Networking Up

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You want to meet and network with the owner, the senior partner, the manager, or the top executive. You know, the decision maker. The one who can hire you or send you referrals. 

But that’s not always easy to do.  

One solution is to start at the “bottom” of the totem pole—junior staff or a lower-level employee—and work your way up. 

Ask them to introduce you to their boss or someone higher up the food chain and continue this process until you reach the head honcho. 

At least that’s what one networker says he does. He says it’s easier to learn about the company and the people who work there or own it, and easier to build trust with them.

Sounds like a plan. 

But there are other plans, like the one where you start with the person at the top. 

It will probably be more difficult to meet them, but if you do and you hit it off with them, welcome to shortcut city. 

On the other hand, the top people are constantly approached, assume you are a Klingon and have their shields up. Especially when they meet an attorney. 

If (when) that happens, don’t push it. Ask them who you should with at the company or in the group. If that person is at the same meeting, ask them to point them out to you. They will be probably introduce you.

If not, you’ve got the name of the person you should speak to and when you approach them and tell them, “Mr. Big suggested I speak with you” they’re going to pay attention because they don’t want to step on Mr. Big’s toes. 

Instead of “networking up,” you’re “networking down,” and they both work.

If you can meet the top dog at the company or group, go for it. If not, meet anyone and work your way up. Or sideways.

There’s more than one way to win friends and influence (the right) people. 

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It’s not who you know

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It’s who they know. Which means you don’t need a large network to build a successful practice. Just a well-connected one.

If you know just 10 people who are influential in your target market, they can lead you to a multitude of new clients and referral sources. 

Lessons? 

  1. Stop wasting time networking with the masses of people who aren’t influential in your market. Focus on the “precious few” who can send you a lot of business or introduce you to other influential people in your market. 
  2. Identify people you want to know by name, and work out a plan to meet them. 
  3. Start with people you already know. Go through your list(s) and identify 5 contacts who are influential in your target market and like and trust you. Spend more time with them. Find out who they know and ask them to introduce you. 
  4. Next, draw up a list of 25 or 30 people you don’t know but would like to. They might be high quality prospective clients or other centers of influence who appear to know the kinds of people you would like to meet. Ask the people you know if they know any of these people and, if so, ask them to introduce you. 
  5. Study the people you identify. What do they want or need? Who do they know? How can you get their attention? What can you do to help them and/or their clients or customers? 

And then get to work meeting these new people. 

You might have to go through quite a few people before you find the ones who are receptive to meeting you and eventually working with you. 

But you only need a few. 

This will help you do all of the above

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It’s like dating

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You meet a lot of people and eventually zero in on someone you’d like to know better. You go out on a date, things get serious, and if all goes well, you get married and live happily ever after.

The same way you get your next (good) client. 

No, it’s not the only way. In fact, most lawyers don’t do this. They don’t single out someone they’d like to “date,” but they could. 

Should they? Should you? 

Find a few prospective clients, people who have the things you want in a client, figure out a way to meet them, and eventually date them and sweep them off their feet. 

Sound like a plan?

You’d have no competition to speak of, other than the lawyer or firm they’re currently “married” to. If they “split up,” or decide they like you better, they may become your next client.

Or introduce you to their unmarried friend from work who needs your help. 

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If you don’t like networking, do this

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When I was fresh out of law school, I tried networking because I thought I should meet new people, acquire some new skills, and (I hoped) bring in some business. 

I hated it. 

Going out at night and talking to strangers, playing the “tell me about yourself” game, was (for me) unpleasant in the extreme. I did meet people and eventually signed up.a few clients (most of whom were broke), but it was a good experience, primarily because it forced me to find other ways to bring in business. 

If you’re brand new, do it and find out for yourself. If you’re not knew and you don’t like networking, or aren’t good at it, stop doing it. Why punish yourself?

There’s something easier (and more fruitful) you can do.  

Instead of trying to meet new people, simply re-connect with people you already know. Not your regular contacts—people who used to be regular contacts that you’ve lost touch with.

No doubt you know many people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Make a list. Clients, prospects, business contacts of all types. It’s probably a long list. These are people who once hired you, referred you, or introduced you to others, or were at least open to doing these things. 

They might be open to doing them now. 

They are certainly more likely to do that than strangers you meet at a networking event. Because they know you and remember you. You don’t have to play the “tell me about yourself” game. Just contact them, say hello, and see what they’re doing. 

Your so-called “weak” or “dormant” ties represent a big opportunity to bring in business and opportunities because you have “history”. When you connect with them, mention something you recall about them, their case, their business, or a mutual contact. Or thank them for how they helped you (or your clients) in the past and how you appreciate their help and friendship.  

And then, find out what you can do to help them. 

Traditional networking ends to be about “chasing” people and opportunities. Re-connecting with people from your past is about sharing that past with people from it.

It’s easier to re-kindle a fire that has died down than to start one with dry wood.

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It’s easy and well-worth doing

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We’re talking about “edification”—the art of making other people look good by saying nice things about them. 

When you introduce someone to a client or friend, or introduce a speaker to an audience, and edify them, the other person or the audience sees them as more valuable, worth listening to, knowing, or hiring. 

And when you edify someone, your kind words and the graciousness with which you deliver them also make you look good. 

It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. You can simply mention a few of the speaker’s or other person’s accomplishments. Tell them about their book, their business or practice. Tell them about an award they received or a notable victory they obtained, or quote what others have said about them, e.g., testimonials or reviews. 

What do they do that helps people? What is their mission? What is something about them you admire?

You don’t have to exaggerate. Just say something laudatory and true. 

If you don’t know them, you need to learn something about them you can use when you introduce them. Read their bio or their “about” page, or simply ask them what they would like you to mention when you introduce them. 

Of course, the best edification occurs when you’re able to relate your personal experience with that person, or what your clients, business contacts, or friends have told you about their experience with them. If you refer a client to another lawyer, for example, tell them what that lawyer has done for you or for your other clients. 

In short, tell other people why they should listen to the person, watch their training or presentation, sign up for their newsletter, buy their products, or hire them.  

One more thing. 

You should also equip your clients and contacts to edify you. 

Give them information they can use when they introduce you or refer people to you. Even better, give them the kind of experience as their lawyer or friend that makes them want to tell everyone about you. 

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Build family to build your practice

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Your clients and former clients, your professional contacts, everyone who knows your name and would take your call—that’s your family.

One of the simplest and best ways to grow your practice is to grow your family. 

That means (a) increasing their number, and (b) increasing the strength and depth of your relationships

And you do that by going out of your way to serve them and help them, not just with legal matters but with other areas of their business or personal life.

Make them feel good about themselves for hiring you or referring people to you

You also increase their number by looking for opportunities to meet the people they know—their employees, partners, friends and colleagues. People they can introduce to you and who can become a part of your ever-growing professional family. 

As your family grows, look for ways to get to know these people better and help them. Give them referrals, advice, and introductions. Give them helpful information and stay in touch with them.

In other words, by networking with the people you know and the people they know., your family will grow and so will your practice. 

What does it take to do this successfully? 

You need to be willing to talk to people who aren’t necessarily in need of an attorney, and be genuinely interested in them and not just what they can do for you. You need to be a good listener, because that’s how you show them you are interested in them and how you learn what they need or want so you can help them get it.  

And you only need to find a few.  

Yes, you need to talk to more than a few to find that few. But just long enough to learn what they do to see if they might be a good match for you.  

Find a few of the right people and they can lead you to more.  

To start, commit to getting to know your clients better than you do now. Call or email them off the clock, say hello and ask how they’re doing. Don’t be surprised when they’re glad you called and ask you about a new legal matter or tell you about someone they know who might need your help.  

If that happens, enjoy the win. But don’t contact them solely for that purpose. Contact them to say hello. 

Heres a step-by-step plan for growing your professional family

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Three networking rules (even if you hate networking)

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Everyone networks. Whether formally, by attending events, or informally as they go about their day. They meet new people, in person or online, representing opportunities to grow their network, build their business or practice, or advance their career. 

But not everyone gets what they would like out of these encounters. 

If you want meeting new people to be a rewarding experience, there are three rules you should follow: 

  1. Make a friend. That means making the initial contact a pleasant experience for both of you. You exchange pleasantries and contact information, acknowledge anything you have in common, and look for opportunities to follow-up. 
  2. Find out what they want. This is the essence of effective networking. You need to know how you can help them, and how they can help you (and/or your clients). This is likely to take more than one conversation (unless you meet through a formal networking group where this type of exchange is expected), but it is the essence of effective networking.
  3. Find out who they know (before they go). Most encounters with new people don’t bear fruit, for a variety of reasons. Expect it, and find out who they know who might need your services or have clients or contacts who do, or can help your clients get something they want or need. Someone who might be a better connection for you than the person you’ve just met. 

You might hate networking, but you are going to meet new people. Follow these three rules and you may find networking to be fruitful and help you multiply.

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The best way to grow a valuable network

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Every lawyer in private practice wants to develop a network of business contacts, referral sources, and influential business connections. People who can lead them to others and lead others to them.

Ready for some good news? 

You don’t have to have a massive network to accomplish that. If they are the right people, you only need 5 or 10.

The right people are those who know have influence with people in your target market and are willing to work with you.

That means they like and trust you and want you to prosper, or believe you can be of value to their clients and contacts.

These people are worth their weight in gold, which is why you only need a few. 

Where do you find these folks? Generally, not at formal networking events. The kinds of people you want to meet rarely attend these. 

The best way to find influential people and connect with them is to deliberately target them. 

That means identifying high quality prospective clients in your target market, or people who sell to or advise them, and creating a plan to meet them. 

Sometimes, that can be as simple as contacting them and introducing yourself. But the most effective way to meet them is to talk to your existing network and find out who knows them and will introduce you, or let you use their name. 

Where do you start? By identifying twenty or thirty key people in your target market. Make a list, study them, and create a plan to meet them. 

What then? What do you do after you meet them? You find out what they need or want and help them get it. 

That’s where the work begins. 

It may sound daunting, but this is a lot easier than trying to build a network of hundreds of people who aren’t influential or won’t work with you.

Find out the top twenty or thirty people in your target market and focus on them. Because you only need a few.

How to find and meet lawyers and other referral sources in your target market

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Come with me if you want to live

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You want your clients and contacts to see you as someone they can count on when they are in trouble, need help or information. Legal advice or anything else—business advice, referrals or introductions. Whatever they need, you want them to contact you first, so you can help them or help them find someone who can.

Why would you want to do something that seems so time consuming and may not lead to legal work? 

Because it might indeed lead to legal work, but you won’t know that if they don’t contact you. 

And while it might not lead directly to legal work, it might provide give you someone you can refer to another lawyer and that lawyer might then reciprocate and send you a referral. 

Helping your clients and contacts this way might also lead to goodwill, which eventually leads to legal work, e.g., traffic to your site, growing your list, filling seats at your event, or other things that bring you more leads or business contacts. 

And hey, what’s the alternative? People ask for something and you turn them away? 

Bad karma. And bad business. 

For starters, make sure you tell your clients, prospects, and business contacts to call you about any legal matter, because “I know a lot of lawyers in other practice areas.” (If you don’t, this is your chance to go meet some.)

If you have the ability to refer 5 or 10 clients a month to other attorneys, even if it’s just to get some questions answered, do you think that might bring you some referrals from those attorneys?

If it takes up too much of your time (it won’t), you can stop doing it. But you won’t want to. Because the more you help people, the more people will help you. 

Prove me wrong. Try it for 60 days and see what happens.

Once you see good things happening, teach your clients and contacts to call you if they need anything else—an accountant, a real estate or insurance broker, a financial advisor, a vendor or business, or. . . anything.

You want people to call you first because it’s good karma and good for business.   

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A strange way to make people like you

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This is going to sound weird. It’s a psychological concept named after Ben Franklin, who used it to get a rival legislator and powerful political enemy to put aside his ill will towards Franklin.  

His foe didn’t like Ben and had been making negative speeches about him. Ben was determined to win him over. But instead of offering to give something to his rival, or do something for him to show him he was a good guy, Ben did the opposite. He asked the man to do something for him. 

Yep, he asked his enemy for a favor. 

He knew the man owned a rare book, and Ben asked if he would loan it to him. When he returned the book, Ben thanked him profusely and found that his old enemy became his friend. 

Ben had triggered what we now know as cognitive dissonance. 

Our brains find it difficult to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. To resolve this conflict, we tend to alter one of our beliefs. 

His rival didn’t like Franklin, which contrasted with his belief that you don’t do favors for people you don’t like, something he had just done. To resolve this conflict, he was forced to back away from his negative feelings towards Franklin, and that’s how these enemies became friends. 

Today, it’s called The Ben Franklin Effect and you can use it to win friends and influence people.

If you want someone to like you, get them to do you a favor. 

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