I’ve written about networking before, but it was really in the frame that most therapists want or need to hear: why networking benefits your clients. Now – that hasn’t changed, but I want to talk more practically to the #ModernTherapists who recognize that networking can make or break your bottom line.
I know that not everyone is a networker or will need to make money from their networking relationships. So, if you’re someone who is planning to solely get business through other means, you can skip this one.
For the rest of us who would like to get referral sources or sponsors, let’s talk about how to make sure that your networking bears fruit.
Identify the right people or companies.
The “right” people and companies are different for each person, but here are some basics you’ll want to look for:
- They provide a complementary service to your audience (i.e., they’re not in competition with you and actually may need someone like you to refer to.)
- They provide a similar service AND would like to have other people in their network to refer to.
- They have an audience you’d like to get in front of.
- You would want to refer to them.
- They share values with you.
- You enjoy spending time with them.
When you’re networking with people who don’t line up with a number of these, you’re spinning your wheels or ending up in relationships that won’t serve you well over time. This is an iterative process and you may not know the answers to these right away.
Seek out a warm introduction.
It is important to always see if you can get a warm introduction from someone who knows your target and will do a good job in introducing you to them. That being said – don’t hesitate to make a cold call to a really good match. Waiting for someone else to write an email or make a phone call can be a speed bump that you don’t need.
Prepare for your meeting.
This may be the most important part. If you would like to create a real relationship, you want to know where you will fit in to what they are doing. Make sure that you’re able to have a conversation that shows you’re interested and diligent in learning about them. Some ideas:
- Read their website and make sure you understand their mission.
- Identify how you align with their mission, vision, and values.
- Get a sense of the personalities of the people you’ll be meeting. Listen to their podcast, read their LinkedIn profile, or connect with them on social media.
- Start thinking creatively about ways you can help them at the same time that they would be helping you. (You should make sure you’re thinking about a win-win scenario where everyone benefits and you’re not just asking for referrals or business.)
- Have a clear sense of what you will or won’t do AND when you might need to get back to them.
Stay present and engaged in the conversation.
When you’re meeting with a potential referral source or sponsor, stay in the moment. Pay attention the way you would in a therapy session. What do they seem to light up about? What do they want to talk about? Learn more about them, with an eye to how you could collaborate or work together. Waiting for your turn to speak or solely presenting on your business, product, or service will not get you to the finish line. Have a REAL conversation where you’re connecting and planning what you can do together to grow (or improve) both businesses.
I changed my mind. This is the most important one. AND the most often forgotten. If you’d like your relationship to continue, follow up. And plan to continue following up. Too many potentially lucrative relationships have stalled with a business card getting dusty on a desk top or an email that is unanswered (or unwritten).
Ways to stay connected after your initial conversation:
- Send an email shortly after your first conversation thanking the person for their time and providing any resources or information that you promised. This is best pretty close to your meeting, but is not something you have to send right after the call ends.
- Share ideas or resources that seem helpful or relevant to them.
- Schedule another call to follow up on initial ideas.
- Refer someone to them and make a warm introduction.
- Deliver on anything you’ve promised, with clear communication, timeliness, and connection.
What types of relationships are most lucrative for you? Have you cracked the code on connecting with people who help your business grow? Let’s hear about it. Join the conversation over at The Modern Therapists Group on Facebook.