The Seven Proven Networking Strategies
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I have a test for you. In my work with advisors, I’ve identified seven networking strategies that consistently drive referrals. How many do you use?
Let me know on APViewpoint.
The importance of networking was reinforced in a meeting I recently had with a financial advisor who operates his own firm. His partner is a CPA and they staff a team of junior advisors. The purpose of the meeting was to help implement a networking culture within the organization. Given all the networking he was doing, the advisor wanted to know why it wasn’t resulting much in his business.
For most of the meeting, the FA spoke about his accomplishments, hobbies, experiences, successes, vision and even a career-defining decision that he needed to make.
What he didn’t do is ask questions about me.
Interestingly enough, the CPA, who was also in the meeting, pointed this fact out and we solved the essence of the networking problem. No wonder his networking wasn’t working.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best financial advisor or wholesaler in the world! Business happens at the speed of trust and if there is no trust, value, genuine connection, collaboration or synergy, all the networking events in the world, aren’t going to change those relationships.
Here are seven suggestions to help you do everything right when looking to develop relationships at events or in business meetings.
1. Understand networking
Networking is not just shaking hands and kissing babies. Handing out business cards. Promoting your firm and discussing your great products. Pitching your wares. OK, there’s some of that, but not much! Networking is about learning from and potentially helping people. Good people, those you like and want to help. If you help great people, they help you right back! As my wholesaler friend likes to say, “I think they call that networking!”
2. It’s all about them
Always focus on learning about the other person until they start asking questions about you. Typically, I don’t talk about myself unless someone asks me a specific question. The exception might be if something just happened in my world that I’m excited about and want to share. If something is going on in your practice or even personal life that is so exciting that others will relate to or be interested in hearing, feel free to share. But remember to shift gears and start asking questions about them. By being interested you become interesting. Interesting, huh?
3. Be a connector
As you’re learning about people you meet, think about who you can introduce them to that will help their cause. Some clients you work with (and those prospects you’re looking to work with) may have a niche in, let’s say, the manufacturing industry. Maybe you know the VP of operations for a manufacturer and can provide an introduction. Givers always gain, so look to offer help and make connections in the best interest of the parties involved.
I have two hard and fast guidelines to providing introductions – you must really know, like and trust the person you’re introducing (because if you don’t, your friends may not either) and all parties must be great at what they do (professionally, they must offer value and make you look great in the process). You’re only as good as the introductions (or connections) you make.
4. Find common ground
One of the best ways to establish what you have in common with someone is to ask great questions – that is, questions about them. What’s the best thing that happened to you this week? How did you get involved in financial services? What college did you attend? What made you become an accountant? Which team do you think will win the Series? What are some of your current initiatives and goals? What are your biggest challenges? How do you market your business? What do you do for fun? If that person doesn’t ask similar questions like, “How about yourself?” you’re doing something wrong or there’s not a good connection. If there isn’t a good connection or you feel you can’t have a good five- to ten-minute conversation, end it. “Nice to meet you. Good luck today at the event!”
5. Be specific
Focus on the specifics when it comes to discussing your business. Don’t go into the granular aspects of what you do and how you do it (unless you’re asked) but go into depth when it comes to your marketing, clients, prospects and centers-of-influence. This is very important when it comes to networking and many financial advisors miss an opportunity by not going into enough detail. If there is a specific type of referral you want, mention it (when the time is right). The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get it. Remember the manufacturing example I mentioned earlier? If that financial advisor doesn’t mention manufacturers and related details about how they help, that connection does not happen. So, make it happen!
6. Speak the language of ”we”
Practice using “we” language and establish a collaboration mindset. That means working together and helping one another. That’s a networking-based relationship. You know, “it’s been great that we’ve had the chance to spend time playing golf (badly) and learning about each other’s businesses. I would love to explore how we might help one another moving forward?” Or, “How can we refer each other more business over time?” Yes, you can be direct if you use we language and make the business relationship truly that – a relationship!
7. Stay connected
Believe it! Establish a “staying in touch” strategy that keeps you connected and learning from those you meet, like, and value. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are only part of the equation. It pays to be much more proactive. Examples include a standing phone meeting every 30 days, dinner whenever you’re in town, quarterly meetings, or whatever. I have sushi with one client every quarter (she buys!) and we discuss movies, television, family stuff and spend about five minutes discussing business. Who are the top 50 most important people as they relate to your business? Could be a combination of “true” prospects (they already want to work with you!), clients, referral partners, and even strategic alliances. How are you staying top of mind? One of the true benefits of networking is to always keep your top 50 your top 50. That’s keeping your best players on the field at all times.
These ideas should be familiar to advisors. But most don’t have a system in place to do them consistently. And these approaches don’t just apply to events and social situations. They apply to almost all networking situations.
Implement some of these ideas into your day and see what happens.
Michael Goldberg has helped thousands of financial advisors, brokers, planners, agents, reps, and producers generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to their bottom line. His firm, Knock Out Networking, focuses on helping firms be more successful at networking, referral generation and recruiting.