a good word for them with people you know that they want to know….do good things for other people and most will feel obliged to do good things for you when they can.
  8. Have a system. You can’t afford to forget people – or have them forget you. You need a system for maintaining contact details, and basic knowledge of all your potential future advocates or clients that you meet through networking – AND you need a system to maintain ongoing engagement and contact.  Just storing their details is not enough – you have to have a system for reaching out and staying engaged too.

The greatest sales people, the greatest business builders and leaders, the political leaders…they all build careers and empires on the back of superb networking abilities.

Maybe it is a good thing for professional service businesses to focus upon building superb networking abilities and systems too.

© 2013 Tony Vidler.  All rights reserved.
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