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We will be celebrating with family in the next few months. We will gather with family, friends, colleagues and associates for traditional meals, office holiday parties, to ring in the new year and for a Super Bowl showdown. Networking’s grand finale will be epic this year as people gather once again like they did pre-COVID.
How will you leverage networking’s grand finale without being perceived as the friend or cousin who is desperate for business?
As a Wall Street Journal best-selling author of a book titled, The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies (now published in seven languages), I know a thing or two about strategic networking. I see opportunities this time of year to develop and nurture relationships, stay top of mind, proactively find referrals, educate people on how they can help you, show appreciation and plan for the coming year. I’ve known advisors who struggle with knowing how to mix business and social time. Their response is to avoid any conversation about business.
If you follow that practice, you’re missing huge opportunities to support others and yourself. You’re in the relationship business and relationships are personal. When gathered with friends, the conversation will turn to asking about business in some way. Focusing on others first will help you avoid that uncomfortable feeling.
Famed thought leader Zig Ziglar once said, “If you’re not helping others while networking, then you’re simply not networking.” I can’t agree more. Networking’s grand finale gives you ample opportunities to help others. It’s the perfect chance to learn about what people accomplished this year and what they plan to focus on next year. A great networker will key in on responses and listen for how they can help that person. It’s also a wonderful time to stand out from your competitors by asking better, more thoughtful questions. For example, when you’re talking to your neighbor who’s a divorce attorney at this year’s holiday block party, ask her, “As I talk to people tonight, how will I know if I’m talking to someone you might like to meet?” Or if you would like to simplify it, ask “How can I help you next year?” Very few people will ask that person this question.
I use a two-part strategy to ask good questions. First, find out valuable information on how you can develop and nurture that relationship. You will stand out from your competition in a good way. And you’ll be seen as a giver. Second, it’s likely the other person will feel compelled to ask you the same questions, giving you a bonus opportunity to educate that person on how they can help you as well. Everyone wins. However, the caveat here is that you need to ensure that you can answer your own great questions about yourself before you ask them of others.
To leverage this time of year fully, create a list of your favorite COIs and business friends with whom you have great relationships and who will soon be spending time with family, friends and colleagues. Meet with them in person as soon as you can. Ask them to join you for a celebratory end-of-the-year drink or lunch to nurture the relationship and ultimately plant yourself top of mind. While together, make an intention to share one thing that they can listen for on your behalf and give them a quick response for when they hear that one statement. For example, the conversation might go something like this:
You: I can’t wait for Thanksgiving this year. My brother is coming home from Utah and I haven’t seen him in three years. We’ll have a lot of catching up to do.
Kim (Your COI who’s a CPA): I’m excited too. My sister has a new boyfriend and I’m looking forward to meeting him. He’s a radiologist, but that’s about all I know.
You: That should be an interesting conversation. I’m sure there will be lots of interesting conversations in my family this year, too. And some might turn into an opportunity for you. What can I listen for during my conversations that might be a trigger for you?
Kim: That’s a great question. If people are asking you questions about what they should do for end-of-year tax planning, that would be a good time to mention my name. What about you? I need something to listen for as well.
You: That would be awesome. I’m sure you might hear people complaining about the rising cost of living and feeling very nervous about their retirement. One thing you could ask them is, “Who’s helping you with that?” If they say no one or complain about the person they already have, tell them you’ll follow up with them and connect us via email. Would that work for you too?
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Networking’s grand finale is underway. Don’t wait any longer if you want people to keep you top of mind during this special time of year. Identify your key people and pick up the phone. Your opportunities for referrals are magnified if you choose to proactively leverage them.
Michelle R. Donovan owns Productivity Uncorked LLC where Michelle (Referral Coach) and Patty Kreamer (Productivity Coach) offer a one-two punch to help financial advisors get more done in their day and more be more profitable. Michelle’s books have become Wall Street Journal best-sellers, Amazon best-sellers and published in seven languages. If you want to enhance your productivity, set a time to chat with Michelle, email her at [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn.