Virtual collaboration. Part 2: Virtual networking…
How do you navigate online networking to find collaborators? In this blog we follow ‘Patience’, a freelance tax advisor as she seeks to widen her network, find new collaborators and expand her client portfolio, and revisit ‘Jervaise’, the manager of a team of legal experts.
Like a lot of people she knew, Patience found networking challenging. She attended networking events and socials, kept up with former colleagues and clients, and posted on social media, but found it difficult to convert casual conversations and a social media presence into new leads.
As more and more events shifted online, Patience worried about how to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and reach out to promising attendees. One of the first of her existing networks to meet up online was a group of tax and accountancy freelancers. A speaker had been booked to talk about networking for business development – Patience was all ears!
Effective networking takeaways
Whether networking face-to-face or online, networking is going to be more effective if you set specific goals. What do you want to achieve?
Let your goals drive your choices about when, where and how to network. Be strategic.
Don’t be afraid to try new things and new ways of doing things. Equally don’t be afraid to drop things if they are not helping you achieve your goals!
Patience realised that she hadn’t stopped to reflect on what she was getting out of the effort she was putting into networking and promotion. For example, the freelancers group was great for learning and peer support, but it in itself rarely generated new links to clients or potential collaborators outside her existing expertise.
So, over the next three months she would widen her network to include more complementary service providers, with the aim of developing associate positions and widening her client base.
Patience started by identifying some virtual meet-ups for small law firms, asking contacts with whom she had well-developed relationships for e-introductions, and focus on developing local networks to generate long-lasting connections.
For example, during the ‘speed networking’ session of a local lawyers’ Meetup she met Jervaise, a manager at a local firm. There was some overlap with sector knowledge and Patience established that his company did sometimes work with associates. Patience followed up through a whole-group ‘shoutout' in the chat area about her areas of knowledge and expertise, her wish to add value to others’ offers, and provided her LinkedIn contact. She specifically messaged Jervaise and suggested a virtual coffee to develop their conversation further and find out if there were ways they could collaborate in the future.
As with Jervaise’s experience of collaborating with clients and partners or his team, Patience also found that the best starting point was getting the principles ‘right’. She would be able to adapt whether the mode was face-to-face or virtual.
Next time on the glu blog we’re staying with first principles, this time “how to develop a collaborative mindset” as the key to successful collaboration.