Why it benefits legal professionals to master both online and offline networking skills
(890 words / Ave read time 4 minutes)
Despite our indefatigable race towards technological advancement it seems to me, happily, that our new ‘connected’ economy has returned us to old fashioned business values.
Hurrah ! Back-in-the-day, honesty, integrity, trust and generosity were foundations upon which businesses were built; now those days are back!
As the new millennium dawned, the old art of talking-to-one-another was tagged with a new name. A shiny, and new, label. It was called ‘Networking’.
The old fundamentals of Know, Like and Trust, the three stepping stones to building relationships, are once again dusted off. Recent studies show that people continue to turn away from the increasingly untrustworthy ‘push-advertising’ messages foisted upon them by powerful, corporate brands and choose instead to do business with people they like; people like them; people who like the same things as them; people who are genuinely interested in them. People are investing time in getting-to-know-people, again. Networking groups thrive. The move towards social business continues to happen and the social media platforms grow in importance.
As some 80% of a legal practise’s client base is normally within a 30 mile radius, it makes sense to be actively networking in your local business community – most of your business will be local and will be passed locally. Your strategy for success has to, therefore, include visibility, or, quite simply, you’ll miss out!
I’m sure you’ll agree with me, that being good at what you do, but being invisible, is bad for business, isn’t it?
The need to actively put yourself out-there and to network is now more important than ever. Research done by Albert Mehrabian [to view his work, please cut and paste into your browser http://bit.ly/9gDuQ] shows us that in one-to-one communication, 93% of meaning is conveyed non-verbally. So however brilliant the social media platforms are (and they are brilliant!), online can never, and will never, replace the benefit of meeting your clients face-to-face, looking at them eye-to-eye, exchanging a firm, confident handshake, and engaging in conversation, in person, to really build and cement lasting relationships. Online certainly is, however, an important place to engage, a great place to initially break the ice, start the relationship building process and to keep existing relationships alive and warm.
My entire, initial, business-networking training was exclusively vested in training interpersonal, face-to-face skills. Helping lawyers, and others from the professions, to understand the systems and processes they needed to employ to enable them to become confident and effective networkers, to seamlessly uncover new business opportunities and bring more money into their practises.
…… by mid 2008, however, I started to realise my successful, specialised, business-model was no longer enough! ‘Online’ emerged, from being ‘just for kids’, to take it’s seat at the main table of business development. It became ‘serious’ and professionals started taking it seriously.
People (the perception was that of ‘young people’) had been successfully doing business on Facebook for sometime but LinkedIn arose as the place where ‘the grown-ups’, ‘the business people’, ‘the professionals’ began congregating. Here was the place where you managed your professional reputation, online. Where professionals, across all industry sectors, engaged in conversations, in groups, with like minded individuals, where you became connected, where you had a platform to showcase your expertise, to raise your profile, where your business questions could be asked and answered in real time. This has become the undisputed social media platform for business.
Through 2009 it surged forward and now LinkedIn boasts over 80 million business users, from all industry sectors as its members.
As you used questioning techniques to qualify potential prospects in face-to-face networking, so the ‘advanced search’ capability within LinkedIn can uncover all the business contacts you’ll ever need, within your geographic location, within the specific sectors that are of interest to you, within companies of the size you prefer to approach and with the very name of the decision maker you wish to engage.
LinkedIn is unsurpassed for business development, showing success rates that are much faster than the traditional referral model.
So the networking dots have joined! Networking now has two halves, making up the whole.
To be a truly rounded professional you now have to be good at both face-to-face networking and online networking.
To derive the full benefits of this new, business networking landscape, you should be regularly and consistently participating in both places. And, to save you precious time,and to ensure your time investment in both activities is profitable, it is advisable to acquire the skills, techniques, processes and understanding of how to get the best from these important opportunities, from a networking expert.
In this way you can be really effective in building brand profile, generating new business and you can ensure this new, combined, networking environment truly delivers against the potential it represents, for you, individually, and for your firm.
To contextualise the opportunity, as of October 2010, over 35 billion searches are made every month, through Google. Over 1 billion people are now online. Over 550 million are on Facebook and over 80 million businesspeople now maintain profiles on LinkedIn.
If maximizing the number of partners and fee earners who are effective at business development is important in this climate, there is one important question I ask you to consider…
Have you joined the dots for your firm yet?
The author of this article is Mark Perl, leading UK authority on effective
and confident networking, both offline and online.
If you’d like Mark to deliver Networking Master Classes to your team, or to speak
In response to client demand Mark now also offers Managed LinkedIn Services.
If you are too busy to devote the time required to LinkedIn, but are keen to get the most out of this medium, Mark will help you build industry networks and generate new-business leads via LinkedIn.
See Mark’s LinkedIn Profile http://uk.linkedin.com/in/markperl