There are two statements I hear repeatedly when speaking with professional services firms. The first is, ??????It????????s a relationship business.?????? The second is, ??????We generate the majority of our new business through networking and referrals.??????
In fact, service professionals (attorneys, bankers, financial advisors, consultants, brokers and accountants), tell me that they are encouraged (if not by their bosses, by everything they read) to attend a lot of networking events, engage in conversation, not drink too much and hand out business cards.
They are, in effect, being encouraged to play a numbers game. The more events attended and the more cards handed out, the more new clients. Why this approach? Because, it has worked in the past ???????? and if it is not done, new client opportunities dry up. With all the hype in recent years about branding, eMarketing and social media ???????? networking still ranks as a top priority for generating new clients for professional services firms.
Think about this kind of networking for a moment. In the 30 minutes or so before an event speaker is introduced on the dais, you are supposed to: a) meet as many new people as possible, b) demonstrate sincere interest in who they are and what they do, c) identify their key challenges, d) empathize and e) build up enough mutual trust to get them to remember you well enough to agree to an appointment in the the next, oh let????????s say, 3 months. There must be a better way.
The professional services marketplace is much more competitive these days. A lot more people are handing out a lot more business cards at a lot more events. In addition, a swarm of unemployed executives, and there are many, are buzzing the networking circuit. The bottom line is that professional services firms need a better way than traditional networking to stand out and find new opportunities in this market. They need a more effective way than traditional networking to generate the essential credibility and trust that precedes all new client opportunities.
Front of the Room Networking
Front of the room networking is the act of being the headline speaker at networking and other business events. It has incredible power to attract new prospects and many advantages over crowd surfing. The following list of steps and considerations illustrates the power of this approach:
1. An intriguing title will attract the right kinds of prospects with the right kinds of problems
Picking a title which addresses and offers approaches to problems commonly faced by your clients is a way to garner interest in your talk. In fact, if done well, the people attending will self-pre-qualify simply by demonstrating enough interest in the topic to attend and listen.
I recently offered a topic to an organization of management accountants for their October monthly meeting entitled, ??????How to Judge the Reality of your Marketing and Sales Team????????s 2012 Forecast??????. October, being coincident with most firms???????? annual planning efforts, was perfect timing, and the topic being relevant attracted a good amount of attention.
2. Offer to speak at a venue that attracts, by function and title, the key decision makers or influencers for the service your provide
While it may be flattering to be asked to address the local Boy Scout troop, and you may get a feeling of civic and professional pride in doing so, if your professional services are bought or recommended by B2B CFOs, you may want to reserve some energy and your best jokes for the latter crowd.
3. Insight is Essential
Assuming you are addressing the right crowd with the right topic with an intriguing catchy title, your talk must provide insight. To be effective it must have the effect of causing people to tilt their head, look up toward the ceiling and say to themselves: