Individuals probably offer the best networking advice. And you can apply that advice to your firm, too. It’s easier to get new business if you develop plenty of contacts along the way.
LeeDaun Williams didn’t start out a master of networking. Socialising wasn’t easy for her during her years at university. As an older student and mother of two, participating in school was hard. In her own words:
“I was older, lacked relative work experience, and I didn’t know anybody.”
LeeDaun identified herself as a shy person. Although she learned the concept of networking, she didn’t understand its value at first.
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, LeeDaun needed a job quickly. She saw how many of her friends were still jobless, despite the fact that they’d finished a year earlier. At this point, LeeDaun understood that she needed to do more than send out generic job applications.
What prompted this new perspective?
“I also realised that I was different in what I was bringing to the job market versus the younger people I went to school with. I had life experience as well as a previous career.”
From there, everything became clear. She wanted to focus on family law, so she needed contact with professionals in that niche. She started networking by getting in touch with persons of interest. In five weeks she’d created a list of 79 people who worked in family law.
Each contact had clear notes next to their names. It didn’t take long until LeeDaun’s circle expanded and she began getting recommendations. Eventually, this led to a job at a prestigious law firm.
Networking is a critical aspect of personal and professional development. You can use LeeDaun’s example to grow your accounting practice. Any profitable business uses feedback and recommendations to expand its clientele. This means maximising referrals – which is so critical that we call it a marketing and sales superpower.
Through proper networking and leveraging contacts, you can get more business than you ever thought possible. And if you’re not sure how to leverage networking, here are some tips that should help.
Tip #1 – Nail Your 60-Second Pitch
Many accountants underestimate the importance of the 60-second pitch. To some, 60 seconds may seem like insufficient time. To others, it may seem like too much. But focusing on the time is the wrong thing to do.
A 60-second pitch is sufficient for you to engage your ideal clients. Many firms ruin their networking attempts by wasting time. One minute is enough for you to get your point across.
Here are some guidelines you can use to create a good one-minute pitch:
- Don’t emphasise that you provide accounting services – clients know that already
- Offer a unique solution that others don’t provide
- Create separation between you and your competitors
- Focus on your ideal client
- Elaborate on your area of expertise
- Tell your audience how you can help solve their unique problems
- Emphasise the results and benefits of working with your practice
You have to learn how to articulate a perfect description of your accounting practice and speciality. If your practice possesses VITAL accounting attributes, show that in your initial pitch.
Tip #2 – People Don’t Care About What You Do (They Care About the Way You Do It)
This tip applies to many aspects of your business. It certainly resonates with the best way to approach networking.
Like many other accounting firms, you probably use LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as other similar platforms, to expand your list of contacts. Online networking is great for growing your business.
But what if the way you’re doing it is wrong? Or at the very least inefficient?
First, don’t make the mistake of flooding your social media feed with too much content. People usually just want the highlights. They want to skim through the information fast and get to the results.
Second, remember to provide links back to case studies and authority websites. Your contacts may need to access those links to trust your conclusions.
When creating content, you benefit from condensing it. Approach your firm’s updates as you would a 60-second pitch. Find a hook that guarantees engagement and focus on it early in your message.
Doing it the right way allows your content to provide value to your contacts and followers. That means their interest in your firm remains.
Tip #3 – Budget Time (And Money) for Networking Activities
Make a plan before you start networking. It takes both time and money to do it right and reap the rewards. So set aside a specific budget and amount of time for this activity.
Depending on how fast you want to grow, you may choose to attend networking meetings every week. Or post regularly and connect with people and businesses online. But don’t spread yourself too thin. Even well-established accounting firms can suffer from engaging in too many networking activities. Expenses add up. Business cards cost money.
Spending time talking to prospects takes people away from their regular duties. It’s great to add more contacts to your list consistently. However, don’t spend more time than necessary when striking a conversation or sharing updates on your services.
Condense the information. Make it a point to talk to as many people as possible during a networking meeting. Remember that establishing contact is not about making a sale. It’s about starting a relationship. One that you can focus on later to convert into new business.
Tip #4 – Identify Your Top Prospects (And Figure Out Where to Find Them)
If you want to provide VITAL accounting services, you need to pair up with your ideal clients. Some clients are bad for business. We call them vampire clients. Others need a different area of speciality that your company doesn’t provide. Either way, your practice is more valuable to some prospective clients than to others.
And some clients are a better fit for you than others. Put these two things together, and you have your ideal client.
So what’s an ideal client?
It’s the type of client your company wants to work with. It might be because they can afford you. Maybe they need your unique speciality. Or they won’t take up too much of your time. Whatever the reasons, the relationship benefits both of you.
You may find some ideal clients through your other contacts, perhaps people you’ve helped in the past. You scratched their back, and now they’ll scratch yours. Other times you have to search for those top prospects. Using LinkedIn and Facebook is always a good start. That’s where both individuals and companies offer and look for specific services.
Networking means introducing yourself to strangers. But not just any stranger. There’s a difference between developing a contact list and a prospect list. To grow your business, you want the latter. You should focus on contacting individuals or companies that you want to work with.
And spend more time in circles dedicated to your niche, rather than trying to figure out random company representatives.
Tip #5 – Let Other People Speak (So You Can Learn What They Want)
Another big mistake that many firms make when networking is forgetting to shut up. Understandably, you want to deliver your pitch and make others aware of your practice. However, sometimes you need to learn when and how to listen.
By letting people speak, you gain insight into their needs. Use this tactic to prepare a better pitch. It’s a strategy that allows you to create a better sales proposition. And, ultimately, it helps you connect with your ideal clients.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here are some conversation topics that will allow you to get more information from your prospects:
- Ask about the company culture
- Ask about previous unfortunate dealings with other accounting firms
- Ask about the company’s primary accounting issues that need addressing
Through these topics, and listening in general, you can determine the potential fit for your practice. At the same time, you might find someone who needs a referral in another area. Refer them to one of your other contacts, thus helping to establish trust and build a relationship.
Networking Is a Stepping Stone Towards New Business
If you look at LeeDaun’s example, one thing becomes clear. The more people you know in your field, the more awareness you raise for yourself. In her case, her long contact list got her many recommendations and a job. In your case, this could mean a treasure trove of new business.
Networking works no matter what kind of company you have. And for accounting firms, it’s a potent tool. But you also have to do it right, and understand when to push and when to lean back. Developing new contacts is never about selling.
It’s about making introductions and exchanging information. You raise awareness for your practice and leave an opening for follow-up conversations. No more, no less. The previously presented tips should put you on the right path. And you can always learn more and truly reach a VITAL status in your field.
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