Stop collecting contacts!

A good friend of mine, Rob Brown has a great quote, which I often recite:

“stop counting conversations, and make conversations count”

Which is so true. However, in my opinion, so many accountants spend all their networking effort and time collecting contacts. Whereas, in my view effective business networking is about ‘finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. If you focus all your energy on finding relationships and very little on the building and maintaining relationships, then (and how do I say this sensitively?) you are wasting your time networking. There, I’ve said it – I’ve named the elephant in the room here. I think that this is the reason why so many accountants say that networking doesn't work for them.

Let me explain. As most accountants realise, there needs to be significant levels of trust and credibility established before either someone will buy from you or recommend your services to others. I am sure at one level, we all get this. However, why do so many accountants have a flawed belief that they can go into a room of strangers and walk out with invoiceable business? You may be thinking, but I don’t fall into this trap. I’m sure you don’t, but have a look at how you are spending your networking time. If you are spending more than 20% of your networking time finding relationships and connecting with people you’ve not met before, then sorry, you are falling into this trap.

Yes, you heard me right, 80% of your networking time needs to be spent on the building and maintaining relationships part of networking. Which means if you have 10 hours to spend on networking a week, 2 hours can be focused on finding new relationships, i.e. via LinkedIn, face-to-face networking events, conferences, and 8 hours having conversations, spending time and helping out your existing contacts in your network. I will tend to only go to face to face networking events if I can meet at least 2 of my existing network there. Or if there is someone who is so strategically important to me going to be there. Otherwise, why bother attending these random type of events?

It saddens me that there is a whole industry built up around the perception that you can win business by only working a room? Maybe that’s a strong opinion, but why else are there so many mix and mingle events? In case you are wondering, I believe that organisations like 4N, BNI, Athena, chambers of commerce can add real value with the networking opportunities which they offer. However, if all you do is get addicted to meeting people with the hope you’ll eventually bump into a client, there are far better (i.e. effective) ways to use your valuable marketing time.

What’s your thoughts?

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I help professionals, mostly accountants and lawyers become the Go-To-Expert. After joining BDO LLP in 2004, I have now almost clocked up ten years working predominantly with accountants helping them achieve their career and business goals. Unusually for someone with an Engineering Degree, I accidentally became a writer and used my knowledge on social media to write the current best-selling and award-winning book on networking, The FT Guide To Business Networking. (over 100 five star reviews on amazon) In 2012, the book I always wanted to write, 'How to make partner and still have a life' was published. In March 2014, my next book, 'The Go-To-Expert: How to build your reputation, differentiate yourself from the competition and win business' is published. People frequently talk about me as someone who really knows her stuff – which may be the reason I have, over the last decade, worked with over 300 partners, coached and trained over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. 

I am honoured to have been asked to judge the British Accountancy Awards in 2011 and 2012. I am a member of the Accountant's Club Global Advisory Panel, and write regularly on practice management issues for CCH.

Myself, and Jon (my co-director) are approved Growth Accelerator Coaches. This means that we can if you are eligible, through the Growth Accelerator scheme, help you get some coaching funded by the scheme. Click here for more details to see whether you are eligible for the scheme.

The types of work I am currently helping my small professional practice clients with, includes:

1) Helping a £2m t/o practice grow to £4m by restructuring the firm and helping the management team step up 

2) Working with a £1m t/o practice to grow to £2m by generating more leads, and getting more work from existing clients

3) Enabling a £300k t/o practice grow to £1m by helping it sort out it's profitability by adding in efficient systems and processes, and increasing the quality of the  lead generation by marketing to a niche

4) Facilitating the growth of a one man band practice into a 3 person practice by helping increase the lead generation and conversion rate of leads, plus keeping the practice owner accountable to his goals.

The Excedia Group was founded by myself and Jon Baker to bring clarity, perspective and knowledge to help our clients achieve their business goals. We specialise in working with highly technical individuals, typically lawyers and accountants, helping them to get out of their comfort zone and build a profitable and sustainable client portfolio whilst handling the challenges of leading a business. 

My work splits into about 50% Executive & Business Coaching with Partners & potential partners, with the rest split between training, consultancy and writing.

My articles & quotes regularly appear in the press, e.g. FT, Guardian, Accountancy Age, Accounting Today, Economia, ACCA's publications. I regularly blog at Partnership Potentialventure-NowJoined up networking and How to make partner.

To book me for a speaking engagement please contact my PR Agency, Meerkat PR, on 020 8563 0182, and ask for David Stoch. For any other work related enquiries, please contact me directly.

My clients have included: Deloitte LLP, KPMG LLP, BDO LLP, Haines Watts, MSI Global Alliance, UK200 group, Macintyre Hudson LLP amongst others.