Networking Hang-Ups…And What to Do About Them

enero 22, 2014 · Imprimir este artículo

Networking Hang-Ups…And What to Do About Them
By Michael Goldberg

A few weeks back, I spoke at a conference filled with financial professionals. It wasn’t just any group of professionals but the top producers.

These attendees represented a huge slice of the Northeast region, so the meeting was a pretty big deal. The topic was networking, and I started by asking for specific networking-related questions from the group. I captured many of their questions on index cards so their responses remained anonymous, and therefore honest.

The questions these advisers asked might be surprising to you – I mean, they are the top producers. But here’s the point. Even top gun producers may not know how to network. And so it goes for annuity and financial professionals and money managers. As a sales professional, you might “talk good” or be outgoing (or not), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a great networker.

Below are some of the “top producer” questions from the meeting, as well as some suggestions.

How do I open a discussion at an event or cocktail party if I don’t know anyone?

An easy way would be to approach someone who is alone. Don’t worry – that person is probably thinking the same thing as you. A good start would be to introduce yourself and ask what brings them there. Ask them what they do, how they do it, and perhaps how they market their business (one of my favorite questions). You might get lucky and they may ask you questions too. It happens! Often I don’t even mention work stuff – I may bring up the Super Bowl last night or other events that make interesting conversation. I’m all for talking about the fun stuff. How can you go wrong? If you’re having fun, it’s easy to parlay your conversation into questions you would ask about them. This may transition into a business discussion. Do your best to focus the conversation on them and they just may want to talk about you!

How do I find the best places to network – where people I need to know are?

A better question might be, “Who do you need to know?” Are you looking to meet financial professionals? If you know this, you might be able to determine where they hang out – association meetings, etc. Are there conferences coming up? Do people in your network know who you are looking to meet? (Do you?) Have you asked them? Can they provide an introduction?

How do I stay focused on those with whom I am speaking?

Ever watch Will and Grace?  In one episode, all four main characters – Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen – are at a cocktail party. They’re schmoozing with a group of folks and Karen (who is very obnoxious) eyes another group entering the room. She exclaims, “Gotta go, better people!” Funny on TV, rude in real life. Stay focused on those with whom you are speaking by being attentive and engaged in your conversation. Be polite when the conversation ends (hopefully within a few minutes) and either collect a business card or exchange handshakes with a “Nice to meet you.” Or politely excuse yourself if you must and promise to circle back. The “better people” will be there later.

How do you follow through on contacts and cultivate the relationship?

The best way to follow through on contacts made at an event is to take the lead and find ways to help them. Offer them information about meetings they should attend, articles they should read, and people they should meet. If you know they exhibit excellence as financial professionals, give them referrals if you can – lots of them. Relationships happen at the speed of trust – so go out of your way to build them.

How do I gain more confidence while networking?

Your goal should be to learn from and help everyone you meet. How? Ask them questions, clarify their responses, and give them information they need if possible. If you can’t, introduce them to those who can. When you help others, the pressure of selling is gone (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway). If you connect with someone and genuinely try to help, they may return the favor. You will gain greater confidence as you get better at helping people and asking for assistance in return. This is how it works. Try it and see.

How do I strengthen networking with key partners?

Easy answer – give tons of referrals and information to those with whom you partner, provided they are competent, credible, and ethical in their practices. If they aren’t and you refer business their way, it will make you look bad – really bad. You need to give to get. The not-so-easy answer – if you give lots of referrals to your key partners and get nada, it’s time to get new key partners. Or it’s time for an uncomfortable conversation (if you’re comfortable with that). Remember, your ability to network and exchange business increases in direct proportion to how quickly the relationship grows.

These questions may not seem like “top producer” questions, but they are! And these are just a few of them. There were others that you might find surprising.

How do I follow up? What’s the best way to stay in touch? How do I ask for referrals?

If these questions came from big hitters, imagine the amount of opportunity they’re leaving on the table every day!

Bottom line, this networking stuff takes a lot of work and some guts. The good news is that after a while, it takes less of both. You will find it is worth the effort and can lead to valuable partnerships and potentially new business.

Source: NAFA, 2014.

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