Need a break from doom scrolling about the election? Focus on making productive strides in your practice instead with this week’s Rainmaking Recommendation from expert and trainer, Jaimie Field.

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I’ll begin this Rainmaking Recommendation as I have the last two:

The Rainmaking Cycle is a continuous circuit that is about 3 things:

  • Creating visibility and becoming known as an authority in the field of law that you practice – this is known as Marketing yourself and your services (see Rainmaking Recommendation # 222);
  •  Meeting people – whether in person or virtually – who want or need your services or who know people who want or need your services – this is known as Networking (See Rainmaking Recommendation #223 for part 1); and
  • Creating relationships in which you are the obvious choice to help them — and this is the Rainmaking part of the equation.

Since networking is such an extensive topic, I am continuing from where I left off in the last Rainmaking Recommendation – the skills necessary to make your networking effective.

As mentioned in the last post, as an attorney time is of utmost importance because, until the billable hour is eliminated, we think in 6-minute increments.  So, when you are networking, you want to spend your time efficiently.  But, you must also understand that networking is about meeting people and beginning to create the relationships that will turn into new business.  And this is not an instantaneous experience.

So, let’s begin with an important fact.  Networking is a skill.  This means that it can be learned, practiced, failed, and perfected.

In fact, networking is a series of skills that can be honed to make your time meeting others more successful for business development.  The skills necessary to become a great networker are:

  • Active Listening Skills: 

Most people use their ears to hear.   Hearing is a biomechanical attribute that most people with two ears can do.  However, usually, when the other person is speaking, we are often just waiting for our chance to respond – whether it is to prove what we know or just to hear ourselves talk.

Listening is an actual skill that can be learned and when used effectively creates a relationship with the speaker that can morph into business.

When you really listen to others, giving them your full awareness, not allowing for any distractions to divert your attention (whether in person or virtual meeting platforms), and truly understand what they are saying, they naturally will like you and trust that you can help them with their problems.

Active listening means maintaining eye contact, nodding your head to show you understand what they are saying, it means asking follow up questions to not only ask for clarification but to also keep the conversation moving in a forward direction.

Active listening means paying attention and not being distracted by everything around you.

This brings us to the next skill,

  • Focus:

You have to give the person with whom you are speaking your full attention.  It is not only the polite thing to do, but you are also trying to establish a camaraderie with the other person (people) to determine whether you can help them and vice versa.

We live in a world full of distractions.  Everything is competing for our attention.  And without listing all of the distractions, you know of what I am speaking.

By focusing on the others – their body language, their facial expressions, and their words – you can establish a connection that will lead to rapport.

  • Communication Skills:

The ability to communicate effectively is one of the greatest skills you can learn.  Most people assume that they are born with the ability to communicate.

No, most people are born with the ability to speak.  Again, like hearing, this is a biomechanical attribute.  But learning to communicate is different.  It requires using the active listening skills you are developing to listen to others and then respond appropriately.  It means developing empathy so that you can understand what the other person is feeling.  The old adage “put yourself in another’s shoes” is important to understand.  Not only in times when they are unhappy but also when they are feeling good.

It means being clear on what you are saying to others – you have to speak their language.  Now, I don’t mean speaking in foreign languages per se, although if the person with whom you are speaking does speak in another language, by all means –  if you are fluent –  do so as well.  It will make the other person more comfortable with you. What I mean is that you do not use legalese to speak with others.  You need to use the words and phrases that would put them at ease with you.

Communication skills also include requires confidence, being friendly, staying open-minded, remaining diplomatic, and having respect. While you don’t have to agree with everyone with whom you are networking – hell, you don’t even have to like them – you do need to be respectful.

Communication skills also require you to mirror their communication styles.  As someone who is a fast talker, when I speak with someone with slower speech patterns, I try to decelerate my speed of how I speak so that they are more comfortable with me.  Mirroring their communication style also helps to develop the all-important feeling of rapport.

Now, I am not saying that you should change yourself – as I have mentioned in many posts in the past, authenticity is most important.  But you have to adjust your speaking styles not only to be understood but to be liked.

  • Nonverbal Communication Skills:

The last skill you should be sharpening is your nonverbal communication skills.  These include body language, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions.  Your nonverbal communication skills should convey that you are interested in the other person.  If you are not, then it will be evidenced in what you are doing rather than what you are saying.

In addition to working on your own nonverbal communication skills, you also should be attentive to the nonverbal communication skills of those with whom you are connecting.  You can tell when others are bored or angry or interested or happy even when they don’t say anything.   Use those clues to help you to either change the conversation or amplify the exchange.

To become a networking expert requires that you understand and practice the attendant skills listed above.  Only then can you begin to have the back and forth, the give and take that is required to have a connection with others.

But the most important thing to understand about networking, about Rainmaking in general, is that it is not about you.  This is something that I harp on over and over.  It is always about the person in front of you, the person at the other end of the conversation.

In part three of the networking piece of the Rainmaking Cycle, next week I will provide you with actual steps on how to break the ice, how to create a conversation, and how to follow up with those whom you believe you can help as much as they can help you.