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Let me tell you about my friend Jeremy. He’s the business development manager at an independently owned auto repair and tire shop that has several locations in the Phoenix area. Their competition is car dealerships and national discount tire chains.
I met Jeremy shortly after I opened my law firm and half my job became networking. I see Jeremy everywhere — business mixers, community festivals, networking groups. He’s always there in his company polo shirt or wearing his company nametag. He’s the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet.
Here’s what’s interesting about my friendship with Jeremy: We don’t talk about business except for the precursory “How’s business?” at the beginning of each conversation. We talk about life, our families, our hobbies and what we’ve been doing lately. I know he’s in the automotive business and he knows I’m a lawyer. We don’t have to talk about that; we get to talk about things that are way more interesting than tires and contracts. We’re friends, not just two people who exchanged cards at a mixer once.
Earlier this summer my car needed new tires. I immediately called Jeremy’s shop. I didn’t even think about calling my dealership or the discount tire place close to my house. I knew Jeremy’s company would take good care of me, treat me with respect and give me a fair price. It took 18 months from introduction to closing the deal, but it was a business transaction I didn’t think twice about.
Jeremy’s business is similar to lawyers’ in that people don’t need us every day or even on a regular basis, but we want to be top of mind when they do. The way to make that happen is to keep showing up.
Pick a handful of groups and events where your target market hangs out, and then immerse yourself in that community. Don’t show up once, shake a lot of hands, toss out your card to everyone you see and expect your phone to ring. It doesn’t work that way. You have to build relationships with these people. If they like you and trust you, your phone will ring when they need you.
Networking is harder than most people think. You have to constantly build your network of contacts, but you can’t neglect the people you’ve already met. It’s a balancing act between nurturing relationships with existing contacts and adding new people to the mix. Notice the word “relationships.” You’re not just getting business — you want to create real relationships with these people so you have the rapport that will lead them to call you when they need a lawyer. So be real, not a pushy salesperson during your conversations.
And it’s a process, not an event. The fact that your phone doesn’t ring within two days of meeting people doesn’t mean you didn’t have an impact on them. It may mean they don’t need you right now … but maybe they will in a few weeks or months.
So just keep showing up.
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of the new ABA book Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans, as well as The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed. In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She also blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.
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