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?
About Heather Townsend
Heather Townsend is a brand ambassador for the Practice Excellence Programme, and the Founder of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 4 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).
Heather is always up for a challenge. Perhaps that is why she has built a track record of helping accountants grow the size of their practice by 50-200%, often in under two years. Often helping them make partner or equity partner in the process.
Heather is a high profile member of the accountancy profession in the UK. She has worked with over 300 partners, coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. Heather's clients have included: 7 out of the Top 10 UK practices, including all the Big 4 firms.
In 2016 her and her team of coaches have coached:
1) 7 people successfully to partner
2) Professionals from all of the Big 4, from every major continent in the world
As well as helping accountants make partner, she still spends 40% of her time helping small firms, typically under £1m GRF:
1) Create profitable revenue streams from advisory services and reduce their reliance on revenue from compliance services
2) Radically increase their profitability, even if they are a cloud based practice, often helping them achieve a net profit margin of 40%+
3) Double or even triple the size of their practice within 3 years
4) Win bigger and better clients
5) Grow the right team around them so they stop working stupidly high hours and spend quality time with the people they care about
Her articles appear regularly in the UK national and trade press, including The Financial Times, Accountancy Age, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. Heather is also in-demand for her speaking and has recently returned from the South African Accountancy Academy conference.