Are you a collaborator or are you a networker? The consistency of the growth in your business will answer that question.
If you are a service professional, you likely feel tremendous pressure to develop new clients. Today’s marketplace is over crowded with service professionals. That combination has created a hyper competitive environment.
Recently, I was speaking to a lawyer (we will call him “John”) who has joined two additional networking organizations and has been going to every networking event he can because he is afraid if he is not seen he will lose out to his numerous competitors. The increased time commitment has negatively impacted his professional and personal life. He told me he has met a lot of people and collected a number of business cards but, the results from this exhausting effort over the past year has not led to any appreciable business. In fact, he said that he has received a few referrals but the matters were to small businesses that could not afford the legal services he provides. In both cases, he ended up wasting time because these prospects were not a good fit for his practice.
John is frustrated. People make false promises to follow up. The networkers and John share a common approach. They schmooze “in the moment” because their goal is to try to get something from each other. Enter the networking schmooze zone! John understands he is meeting professionals that have the same pressure to bring in business as he does. They also want to be seen and talk with as many people as possible. Does the networking schmooze zone sound familiar to you?
John hopes things will get better but envisions more of the same frustration. He sees no alternative. He feels pressure to keep his workflow going. His managing partner has been critical of his billable hours. He knows the only way to get new business is to get referrals from other professionals. He feels that by networking incessantly, somehow someone will remember him and call with a referral.
I have no doubt that John is an excellent attorney. He is passionate about taking care of his clients and he is an exceptional legal technician. John’s problem is not doing the work. His problem is bringing in the work. Unfortunately, just because he is a great technician does not mean that he can build a great business. Are you in the schmooze zone like John?
How can you make your competition irrelevant? How can you develop a consistent stream of referrals without spending incalculable hours networking?
The key is to understand that while you will develop a significant number of “acquaintances” networking, the likelihood of these individuals remembering you and being focused on you are remote. To be successful in today’s highly competitive environment, you must be able to depend on getting the right referrals from the right people to the right clients. The only way you can make that happen consistently is by having a “collaborative” relationship with another service professional.
Collaboration is defined as working together to achieve a specific goal. It is a deep collective determination to achieve a common objective. In order to collaborate effectively, there must be:
1. Complete clarity on the part of both parties to understand each other's business
2. An understanding of the specific clients each professional serves
3. The type of other service professionals who have access to those clients
Any ambiguity in these areas will impede the collaborative process.
Recognize that you are a business. People will always do business with you, because of you. As a business, it is important to know where you are going. For the last 16 years, professionals coming into our program start with creating a plan. Your plan needs to identify the income you want and the revenue you need to achieve that income. It must also identify these business objectives:
1. The clients in the specific markets and market segments where you can create the most value and achieve your revenue expectations
2. A relationship system to capture those clients
3. Your differentiation in the marketplace.
Once you have clarity of these objectives, you can help others understand how to help you achieve them.
Developing a relationship system is critical to the success of your business. Our program teaches our members how to develop collaborative relationships. In our vernacular, we call these “Level 1” relationships, the ultimate collaborative relationship.
Building “Level 1” relationships requires managing the process. It does not just happen by itself! Once you achieve a “Level 1” relationship through an explicit agreement, you have committed to help each other with one significant event over the course of a year. You commit to meet once a month for a brainstorming session. Each party will have reviewed their calendars for the previous month to identify anybody and any situation that may be helpful to the other. If the due diligence has been conducted properly, there is nearly a 100% chance that the parties in this collaborative relationship will help each other with one significant event.
Over the past 16 years we’ve learned that those service professionals that develop just 15 “Level 1” relationships over a three-year period have a high likelihood of bringing in the business they want. They've made their competition irrelevant because they have built relationship systems that are focused on “collaboration” rather than depending on acquaintances” from the networking schmooze zone.
What about you?