Guest blog by Mark Lee FCA
The only cards accountants generally play with at networking events are business cards. Popular business card games include the perennial classics: ‘how many can I give out in one night?’ and ‘how many can I collect?’.
But what do you really win if you play these games? I’d suggest you’re not so much a winner, more of a loser. Sorry to be harsh, but if that’s how you play then you are missing the point of networking and so you are wasting your time. Just as if you wanted to play poker but spend your time visiting Bridge clubs.
Actually, playing cards can provide a number of useful metaphors that can help us to remember what to do if we want our networking activity to be fun and worthwhile. I will be referencing some of these during my talk at the Digita User Conference in Leeds on 29th April.
So, are you a king of conversation perhaps or a queen of hearts? Do you come across as a jack of all trades or as an Ace accountant?
Here’s a more specific example:
Years ago we all wore suits (at least the blokes did). These days suits may be much less common, in some offices at least. But the four suits in a deck of cards can be a useful prompt for structuring your conversations when networking:
Spades – firstly you dig around (with your metaphorical spade) asking questions to find out more, about the person you’re with.
Clubs – now you hone in to find overlapping interests (especially from a business perspective) i.e. are you, in some way, part of the same ‘club’?
Hearts – you might also want to look for an emotional connection – do you have any similar likes and dislikes?
Finally – Diamonds, the really valuable stuff. What can you promise to do by way of a follow up? What would the other person value? It doesn’t need to be a diamond necklace!
Any accountant who adopts what I call the ‘Four Suits’ approach will stand out and enhance their chances of being remembered, recommended and referred. And that is as good an objective as any when you are networking. It makes more sense than to expect to pick up work whenever you are networking. That’s a mugs’ game – just as is playing the ‘find the lady’ scam in a street market.
Contrary to the common misconception, effective networking is not all about selling. It’s about starting to build profitable relationships. And it’s about helping the people you meet and so encouraging them to get to know, like and trust you.
No one will play cards for money with someone they don’t trust. It’s reasonable to work on the same assumption that no one will engage or recommend an accountant they don’t trust either. That’s why following up after networking is so valuable – it’s a key way to show that you can be trusted.
And that brings us back full circle. There is no point in collecting business cards at networking events unless you are also going to follow up with the people you met – and I don’t mean just add them to your mailing list and start sending them your promotional material. Equally there is no point in scattering your business cards like confetti or sticking them into the hand of everyone you meet. No one refers work to a business card.
If you’d like to know more about how to have fun and make networking more worthwhile, I do hope you will be able to join me at one of the two sessions I am running during the Digita User Conference in Leeds on 29th April. There are still a few places left – click here.
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