Networking: A One-Two Punch!

You don’t have to be a boxing fan to appreciate this! On Saturday, September 17th, Floyd Mayweather fought Victor Ortiz for the Welterweight Championship scheduled for 12 rounds. It went 4. Here’s why. In the fourth round, Ortiz starts getting the best of Mayweather (or so it seems) and head butts him. The ref calls time out and deducts a point from Ortiz. Ortiz apologizes profusely to Mayweather going as far as kissing him on the cheek to get on his good side. The ref calls time in and as Ortiz goes for one last embrace with gloves down, Mayweather steps back and shoots a left hook straight right combination knocking him down for the count.

Cheap shot? Maybe! Did he break the rules? Not really.

One of the rules in boxing is to “protect yourself at all times”. The ref even reminds the fighters of this before they touch gloves and come out fighting.

Ortiz made a rookie mistake and it cost him.

It’s kind of the same thing when networking at an event – except there’s no such rule and no ref. How often do financial advisors, brokers, and agents put those they meet in a “protect yourself at all times” mindset? How many people avoid financial advisors for this very reason?

Given the state of the economy, unemployment, and other factors, people need financial advisors more than ever. And you can probably help more people now than ever before. But the key may be in improving how you talk to people and adding more value to your conversations.

Hey, there’s probably nothing you can do about the stereotype people have about financial advisors, but there’s plenty you can do about your own behavior when going a few rounds at a networking event, cocktail party, golf outing, chamber mixer, association meeting, or wherever.

Let’s touch gloves and discuss how to not put others on the defensive when networking.

Selling your products and services. OK, don’t do this. It’s not nice and it puts people on the defensive. (As you know it’s a big time stereotype.) Focus on networking (learning from and potentially helping people), creating common ground, and establishing a relationship.

Ask questions – about them. So, what kind of work do you do? Who do you work for? Do you like what you do? What brings you to this event? How do you market your business? What does the ideal prospect look like for you? How would I know if I met them? Have you attended this meeting before? How did you learn of this event? What keeps you coming back? What do you do for fun (when you’re not working or at events like this)? What can I do to help you? (If you happen to like them.) Get the picture? If you ask great questions about them, the may ask similar questions about you!

Have a great elevator pitch. This shouldn’t be scripted but you should have an idea of how to talk about what you do, your expertise, target marketplace, and specific people that you’re looking to meet and be introduced to. This can be a “commercial” featured as part of a 30 second spot at a networking meeting or a “back and forth” conversation. Either way, discuss these four aspects of the elevator pitch (when asked).

Be a connector. Look to introduce people to one another if it makes good sense to do so. If you meet a CPA that’s focused on meeting a banker and you can play match maker, why not? Helping others succeed makes you feel good and always comes back tenfold. That’s just the way it works.

Follow up. If there’s a good reason to. After a good conversation of exchanging ideas and figuring out how you might help one another over time, offer an opportunity to reconnect. (That’s what business cards are for!) This could be by phone or face to face. Think relationship. I look to set up a follow up conversation if I genuinely like the person I’ve met, see the mutual value in developing a relationship, and have definite next steps to discuss. If this isn’t the case, there’s no reason to follow up and no reason to even bring it up.

Simple, right? Actually not so simple. It takes constant reminders and practice. But if you go to the right places, say the right things, and meet the right people, it becomes easier – and more profitable.

Follow these approaches the next time you’re networking at an event or talking with clients and centers of influence. Remember, don’t make rookie mistakes. It will cost you!

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