24 September 2009

Is Networking Just Pushing, Competing, Persuading?

Are you networking-phobic? Hate pushing yourself on others, competing for attention, straining to persuade someone to hire you?

Makes you feel like a used car salesman? (no offense to my high school buddy who's now a car dealer)

Me too. So don't do it that way. Unless you're an uber-confident extrovert, that approach isn't going to work for most counselors and personal coaches anyway, and probably not for NDs either -- it's too much like snake oil huckstering.

Everyone says networking is essential to building a private practice. I disagree.

Being of service -- what I call help-working instead of networking -- is more effective for solopreneurs in the healing arts. Our clients don't like to be manipulated and sold. They like to feel heard, cared about, and helped.

Think about the difference it could make for you if the next time a "networking" event comes up you go with the intention to listen deeply, connect caringly, and offer help selflessly.

You're trained to do these exact things. You have a wealth of skills to draw on. You're even confident about and comfortable with being able to do this. That training and those skills can be just as useful in marketing your practice as they are in working with clients in your office.

Now from the practical perspective, I'd also recommend being ready with 3 things when you help-work:
  • a client attracting elevator speech
  • a business card with some help tips on the back
  • an article or report you can email as a follow up
The elevator speech describes who you work with, what they want, what they get as a result of working with you, and sends listeners to your website for more details.

The tips on the back of a business card shows you to be knowledgeable and helpful, and has more chance of being kept than a card with a blank backside, or with next appointment time reminder.

An email follow up furthers the relationship that gets started at the event, helps your name and services to be remembered, and subtly promotes you as the go-to person for the types of issues you can solve.

Networking works best when it's help-working. Try it. It's much more comfortable than pushing, competing and persuading.

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