How to really make time for your network
Networking, love it or hate it, is part and parcel of life as an accountant. We all know we need to do it, so why do many of us neglect our network when our workload is high?
Understand your reason why
You go networking to win business – right? However, have you thought about ‘how’ you are going to use your network or networking activities to help you win business? Without the all important ‘how’ being identified and planned, you usually end up wasting time attending the wrong events, speaking with the wrong people on Twitter and not having the meetings with people who could really help you win new business. When you are crystal clear about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for your networking activities, you are far more likely to find the time to network.
Identify your ‘hubs’
A ‘hub’ in your network is someone who is well-placed to easily introduce you to the type of people you want to meet. It may be a typical intermediary for an accountant, such as a banker or lawyer. Or it could be someone with a wide client base of the type of people you want to have as clients. Very often, in my experience, accountants haven’t gone beyond the obvious ‘hubs’, and wonder why they are always fighting for referrals from the same set of professional intermediaries as their competitors. As a client of mine found recently, a handful of ‘hubs’ were producing over 80% of her leads. She was able to cut down her networking time drastically by just focusing on these key relationships in her network.
Find a way of enjoying networking
Many people, when I ask what networking is to them, tell me about how they hate attending events and meeting strangers. Consequently, it becomes hard to find the time to ‘go out’ to network. Remember this is only one way to network. Don’t forget that online networking, which can be done from your desk at a time which suits you, can often replace the need to go out and ‘work the room’ - very often saving hours in the process. When you find networking activities and events that you enjoy and produce the results you need, it becomes much easier to make the time.
Have a relationship action plan in place for your key contacts and clients
Often when time is busy it’s not the networking events that people cut down on, it’s the all-important follow up with existing contacts. My recommendation is to identify your top ten contacts and write a relationship action plan for each of them. Now, get out your diary and translate those plans into your calendar.
‘Little and often’ is the secret
We all live busy professional lives, but we all can spend 15 minutes a day or one hour a week developing our network. Put this time in your diary and just do it.
Use your personal assistant
You, personally, don’t have to do all the hard work. Your PA or virtual assistant can identify events for you to go to, proactively manage your diary to help you implement your relationship action plans, write ‘thank you' and 'nice to meet you’ type e-mails for you after the events.
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the ‘go-to-expert’. She is the author of the award-winning, and current best-selling, book on networking, The FT Guide To Business Networking, and the co-author of How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life.