Whether you're searching for a job in accounting, making your way up the ladder of a financial corporation, or looking for a place in the local CPA association, business contacts are important. With so many other professionals meeting and greeting, making a memorable impression can be difficult. Traditional tools like business cards, combined with modern follow-up and the provision of value, make a difference in professional networking.
Since the Internet delivers a convenient method for locating business contacts, the role of the business card in networking has changed over the past few decades. Outside of certain niches such as sales, you don't have to hand your card to everyone you meet to build a large network. Instead, reserve cards for special circumstances, including cultivating close or very serious contacts or for when you want to ensure the person follows up with you. If given the option, choose quality materials that show you care about your professional reputation in the accounting community. CPAs should select card designs that elicit confidence in professional skills but also contain memorable colors, graphics, or phrases. Add value to the card where appropriate by including appointment reminders or calendars on the back—when your card can be used as a tool in schedule or contact management, associates and clients are more likely to see it multiple times.
Create a lasting impression by providing value to business contacts, even on the first meeting. Share some personal knowledge, invite them to coffee for a business discussion, or hint at future value you can provide. In social settings or business networking events, avoid a long, hard sale regarding yourself, your idea, or your business. Instead, work the value proposition into an organic discussion about accounting or make a polite introduction along with a short elevator pitch when time is short. Ultimately, you want business contacts to remember your name and the idea that you have something they need or want. You can hand out business cards to encourage future contact, but following up yourself will help cement the memory.
In the past, contact management involved phone calls, personal meetings, and cascading professional introductions. Although those are viable networking tools today, accounting professionals can also take advantage of multiple avenues for quick connections. Don't wait for business contacts to follow up—look for them on Twitter, LinkedIn, and online networks for accounting pros. Sending a connection request or following an online profile is a gentle reminder to the other person about your meeting. In some cases, that nudge is all you need to move the relationship forward. In other cases, you can use online networks to let business contacts know you enjoyed meeting them and would like to connect for further discussion.
Providing value, giving business contacts the tools to reach out to you, and following up using technology can help contacts remember you. To be competitive and make contacts in the accounting field, use all the tools available, but don't forget about traditional courtesies like personal introductions and thank you cards.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)