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Show flexibility when networking

I've written before in this space about the importance of focus in marketing. If you want to differentiate yourself from other lawyers, having a niche is critical. You can't be everything to everyone and you certainly won't be memorable if you try a shotgun approach.

I've also written about the importance of doing your homework before you meet with potential referral sources. Google, LinkedIn and company websites can tell you a lot about someone before you meet with them, so make sure to do your preparation before you leave your office to meet for coffee. Part of your preparation is to figure out in advance the ways you can connect when you actually meet. Do you share common interests, schools, or other affiliations? Are there clues from your research about the ways you might be helpful to these individuals? That becomes your "game plan" for your networking meeting.

But equally important, when networking, is to be prepared to jettison your "game plan" if the conversation heads in another direction.

Recently, for example, I met with the partner of a firm to discuss how the firm is supporting the firm's marketing function. From reviewing the firm's website and the bios of the partners, I actually had the sense this was a firm that understood how to tell its story. What I wanted to know was what the partnership was doing to support the more junior professionals (i.e. how were the associates learning the fundamentals of selling legal services).

But 10 minutes into the conversation, it became clear that this partner had some of his own concerns about marketing. Clearly, it was time to shift the conversation from the firm's activity to the partner's marketing habits. An hour later, I left the firm with a new client. But, it was the partner himself who became the client, not the firm.

So head to your networking meetings with a plan. Base that plan on what you know about the individual and what you learn from your preparation. But, be prepared to shift gears if other opportunities arise.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published June 27, 2013

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