In Allison Puryear’s 6-part audio series, she explores five ways to overcome loneliness that will not only make you a stronger practitioner, but will also help build your business and increase your client load. Take a few minutes out of your day to listen to Episode 2 on networking, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section!
Welcome back, SimplePractice people. This is Allison Puryear from Abundance Practice Building. In this episode, we’re going to talk about networking. I know that most people hate just even the word networking. I want to kind of reconstruct it, reframe it, make it something different than you’re thinking. It is not, or at least it should not be schmoozy or salesy. That’s not what we’re looking for here. That’s not the way to build relationships. That’s exactly what I want you to think of networking as — relationship building. It’s all about getting to know people in a way that feels authentic, and real, and you’re interested in them, you care about that.
Let’s contrast that to what we think about when we hear networking. I want you to sell yourself, right? That’s just not what we need to do. There’s a lot of ways in which just showing up to coffee with someone gives us the opportunity to show how we listen, show how we attend, show how we hold space. It shows how we engage. In a lot of ways, we don’t have to go out there with our $5 words, and our fancy clothes, and all those kinds of things to try to impress people. I don’t want you to try to impress people. I want you to go and be yourself. Not to sound like your mom, but if you are out there and you’re real, then whoever you’re networking with, especially therapy people or people who are in therapy-allied fields, are going to appreciate you a lot more than if you’re out there trying to be impressive. It just never works.
Let’s talk about a few how-to’s around networking. One of my phrases with networking when I’m teaching people how to do it, is like, “You don’t have to be a hero.” You don’t have to go to the doctor’s office that is the hardest to get into in order to get clients. You could only network with therapists and have an amazingly successful practice. If you want to do Networking 2.0, and elbow your way in at the doctor’s office, and push the drug reps out or your way, you could totally do that, but for today’s purpose, we’re just going to talk about what I would consider easier networking. This is something, yes, I even want the introverts to do.
Here is how it’s going to beat back the loneliness. If you’re having coffee or lunch with somebody at least once a week, you’re building relationships with people. You’re having conversations that aren’t about someone else’s pain, and it doesn’t mean that you’re talking in modalities with this person that you’re networking with. You don’t have to talk about therapy much at all. It’s something you have in common, so it’s an easy thing to kind of rely on as a topic of conversation, but you don’t have to sit in that and stay in that conversation the whole time. Get to know them as person. Get to know them like you would a new friend.
Make a list of people to reach out to. Send about five emails of your more introverted and ten emails of your extroverted. You’re not going to get responses from all of those, and that’s absolutely not personal. When somebody does respond and says, “Sure,” and that your email can say … I always the subject line: I’d love to connect. Your email can say, “Hey, we both work with this population,” or, “We both know this person,” or, “We both work in this neighborhood,” or whatever. “I’d love to hear more about your practice. Would like to meet for coffee or lunch?” That’s it. Short, sweet. You don’t have to give the rundown or attach your vitae or anything like that.
When you sit to coffee with this person, because you’ll get that scheduled with the responses that you’ll get, talk to them about who they are as people. Ask them about their practice and who they love to see. I want you to be prepped and ready to talk about who you love to work with, because that’s going to probably come up in conversation naturally if you’re asking them the same question. But, I don’t want you going in there like guns blazing with like, “This is what I’m about. Here’s my practice. Here are my favorite clients.” Don’t do that. I want you to be listening, and attending, and doing the kinds of things that we all appreciate when we’re on the other side of it, right? We all love to talk about ourselves. I mean, not all of us, but most of us. If we’re having an engaging conversation and somebody seems really interested in learning more about what we’re into, that feels good. Get to know the other person. Get to know what they love to do, and the conversation should come back around to you at some point. Don’t force it. Don’t push it.
I think probably the thing most people do wrong in networking, if they’re building relationships, the thing that they do wrong is they forget to follow up or they feel like it’s pushy to follow up. I would say if there’s an article that you discussed while you were having coffee, and it doesn’t have to be like a fancy peer-reviewed journal article. It could be something that came across your Facebook feed, but if it came up, use that article as a reason to reach back out the next week maybe or the next month of like, “Oh, I was reminded of this article that came back up in my Facebook feed. I thought I’d send it to you since we talked about it. Again, it was really great meeting up. I’d love to do it again some time soon.” Then, a call to action, right? We talk about call to actions in our websites, in our profiles, and those kinds of things. What availability do you have in the month or so? Then, you are really developing a relationship with these folks.
Now, it does not need to happen that you follow up with people that you have super awkward conversations with. If it’s super awkward, don’t worry about it. It was awkward for them, too. You can leave it be. But if you had a great connection with someone, if it was fun, if it was easy, there’s no reason not to get back together.
I’ve moved. I’ve had practices in three different states ping ponging across the country. I honestly have met most of my friends through networking. My husband jokes that I’m only friends with therapists and people in an allied fields as a result. It’s really nice to be able to meet other people who have similar values. People who really care about personal growth, who really care about healing, and who are natural helpers most of the time. It’s really great to be able to meet these people. If you’re looking at networking like building relationships and not like selling yourself, then it makes networking not suck. Obviously, this is going to build your business and it’s going to probably build their business, too, because you’re going to get to know who the other person loves to work with and they’re going to get to know who you love to work with, so you’ll be able to cross refer.
Now, a lot of people are afraid to reach out to people within their niche, right? They worry that they’re going to be stepping on toes, or that it’s going to be competitive. And yeah, there are going to be some competitive people out there. You don’t need to waste your time with them, but the people who are open, who are excited to meet with you, those are the folks you want to get with. You might have to kiss a few frogs, so to speak, before you find them, but you will find them.
I’m a big fan of networking with people in my niche because one or both of us are going to be full at some point, and we’re going to need to refer, right? There’s a benefit thereof I don’t feel the pressure to take on more clients if I’ve networked with somebody that I trust, and I can send them the clients that are calling me. I also really like networking with people within my field because we all have kind of like sub niches, you know?
I work with eating disorders, and some people like to work with folks on the restrictive side more so than I do. I like working with folks who are struggling with overeating or kind of the ebb and flow of compulsive eating and restriction versus kind of the more stringent anorexia. If I have somebody that I know does really great work with this woman who’s calling me and is struggling with more anorectic symptoms, then I can send them on. That feels really good because she might get better care with that person than she’d get with me because they love, love, love working with her presenting concern, or with her demographic, or whatever it is.
Another thing I love about that is that it gives me someone to consult with. We’re going to talk about consultation groups next, but it gives me someone to consult with, and that feels really helpful to know that I’ve got partners in this, colleagues who really get it, and we can bounce things off of one another, and we don’t have to act like we’ve got it all figured out. On that note, we’ll end. Again, this is Allison from Abundance Practice Building. Next, we’ll be talking about consultation groups.