When you are getting serious about building relationships that will lead to long term business, not everyone in your network is the same. Networking and building your business connections is not about collecting the most LinkedIn connections based on people who all breathe air. If your practice is local, then the most powerful contacts will be those in your geographical area. If you work with clients all over the country (or all over the world) – then your key connections could come from anywhere. Plus, what people do for a living may matter if you want to work with them or have them refer you business. If you have a technology corporate practice then knowing venture capital investors will mean more to you than having a relationship with a pet shop owner. Both could be good people, but placing your contacts into specific list will help you focus your time.
There are five areas you will want to focus on. Current clients, past clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and others. Depending on your areas of practice, you will have different buckets that will lead to the most business referrals. But if you are not tracking what types of people are hiring you or referring you to others, then everyday you will just be waiting around for opportunities. The purpose of my blog posts on this topic is to get you tracking where your business comes from and looking to recreate the types of contacts that bring you the most business. If you find you are hired by accounting firms, then you should be seeking out more accountants. Half of your referrals come from other lawyers> Then you should be extending the time you put into growing more friendships with other attorneys.
How you break up your list is up to you, but you need to create buckets so that you can focus your networking and business development efforts on people who can help you make a difference. I am suggesting these five areas, as they are generic and work for almost all practice areas, but I encourage you to get creative.
But even within each area, not all contacts are created equally. One past client may have the right level of engagement to refer you to other, while another will not. Some have that personality and enjoy serving and referring, but that is not everyone. Yes, I realize creating a ranking of people seems trite, but if you are not figuring with whom your are working well with to create long-term and mutually beneficial relationships… then you will forever spin your wheels.
In each category, list the top five people with whom you should be focusing on cultivating that long-term relationship. 5 current client, 5 past clients, 5 prospects, five referral sources, and 5 others who do not fit the other four categories. Now, how long has it been since you have been in contact with each of these 25 people. If you are not reaching out in some manner every quarter, you are not keeping the relationship active and alive.
While having these lists are not a guarantee you will reach out, without the lists it is proven for most of my clients that they will get distracted and let years go without ever contacting the people who could be the conduit to new business. All opportunities come from people, but you cannot keep up with everyone, so start to narrow down your lists and put your attention of those who you feel are most likely to become long-term partners.
One last thing. That part about being mutually beneficial relationships is key. So always be looking for ways you can help them succeed, too.