Is your networking activity working for you? | AccountingWEB

Is your networking activity working for you?

If you sell a product or a service to business, joining a networking group can be a fantastic way to grow your business. Before we go any further, let’s counteract a myth – networking is not about selling. How many times have you been at a networking event, and been sold to? Like many people, I’ve suffered as well – and let’s just say their business card hasn’t made it into my new business card organiser. To really hammer home the benefit of networking, 80% of opportunities will come to you from people you already know. You have to remember that when you are talking to someone, that you may not be talking to the end user of your product or service.

The main purpose of networking is to attract opportunities. What I mean by this is that other people refer your services on. There are four ways to attract opportunities:

1)      Get known

2)      Give into the relationship

3)      Keep in touch

4)      Be seen in the right places

There are many different ways of getting known – for example, writing articles or a blog, run a seminar, meet up with people. If you keep on doing these things you will start to get known. However, you need to be doing more than getting known – you to be getting known for the right things. I.e. excellent product or quality of service, really helpful person…

One of the best ways to get known for the right reasons is to be prepared to give into the relationship. This could be sharing information – e.g. circulating interesting articles, inviting people to events as your guest, paying for coffee, giving advice (for free), connecting people together.

To get the referral you need to be top of your contact’s mind. That means you need to keep in touch. When you are thinking about whom to refer someone onto – do you remember the person who has most recently been in touch, or the person you haven’t heard from for the last six months?

There are a plethora of networking groups, clubs and organisations out there. As well as picking a group which reflects your personal preferences and values, you need to think about the group’s membership. If your business model requires you to be mixing with executives of medium to large corporations, then a local business networking group is unlikely to enable you to directly attract referrals and opportunities. I.e. you need to be seen in the right places. As well as physically mixing with the right crowd your literature – be it PR, advertisements or articles need to be in the places where your target market are reading.

Heather Townsend is the driving force behind The Efficiency Coach and a co-founder of 'the executive village' -
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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 latest book, 'The Go-To-Expert: How to build your reputation, differentiate yourself from the competition and win business' was 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.

Read how we have helped one of our accountancy clients access Growth Accelerator funding to grow their turnover by nearly 50% and profits by over 200%

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.