Successful Networking Is a Numbers Game
The most successful salespeople strongly believe that sales is a numbers game. In other words, you don’t have to be an ace or a homerun king to be successful at business development. You just have to keep pitching and swinging in the general direction of the clients. The more at-bats, the more runs (clients) you are likely to earn (win).
When putting together the networking portion of your marketing plan, it helps to have a “numbers game” mentality. Let’s say you compile a list of 10 prospective clients or referral sources to meet for coffee or lunch. After that, you contact these people to try to set up something. What’s a good “hit” rate?
Getting to First Base
Since it’s World Series time, let’s keep the baseball metaphor. Most people know that the best hitters get on base only three times out of 10 (closer to four, if you count walks and errors). The same stats apply for attempts to schedule a coffee or lunch. If you have a working list of 10 prospects and actually get together with three or four, pat yourself on the back. You’re doing just fine. If you “hit” more than four out of 10, you’re on a roll.
But don’t be discouraged even if you manage only one or two. For many of you, that’s still one or two more networking encounters than you’ve had in a long time. That’s progress!
How should you handle prospects that either say no to your request or ignore your invitation? Understand that some who say they are too busy are, in fact, currently too busy. Try them again at a later date. Others will be too shortsighted to appreciate the benefits of networking. Either way, do not take it personally. Move on to your next set of 10 names and start again.
You heard that right — your next set of 10 names. If you assume a hit rate of 20 to 30 percent and you attempt (as part of your personal marketing plan) to schedule two coffees or lunches per week, it soon becomes apparent that you need a long and constantly growing master list of names.
What happens when you’ve exhausted the list of everyone you can think of and need to add new names? Not to worry. You won’t end up standing on the corner of a busy intersection, handing out your business cards and asking complete strangers if they’d like to join you for a latte at Starbucks.
Remember all those blog posts that recommend getting active in a bar association, a business or trade group, or a community organization? Among the good reasons for doing so is to meet new people that you can add to your contact list. Plus, all of these organizations have member lists.
Once you get into the routine of regularly scheduled coffees or lunches, what’s a respectable hit rate for actually getting new business from these efforts? The answer will typically vary by practice area. For example, if you practice family law, where everyone could theoretically become a client or referral source, you could expect a higher hit rate than other practice areas.
Business development efforts that involve networking are a numbers game. A certain percentage of the people on your contact list will get together with you, and a certain percentage of those people will become clients or refer clients. The exact percentage will vary from lawyer to lawyer, and from practice to practice.
However, the more you work the numbers — the more people you have on your list and the more times per week you can commit to a coffee or lunch — the more clients this tactic will generate over time.
Don’t give up after the first strike or two.
Roy S. Ginsburg is an attorney coach who coaches lawyers one-to-one in the areas of business development, practice management and career development. He has practiced law for more than 25 years in large to small firms and in a corporate setting. He is currently an active solo with a part-time practice in legal marketing ethics and employment law. To read more of Roy’s advice on Attorney at Work, click here.