Networking is a crucial part of developing a referral network and opening new doors. And many advisers we work with are building profitable businesses almost solely on referral business. So building a referral network is a great way to find new clients and prospects.
However, networking is not about trying to sell your services to someone the minute you walk in the door.
Networking is an opportunity to engage with new people and build rapport with them. It’s an opportunity to engage on an emotional level, explain what you do and discuss the challenges your co-networkers (and potential future clients) may be facing, and leave them thinking “sounds like just what I need”. You’re unlikely to win a new client on one outing but if you engage in a simple, straight-forward way, without being salesy or pushy, you’re likely to go on to have further meetings which over time should result in new business.
But networking sits outside the comfort zone of many, so here are a few fears you may be facing and also some top tips.
Many natural fears often deter people from networking at all. For example:
- What if I run out of things to say?
- What if I end up standing on my own?
- What if I end up stuck with someone I don’t like?
- I’m no good at small talk.
- I don’t like public speaking.
However, familiarity, practice and few techniques can help you to build confidence. Successful networking requires enthusiasm, focus and passion… it’s certainly no place for wallflowers. And, as we’ve said it’s a long-term game so don’t expect any quick wins.
Here are a few tips to help you build some confidence, create a good impression and to help you enjoy the experience:
- Be present – no glancing over your shoulder, fiddling with your phone or looking at your watch when you’re talking to people. Sounds obvious, but it happens.
- Maintain eye contact, actively listen and ask great questions.
- Be positive and welcoming; try to maintain a relaxed, open posture and smile – it’s infectious!
- Have some conversation starters up your sleeve and try to find common ground.
- Make an excuse if you want to move on. Use the fact that it’s a networking event to excuse yourself to connect with other people.
- Most importantly have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch that you use to explain who you are, what you offer and the benefits your clients receive. Use this one-to-one or at any events when you are given your 60 second chance to shine.
- Deliver on promises by following up on any referrals in a professional and positive way.
- Follow up with every individual you meet on a one-to-one basis, either by email or phone, to acknowledge the meeting and possibly enclose some high level details about your business. Keep building the relationship.
- Develop an effective “keep in touch” strategy with members of your network. Meet informally for coffee or the occasional lunch, email them and send them copies of your newsletter.
- And take plenty of business cards.
Networking isn’t for everyone, but if you observe these tips, you never know, you might even enjoy it.