SteveBillinghamConsulting

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Networking your way to more new clients

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.

Natural Fears

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.


Quote of the week

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.

Mahatma Ghandi


Quote of the week

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.

Ralph Marston


Quote of the week

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

Walt Disney


Quote of the week

While we are postponing, life speeds by

Seneca


Do your clients REALLY trust you?

According to a research by PWC, trust in financial services organisations has fallen even further. In their report “Stand out for the right reasons – How financial services has lost it’s mojo and how it can get it back”, they report that according to their survey only 28% of consumers trust financial advisers. Worse still only 6% of consumers say their trust in advisers has increased over the last 12 months, which presumably means that 9$% trust them less or the same as 12 months ago.

Not a great starting point. But all is not lost.

I’m sure that most advisers would agree that it takes significant effort to win and maintain a client’s trust. Today’s investors are more cautious in selecting which individual or firm to entrust their assets to, given the banking crisis and market unpredictability.

How can you best present yourself to prospective and existing clients in a way that demonstrates a tangible commitment to act in their best interests? Let’s assume for a minute that competence based trust is a given. How do you establish trust based around values and character?

Human nature suggests that people are more willing to trust someone who shows an interest in them and a willingness to listen and share openly. Just think about the people who you trust and the level of openness that exists between you.

Successful advisers understand how to connect with their clients on a personal and emotional level. They take actions which evidence a client centred approach in all aspects of client management from planning and preparing for client meetings to communications and problem resolution.

Getting to really know clients in a deeper more meaningful way requires an understanding of how they got to where they are today and what’s important to them regarding their personal and financial future.

Clients genuinely appreciate when you enquire not just about their assets and wealth, but about their health, goals, interests, hobbies and family.

Author Tom Friedman wrote “never underestimate how much people just want to feel that they have been heard, and once you have given them that chance, they will hear you”.

The relationship for years to come is established from the first meeting onwards. Investing the time to explore, connect and set expectations means that clients know what they can expect and you will earn their trust if you consistently deliver against those expectations.

There are 4 keys or behaviours to building trust.

Firstly, Be curious

Go into each and every client interaction with a curious mindset. Ask great questions. Make it your goal to find out something new about the client every single time. Look for opportunities to get new client insights that will help you to build a deeper relationship with them.

Secondly… be genuinely present.

Avoid “tuning out”. Be more intentional during each client interaction and stay focused on them and the emotional, intellectual and behavioural signals they give you. Re-state, confirm and summarise things regularly.

And don’t be afraid to “self disclose”… to tell them things about yourself that might not be widely known. It’s a great way to grow trust.

Next, communicate frequently and openly.

As busy as you are running your business, it’s important to spend time communicating with clients so that they don’t infer that they aren’t important, merely because there’s an absence of contact.

And be willing to communicate about “more than money”. Once clients realize that you’re paying attention to a broader range of issues and aren’t always trying to sell them something, trust will grow significantly.

Finally look for “defining moments”.

Defining moments are opportunities to do something that demonstrates to the client that their interests are your number one concern. It might be to do with how you deal with a problem, concern or mistake that’s been made. It might be offering to do something that falls outside the scope of what you’ve agreed to do.

Do those 4 things consistently and you’re on the fast track to building trust.


Quote of the week

You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.

Charles Buxton


Two extremes of customer service

Last week was pretty hectic in terms of client work with  consulting days in Europe and back here in the UK and for this post I wanted to share with you two “polar opposite examples of “customer experience”.

I’ll leave you to choose which to model your own “client experience” on.

After a “full on” couple of days over in Europe I flew back into Heathrow at 6.30 p.m. to have dinner with a client about a 30/40 minute drive from the airport ahead of another consulting day the following morning. I had booked and paid for a hire car from Europcar (through an online booking agency) and had with me all the necessary paperwork including both parts of my driving license.

I arrived at the check in desk in the terminal to find it unmanned, with a sign instructing me to head to the relevant bus stop to be taken to the car pick up point. On arrival there I had to pick up a ticket from a machine (for a moment I thought I must have wandered accidentally into Sainsbury’s deli counter) and wait to be called by one of only 2 people manning the desks. Other staff were around and chatting with each other, but I might as well have been invisible. I was clearly expected to wait (along with a number of others behind me in the queue).

I was eventually called forward and gave my name and booking voucher to the clerk, who seemed to be incapable of making any kind of eye contact. I was then asked for both parts of my driving license which I duly supplied. The clerk continued to focus his attention on his keyboard as he entered my details.  He then asked me whether the address on my license was my current address.

“Absolutely” I answered confidently.

“Oh”, he replied, “this address is coming up as a ‘fail'”. I explained that I had only lived there for 3 months or so, but that it was indeed my current address. (As many of you will know I am currently living with my daughter prior to moving into our new house at the end of the month. When we moved, I informed all and sundry of my daughter’s address including HMRC, DVLA, my car insurer, my credit card companies and my personal and business banks and all the documentation I had with me had this address on it).

“Where did you live before” he asked. So I told him. He then said “If this second address also comes up as a ‘fail’ I won’t be able to let you have the car”.

Well, you guessed it… it did! And he flatly refused to hire me the car. He also refused to accept a fax copy of a bank statement with my address on as proof. He offered no alternative solution. He then went on to explain that “their system” and “their policy”was what he had to go by (even when it is wrong!!)

When I asked if he might ask his bus driver colleague to drop me at an alternative car hire depot (there were 2 within 200 yards but it was tipping it down by now), again he refused.

I thanked him for being so helpful and headed out into the elements. And that’s when I met Rasha!

Rasha was behind the check in desk at Enterprise, just next door (in Heathrow terms) to the Europcar depot. As I wandered into their office I was on the phone with my client explaining that I was going to be late for dinner and might not even make it at all. I must have been having a bit of a rant because when I came off the phone Rasha asked “What on earth has happened sir, is there a problem?”

“You could say that” I replied and I explained what had happened.

“Let’s see if we can get you sorted and on your way then… how can I help?” she offered.

I’ll spare you the detail but in less than 5 minutes Rasha and I were walking to a car. As we walked outside, she said “I’ve given you a free upgrade!”, handed me the keys and paperwork for an SUV… and I was on my way.

The transformation in my state of mind and stress levels was extraordinary. Rasha literally saved my life.

Next time I’m in need of a hire car at Heathrow (which I am quite often these days), guess who’s going to get the business?


Quote of the week

Tough times never last, but tough people do

Dr Robert Schuller


Quote of the week

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant

Robert Louis Stevenson