Your next client or project partner is someone you talk to. It makes sense, doesn’t it? How likely is it that a stranger will come up to you and say: Hey there, I’d love to work with you? I’d say 5%, depending on how well you have put yourself out there on the social media. OK, maybe 10%.
More likely is that a new client will be someone one of your clients spoke with, a lot, about why the job you did for them was so magical and the results so unexpected and welcome. Your client let them know the benefit they could expect from workig with you. By the time you call your client’s colleague or friend, they are delighted with your interest in their problem and are grateful to you for the time you spend talking about how you could provide them with something that will resolve their problem.
Take for example my colleague. She is a literary author and for a living, among other things, she translates reports, documents and speeches from Dutch into English. She was recently asked by one of the leading Dutch daily newspapers to translate their review of Donna Tart’s latest novel. She got the job because someone she worked with years ago was asked by the paper’s literary editors for the name of a translator, and this person replied that they could get no-one better than my friend. With a recommendation like that from someone they trusted, they didn’t need to look further. And of course they were delighted with the quality of the translation – there are not many English-language authors living in the Netherlands that can provide literary translations.
Your new client or project partner may be someone you meet at a New Year’s party. One of my clients became my client when she asked around her friends whether anyone could put her in touch with an expert in grant writing that could jump into a job at short notice. One of her friends happened to be a friend of mine and she sent the message to me. When I called the prospective client and she realised she was talking to someone she had met at her friend’s recent party, she quickly set up a date to talk about the job.
The reason this works so easily is simple. When you meet people who know, like and trust someone you know, like and trust, they will by default know, like and trust you. That makes them perfect people to talk about your plans, aspirations and ideas with.
If you are concerned that talking about your own interests at a party is selfish, consider the other people at the party. Did they come to hear things they already know, or did they come in the hope of somthing unexpected? If you ‘entertain’ people by sharing about things that are important to you, you will find people giving you their crd and inviting you to keep in touch.
Speaking to people about what you are doing, asking them for what you need, is not just something entrepreneurs do. Anybody that is up to something bigger than themselves does it from time to time. People who do it well, manage to be up to big things a lot of the time. People who do big things on a large scale always do it – they need people to know what they do and they need to draw on the social capital of many people. They have developed mastery in connecting.
Here are some tips in developing mastery in finding people who can contribute to your projects/ people who could lead you to new clients:
– Be curious about what people are doing. Listen to their stories and where they make requests for help, be generous. Think about people you know that could be a great adition to their team. Ask questions so that you understand what they need. Be willing to be surprised.
– Know what you want to ask other people. Before you go to an event, think about who you will meet and whether you want to involve others in your adventures. If you are an artist and have an exhibition, people will love to know where they can see the exhibition and when. If you are a singer, let people know when your next concert is and sing for them as a gift. If you are an undertaker, ask people about great locations for services, or great ideas for poems, or whatever it is you may be wanting. The point is, if the thought arises that nobody would want to be bothered with your concert exhibition or business, consider the possibility that other people have come to the party so that they can meet people and be surprised.
– Ask yourself: am I talking on a daily basis to the people I need to talk with? Are you developing relationships in which people know, like, and trust you? If not, find people to talk with! Practice with your doctor, your grocer, your next door neighbour. All of those people are interested in what you are up to. They would love to contribute to you if they only knew how. After all, you contribute to them and they would love to return the service.
– The most important tip of all is this. When you share about your project, or your concert, or your exhibition, keep foremost in your thoughts WHY you do what you do. You have a driving force, a vision. You may have a product that you want to create, but you have a reason you spend time and effort on that product. I am willing to bet that your commitment to something about your fellow human beings is what drew you to the product or project in the first place. When you talk with people, share about that commitment.
As you develop mastery, people will seek you out. You are a magnet for people because you are up to something and because you let other people know about it. That is the essence of networking: people connecting and in that connection, creating something that didn’t exist before.