In this guide to networking for introverted accountants, I’m going to cover networking best practices and the best networking methods. It’s important for accountants to be authentic and have great listening skills, as well as, to know what networking methods will get them the best results. I will explain my best kept networking secrets in this blog post.
Don’t worry. If you’re not an introvert, I’ve got some helpful tips for you, too! Continue reading to learn more.
Networking Best Practices
Developing a networking strategy can feel overwhelming. There is so much advice online on how best to network. The truth is you don’t need to be something you’re not or buy a fancy suit to get great results from networking. Below are my tips to maintain your authentic self while gaining connections.
Authenticity comes from showing a bit of vulnerability and the personal in interactions with potential and current clients. Whether that be on social media, in an in-person meeting, or at industry events. Just talking business is not the best networking strategy. It’s of course important to talk about business, but customers tend to want to do business with people they like. This means showing a bit of your personality, too.
Besides, it’s easier to be yourself rather than someone that you’re not. Consider what makes you different and some topics that you are passionate about. Show your clients a glimpse of this side of yourself so they can get to know you on a more human level.
The skills that you develop from your passions can actually make you valuable to your clients and might just help you find your niche. Are you passionate about restaurants? Developing your interest in restaurants and food can give you a competitive edge over other accountants seeking to provide financial support to food industry businesses. Don’t be afraid to showcase these passions to your clients when they have a shared interest.
Also, don’t be afraid to add some humor into your strategy. When people are entertained, they are naturally more likely to pay attention to and remember you. Maybe begin by poking some well-humored fun at your industry while teaching a lesson or being helpful. Not only will you make someone laugh, but they will remember you for the help you provided them.
Don’t shy away from showing your clients a bit of your personal side. They will like you even more for it.
A wise person once said that you should listen twice as much as you talk. Be that person that makes your connections feel truly heard. It’s important to be good at what you do so you can answer customers and potential client’s questions. However, it’s also important to ask the right questions and listen deeply to the answers you get. This is how you get efficient at solving people’s problems.
The winning quality most introverts have is their listening skill. You can hear things that others can’t and can use the knowledge you gain from listening to better serve your clients. It’s a superpower! People notice people who notice them, and your listening skills could help you win clients.
Develop a Personal Brand
When developing a networking strategy, in can be helpful to incorporate your personal brand. If you don’t already have a personal brand, I have a few tips to help you create one.
In a nutshell, a personal brand is what sets you apart from others in your industry. Often, your brand will be based on specific skillsets you have or industries that you serve. These attributes add up to be your “niche”. Your niche will sell your services for you. Potential clients and others in your circle will come to know you as a “guru” for your specific niche, meaning you won’t have to take on any of those cold sales strategies that most accountants dread.
Through the different methods below, you can “show-off” your personal brand while providing value to those around you. Just make sure you have a firm grasp of what your personal brand is before you begin using these methods. Start by detailing what your specific skills and industry focuses are. Write them down if you need to. (Don’t forget that soft skills count, as well).
Best Networking Tips
While this is not an all-inclusive list of networking methods out there, I am listing the methods that have proven to be the most beneficial for me. I have found that supporting your community and industry, social media, and speaking engagements have been the most effective methods in my networking journey.
Supporting Your Community and Industry
It likely comes as no surprise that engaging with and supporting your community is one of the best ways to network. However, have you heard that it’s important to engage in your community in an authentic way? To volunteer your time towards initiatives you are truly passionate about? When you choose a cause that you are passionate about, you naturally do a better job in your tasks and that truly shows. On the flip side, if you volunteer for something you aren’t as passionate about, you will likely not do such a great job. Those around you will notice that, too. Be sure to choose industry associations, volunteer opportunities, and community committees wisely.
When you give back to your community with gusto, your community gives back to you. Those committee members that have become impressed with your dedication to the cause and attention to detail? They will likely seek you out first for CPA services before they contact the random accountant they found on Google. They KNOW and LIKE you which makes all the difference in the world of business. It’s not just what you know. It’s who you.
Make sure that you are being a collaborator in your industry. That means learning more about others in your industry. You may not specialize in a specific area that another person in your circle does, and you shouldn’t be shy about sending leads their way if you aren’t the perfect fit for the job. By being a good listener, you will know when this is the case. By making sure potential clients are taken care, even if you have to send them to someone else, you will create a great reputation for yourself in the long run. Even better, other professionals in your circle will reciprocate and send leads who need your specific services your way.
I have one final thought on networking within your industry. Remember, contributing to your industry should be mutually beneficial. Make sure you ask for help where you need it, and don’t be shy about showcasing what you do well. Networking should always be reciprocal.
Social media is another essential tool for networking, especially LinkedIn. By utilizing social media, you can give potential clients a glimpse into your life and potentially boost your brand awareness. Whether you are a Hawaiian shirt-wearing accountant like our fearless leader Jody Grunden or you are a raving cat lady, social media can bring a bit of personality to your brand and make you more memorable.
To incorporate a bit of personality into your brand, you can use a few different strategies to reach your target audience. Comment on a post someone in your industry posted to network with your peers. Adding a bit of humor or emotion in your comments is one way to set you apart from all the other neutral comments on social media. You can also direct message people you would like to connect with on social media. Don’t be shy! If you are sending a message from an authentic and helpful standpoint, others will be more than happy to talk to you.
Incorporating something you are known for within your social media presence consistently will also enhance your social personality and presence. A few examples include using a specific catchphrase, tagline, or hashtag. Your clients may even begin using this element when sharing the word about your services. If your potential clients see #SavingwithSally everywhere they look, your brand may get stuck in their heads!
Another way to add some personality to your social media presence is through posting your own content, sharing a picture of your day-to-day or sharing an unknown fact about yourself. Of course, mixing in professional tips and tricks is always a great strategy, but a bit of the personal is what will set you apart from the competition. Having a balance is the secret sauce to any winning social strategy.
When posting about business related topics, make sure you are talking directly to your target market and offering helpful content. One popular content topic is creating a “number piece”. Articles or social posts titled “10 Ways To Do X” or “5 New Trends in the Accounting Industry” are two examples of number pieces. These types of content are a great way to capture people’s attention in a world where attention spans are decreasing. Bite-sized information helps readers learn quickly. If you aren’t ready to create your own content, you can always hire someone else to help you out! There are many freelancing websites that can provide you some much needed help.
Our team has been a part of many speaking engagements hosted by various organizations. Not only does speaking in front of people give us an opportunity to expand our brand awareness, however, the people we talk with after the event gains us much needed exposure. After we speak, many attendees come to chat with us and ask us questions about our area of expertise. In these conversations, we are never afraid to share our knowledge and show a bit of our personalities along the way. This initial exposure is supported by our social media and industry engagement strategies. After seeing us again and again, our connections generally come to trust us and even like our team. We have gained customers, friends, and even employees from many of these conversations.
It's important to note that you should be focused on rather than focusing on generating a profit. There is so much advice floating around the internet that you “shouldn’t talk for free”. However, providing value first can create a network of potential clients AND advocates. Speak to something you know (which should be something you sell).
I hope these best practices and networking methods have helped you and given you a few ideas. I wanted to leave you with a final thought: As an introvert, you don’t want to be the best kept secret. Be visible and use your voice when you need to.