Networking is one of those activities that a lot of people do…poorly. Hardly surprising! There’s something vaguely intimidating about entering a room full of strange eyes with the daunting task of reaching out to knots of people that you don’t know very well, or at all.
Financial advisors are not immune to this syndrome. In fact, a surprising number of financial advisors are, at their core, introverts…contrary to the widely held belief that advisors are gregarious extroverts who relish the social limelight
Here’s a secret for you. The person at the other end of the handshake is, most likely, no less uncomfortable than you are.
So…here are five ideas that might enable you to “dial it up” during your next networking event:
No pre-introduction. One of the best networking icebreakers is to seed the room with pre-introductions. In the age of social media, this is easier than ever. Reach out via LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook to people who will be attending conferences or networking events you're going to and let them know you're looking forward to meeting them. This pre-introduction leads to a more relaxed and productive in-person connection.
No one-on-one conversations. Don’t just loiter about with knots of strangers. Seek one-on-one conversations. For introverts, this can also be a lifeline. Individual conversations allow you to be somewhat more relaxed, are more productive and build better personal relationships anyway.
No ask. Ultimately, you’ll want to uncover people where you will ask to extend the discussion. This means that you will want to find people who you genuinely enjoy, and reach out to them and ask with a direct request. For example: "I've really enjoyed our conversation and the chance to discuss business with you. What are you working on in the area of [insert your specialty here]? I don't know if we can be of assistance to you or not, but I want to be helpful. Why don't we sit down together to see what expertise we might lend to the thought process?"
No follow-through. Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing uses a simple rule-of-thumb following each networking event: “5-4-3-2-1”:
- Send five thank-yous
- Schedule four catch-ups
- Make three recommendations
- Offer two referrals
- Write one hand-written note
After a networking event, the best networkers continue to work it…staying busy by finding ways to further the personal discussions.
No focus. The goal of a networking event is not to run around the room collecting business cards. Stay focused on individual conversations. Look people in the eye, not around the room for the next conversation. Make a connection, and find a shared sense of value and take the conversation all the way through to the discovery process itself.
Networking can be a critical component of your financial advisor marketing strategy. For additional resources on improving your networking, I would suggest these two resources; this recent article in Inc. magazine, “How to Leverage Your Best Contacts”, and Lisa Petrilli’s new book, “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership.”
For a ClientWise Success Tool on how to use LinkedIn with your networking process, please see below: