Recently I was asked by blogger Josh Hinds at Business Networking Advice to share my views on networking in response to three questions he posed. I decided to share them with my readers:

1. How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Networking can be defined simply as meeting as many people as you can who can introduce you to as many people as they can, in order to grow your network and business. Professional marketing is about building relationships, and relationships come about through — to borrow a concept from the real estate industry — contact, contact, contact.

It is important to build and enhance one’s client base in order to prosper in the long run. Networking is just one of the tools of legal marketing that can be utilized to accomplish that.

2. Can you share one or two ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Yes, listen more than you talk. When meeting someone, you should listen at least 50% of the time, better still 80%. Particularly at your first meeting, make that encounter more about the other person than about yourself.

First, they are more likely to remember you, because you listened to them. Psychologists tell us that the person who talks the most is the one that is more likely to consider the meeting a success. So, if you want the person to remember you, and hopefully refer others to your law firm, learn as much as possible about them by asking intelligent questions that keep them talking.

Secondly, you already know everything there is to know about yourself. So, why waste time talking about you. Since you probably know nothing about the person you just met, or their universe — which may just be chock full of potential names and opportunities for your firm — spend the time advancing your horizons by listening to them.

3. How do you follow up with the people you meet; and do you have any particular system in place for keeping up with and managing the relationships in your business network?

I don’t have any set process for following up with people I meet. It all depends on the conversation that took place, and whether I think a follow-up is likely to grow my network and/or my business. Then, I follow in any number of ways depending again on circumstances.

Some of the obvious ways include: sending a follow-up note after your meeting; arranging follow-up meetings, whether over breakfast, lunch or not; maintaining telephone and e-mail contact; inviting them to civic, cultural, sporting events; sending information (newspaper clippings, journal article, etc.) of likely interest to that person; inviting them to firm events (parties, seminars, etc.), and the list goes on. As a reminder, the main factor is contact, contact…………… get the point.