Why do we network? What business can happen at local events and conferences and how do you spot a potential business opportunity?
Next in our AATPowerUp series we’ll be looking at how to build strong relationships and turn them into business opportunities.
There are always LOTS of opportunities to engage with people. Opportunities can pop up anywhere. “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere! What we need to do is be aware of them.
Remember business opportunities do not flag themselves up with flashing neon lights. Opportunities tend to arise when we are building genuine relationships.
Finding common ground
Getting to know people often creates the first stage of “opportunity finding”.
Just chatting to someone can create the first piece of connectivity (or something in common). Once we share one thing in common the relationship moves quickly onwards.
How do we find this first commonality? A good start is to ask interested questions. The easiest questions are the four things we have in common with every stranger at any event.
Four things to discuss with a stranger at an event
- Where they have travelled from.
- Secondly the host or the organisation who has invited you.
- Thirdly the type of event you are attending (party, wedding, local event, business event etc).
- Finally, yes you guessed it – the weather, as it’s always easy to talk about the weather they have just encountered, or how the weather will affect their plans at the weekend or holiday.
You will know you have found commonality when the speed, pitch and tone of your voices increase and pitch up!
Building a stronger relationship
When you find commonality you can then ask some more questions to build a stronger relationship.
You can then discuss what they do for a living, where they work, how they got into that line of work/business. People love explaining what got them started in that business, career or field of work.
Make sure you’re actively listening to the answers to these questions . When you do this – lots of little clues will pop up to establish if there is an opportunity to take things further.
At any event there may be two or three accountants, a few bookkeepers, some social media experts, a solicitor etc. So what makes the difference between one and another? The relationship you build!!
People buy people
Spotting opportunities only comes when you are open to information. The opportunity may not be directly related to your role, but instead could be linked to your wider business, or may even present an opportunity to link another specialist in a totally different company to help them.
Do not try and close the business then and there
Once you’ve identified the opportunity – park it and ask some more general questions. Before you leave the person bring the opportunity back and qualify their interest.
An example of how to do this:
“You mentioned earlier that…. I might be able to help you with that. Is it worth us having a bit more of a chat at some point to see if there is anything we can do to help each other?”
Do not try to do the business there. The event is not the place. Be satisfied to have spotted the opportunity and made the link to the next event. It’s at the follow up event that you can take the opportunity onwards.
Spotting opportunities comes out of talking to people, finding commonality and being interested. You then need to think on a wider angle to the possibilities of doing work together.
Why don’t business opportunities happen straight away?
Remember building relationships can take time, and not everyone is ready to do business with you immediately. But by showing interest, remembering things about them (the weekend, a holiday they are having, a family occasion etc) people will see that you are not just interested in the business but interested in them.
Later, when the time is right they will come back to you or refer other people to you. Business often takes time to let the need for your services to emerge, realise discontent with their current provider, or when some changes occurs in their business.
Sue Tonks is an expert in networking and building relationships. This year she will be speaking at the AAT Annual Conference alongside various other experts. This years AAT Annual Conference is packed with inspiring talks, presentations and workshops designed to provide accounting and finance professionals with the skills they need to grow a business or advance their careers.
Sue Tonks is an expert in networking and relationship building .