Author: Silvia L. Coulter, Co-Founding Principal of LawVision; Co-Founder of LSSO; Co-Chair of LSSO's Board of Advisors
Networking at the latest LSSO RainDance Conference sparked a lot of energy and enthusiasm, along with new opportunities to stay connected.
Sharing stories within the industry is always useful and helps underscore we are doing the right things and advising our firms appropriately. It made me reflect on other ways to stay connected and to build new relationships.
How about building new opportunities outside of the industry? There may be some great ways to pave the way for your future success. Opportunities don’t simply appear in our email or social media inboxes on a regular basis without us putting significant effort into building relationships and staying connected on a regular basis with at least 50+ contacts. That’s the advice we give to the lawyers at our firms.
But what about you? How are you staying connected to your contacts? How are you building your network? It’s critical to your future success.
Read on about some ways to build your network and to stay connected to contacts. In other words, follow your own advice and apply it to the future of YOU!
Implementing these ideas and staying connected will yield benefits in the long run. No one likes it when someone they have not heard from in a while all of a sudden needs a favor and reaches out. Be a giver and a connector for big returns.
- Keep in touch with existing contacts. Print out all your contacts from LinkedIn, Outlook, other social media sources. Review these names and clean up your list. Then select at least 50 names of individuals with whom you will keep in touch. Consider: business colleagues, vendors, contacts at former businesses, peers at professional services firms, and community and family members. Then, connect with each of these individuals at least three times a year. Forward an interesting business article or blog post, reach out to just say hello how are you doing, and around the Q4 holidays, write a hand-written note and send a card. The inherent message is “you matter,” which is always well received. Keeping in touch means you have more of an opportunity to ask for a favor in the future. And people will think of you too.
- Build new relationships. Identify peers with your title at other professional services firms. Reach out and introduce yourself, connect with them on LinkedIn, and ask them to meet for an afternoon coffee, tea, or lunch. Building these relationships will lead to opportunities for both your firm and their firm to collaborate on future business development opportunities. Work with one another to help partners from your firms to meet. Some of my best business contacts came from building these relationships with Big Four, consulting, and engineering firm contacts.
- Connect with peers at client organizations. Building relationships with peers at your firm’s client organizations is a win/win. Reach out to the VP of Sales, or CMO, BD Director at these clients. You will have many things in common with one another and can ramp up conversations pretty quickly. Learning about their companies from their perspectives will be invaluable and provide you with many opportunities for your firm in the future. Learn how they manage their strategic accounts and what new initiatives their sales and marketing teams are rolling out. Then meet with your team and share best practices from industry perspectives.
- Meet with the leaders of industry organizations. Identify the organizations to which your firm belongs (or should belong) and schedule meetings with the executive directors to build relationships and to learn more about the organization, its goals, the industry it represents, and potential opportunities for staying connected. Keeping abreast of the world outside of legal is key. One never knows where opportunities are lurking!
- Respond to emails. If people are taking the time to reach out and connect with you, even if they are “selling” to you, take the time to reply before hitting the delete button. If you don’t wish to receive future emails, then unsubscribe. We all receive a lot of emails—respond with a “thanks for reaching out; we are not interested in this opportunity/product/service at this time. Please take me off your email list.” Some response is better than no response. Be polite and it will take you far.
- Connect your contacts with one another. As you review your contacts, spend time to think about who you may introduce to one another. It provides you with a reason to reach out, and lets others know you are thinking of them.
- Ask good contacts to introduce you to others. This is a great way to build your network. And it’s amazing how quickly your network will grow. What to say or ask? Simply, “I’d welcome your thoughts: as I continue to build my network, who do you think would be good for me to meet?” It’s that easy. Building our networks at any stage of our career lives is important to do. Ask and you will find people quite willing to introduce you to others. Remember quid pro quo!