5 Common-Sense Steps to Successful Networking
As business professionals in an increasingly competitive field, the role of the CPA is ever expanding. Networking might be neither a traditional nor instinctual skill, but it is vital for seeking new business and expanding your network.
If the thought of networking is uncomfortable, rest easy, because the best way to grow your client base or business network is also the easiest. You don’t have to take a course in selling or learn a series of pressure tactics. The most critical component of networking is connection. Every CPA has multiple relationships in their daily lives and, through these connections, can build significantly larger networks.
Networking can be easy, comfortable and even enjoyable when you follow these five steps:
1. Know Yourself
It is imperative to understand your style. Taking time to reflect on who you are, how you relate to others and what type of socializing you are most comfortable with will go a long way toward building a thriving network. Answering questions such as, “Am I more formal or casual?” “Is it easier for me to strike up a conversation in a small-group setting or circulate in a large-group event?” Your answers will help you facilitate opportunities to network effectively. Knowing your style and following your interests will lead you to like-minded individuals with whom you can connect easily, perhaps through sports, community or volunteerism.
2. Know Your Target
Once you know how you are most comfortable making connections, you will want to think about groups to target. Clarity about the clients you seek or contact you want to make will help you plan and use your networking time effectively. You can begin in your local area, and expertise in a particular industry is undoubtedly an advantage. Consider joining local organizations, including chapters of national organizations, representing industries in which you specialize. Participation can include speaking at meetings and conferences to share your expertise in financial matters of importance to those in attendance. Joining and, more importantly, actively participating in organizations and lending your services in support of their mission and goals builds the most robust business relationships, those that are mutually beneficial.
Once you have identified a potential target, learning as much as you can about them before making contact will foster their confidence and yours. Your preparation and understanding of how a prospect’s business and industry function and the significant challenges and requirements they face will allow them to recognize your value to them. Randomly contacting people is rarely productive; however, being prepared will help you move your targets from prospects to clients.
4. Be Authentic
Being genuine and concentrating on how you can solve a prospect’s challenges will not only prove more productive but will also be more gratifying. Focusing on helping others by providing dedicated quality service instead of thinking about networking as a sales initiative will help you develop solid professional relationships.
5. Follow Up and Follow Through
Consistent follow up demonstrates your integrity. If you have offered to provide information or make an introduction, be sure to do it as expediently as possible. It takes time and intentional action to build relationships and make them flourish. Seeds planted today can have far-reaching benefits in the future.
We all network daily, intentionally or not. However, when you consciously develop new relationships, you’ll see the most progress. Reap the rewards when you take the initiative, put yourself forward with integrity and authenticity, communicate effectively and follow up consistently. In our increasingly technology-driven world, never underestimate the power of human connection.
Daniel Kochka, CPA, CFE, MBA, is a manager at HBK CPAs & Consultants. He is a member of several NJCPA interest groups.
This article appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.