Select Your Invitees Carefully
The most successful and enjoyable events are those that bring together like-minded people who share something in common – in this case, our goal is to bring together professional service providers – i.e. accountants, attorneys, bankers, actuaries, insurance brokers, financial planners, etc. – together because of one common factor – the desire to bring in a particular kind of client. This means a niche-focused effort will work best – by selecting a type of client – i.e. nonprofit, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. – which you would like to bring into the firm by casting a small net which will get everyone focused on the specifics of the “sweet spot” of what kind of client everyone present is looking for.
Select a firm that already has a track record of working with your firm – for instance, a law firm that has already referred a client or two – which you have satisfactorily served, you have communicated the value of those services to the referral source law firm and /or that referring source has received positive feedback from that client. Keep in mind those clients which fall in an industry that makes sense for both sides to pursue (there is experience in serving this type of client, there is genuine enjoyment in working with this type of client, it’s been lucrative work – and the marketplace supports pursuing more clients in this same industry/niche). Thus, a good foundation for asking for more referrals is in place, right? Next is a focus to expand those existing relationships and leverage those previous successes among more professionals at both firms.
Contact the targeted firm and tell them that you would like to arrange a “meet and greet” among 6-8 professionals from each firm for a get-together that will have structure, the purpose of which is to introduce like-minded professionals to each other with the well-formed outcome of establishing a pattern of cross-referrals between your firms. State the often not-so-obvious! Identify the target niche (or two if the firms are small). Trust me, this idea will be well-received!
Solidify the date and time and get the names of the committed attendees from the other firm. Next, conduct a bit of research on each of them, using their firm website and LinkedIn. Make note of things like age, race, gender, experience, schools, family, etc. – and who has already established ties to the professionals at your firm. Ask around, too, and try to select a group from your firm that will foster rapport and fuel connections between the two groups – select people with similar traits, background and experience – think outside the box, to include hobbies, personality, fashion sense, marital status, religion, political affiliation – that which is not seemingly “politically correct” this ensures rapport among the groups (and makes a lot more sense than just getting any old body to come into the conference so there is an even number of attendees).
Create an Environment for Sharing & Connection
These events go a lot smoother when there is structure so plan the agenda (otherwise, you might see a couple of folks standing in the corner eating all the shrimp!) The agenda goes something like this: the senior partner from the guest firm introduces their firm history, niches, “story” to the rest of the group (please, no more than 5-6 minutes). Then each person from that person is instructed to introduce themselves by sharing three things about themselves: a. their name, rank serial # (how many years at the firm, which department / division they work in, etc.); b. their individual value proposition (what they do, for whom and why) and identify their “sweet spot” or their ideal client that they would to be introduced to; and, finally c. something personal about themselves that not many people know or that might surprise others (hobbies, interests, accomplishments outside the professional / business realm). If nothing else, you can say that you live in the suburbs with your 3 kids and two cats. These meaningful introductions are a way for each person to remember and connect with whoever is speaking in more meaningful way than if you just threw 10 people into the same conference and let them network on their own.
Follow-Up is Key
Someone should take note of who might get along based on these introductions and go around accordingly to encourage more conversation between certain members of the group. Then repeat the same with the hosting group of attendees, ending with the senior partner of the host firm thanking everyone for attending and encouraging individual follow-up among certain individuals – names should be stated out loud, with nods from those members (accountability) – and offer a date for the next meeting that can be agreed-upon – yup! on the spot, shooting for another Meet & Greet in about 6 months.
Afterwards, preferably the next day, someone should be responsible for gathering all names for inclusion in the database / mailing lists, etc. as well as which e-mails were sent to/from with individual follow-ups – lunches, breakfasts or, more importantly – introductions to CLIENTS!
All opportunities should be tracked accordingly and shared with all at the next – and all future – meet and greets so that attendees realize the benefits from their participation in these activities. All new opportunities should be reflected on a pipeline report that recognizes the Meet and Greet event as the origination source.
When a firm concentrates on a few key firms and holds such events on a regular basis (2-4 times per year, with various groups- i.e. different niches or younger professionals) the results are often impressive as each firm becomes more comfortable and aware of this “alliance” and referrals back and forth continue to grow (committing to offering this firm as at least one of three referrals given) demonstrating a partnership that can be mutually beneficial and enjoyed for many years to come.