How to Make a Connection

Boxing, like networking, is about the connection! The more and better connections you make (in and out of the ring!), the better!

So what better place to combine boxing and networking than a boxing Hall of Fame dinner?

Well, funny enough, I attended the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame awards dinner last week and the turnout was incredible! Being an amateur boxer, I was in my glory. The attendees were made up of professional boxers (active and retired), referees, ring judges, promoters, trainers, cut men, sports writers, analysts and commentators from HBO, Showtime, and ESPN, and lots of others in the pro boxing community. I got there early and had the chance to meet a few big time commentators and get their perspectives on upcoming fights.

I was lucky enough to be seated at a table with a couple of retired boxers that were about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. After receiving their awards (a miniature championship belt on a stand for display), they sat back down at our table and of course, I offered my congratulations.

One of the fighters (a big name in the heavyweight division) handed me the award so I could get a closer look. He was all smiles and of course, very proud of his accomplishment. He was engaging as he shook a lot of hands (kissed a lot of babies) and stayed in the moment.

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a boxer smile so much!

When I passed the award around the table so it could make its way back to him, the newly “crowned” Hall of Fame boxer motioned for me to come to his side of the table. When I approached him, I kneeled down (since he was sitting) and shook his hand. The fighter seemed to not be in the best of health as he was walking with a cane and had a difficult time getting around. He said he wanted my help with something and motioned to whisper in my ear. I figured he wanted me to take a picture or to simply help him out of his chair.

What he asked me almost knocked me on the floor. “Can you give me some money?”

I didn’t know what to say. I was so surprised that I excused myself and walked out of the room. Here was a Hall of Fame boxer that I looked up to that didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. Pretty sad. And it seems not an unusual circumstance for retired boxers that have lost or mismanaged their money (Financial advisors, are you getting this?).

My business partner (who also attended the dinner) and I put some money together and gave it to the fighter on the ‘down low’. As I gave him the money while shaking his hand, he thanked me as we both got emotional. As I left the event, I noticed other attendees shaking the boxer’s hand while also making a “donation”. Seems I wasn’t the only one he asked for help.

Although it was sad, I was amazed at how great this fighter was at smiling, making a connection, and getting an immediate payoff.

OK, transition time!

As a financial advisor, broker, planner, rep, business owner, service provider, or sales producer, can you work a room and make a connection like a former prizefighter looking for his next meal?

Other than some pointers on my jab, here are some things I learned that night.

If you’re at an event – cocktail party, awards dinner, association meeting, chamber mixer, whatever, it’s so important to look like you’re having fun and actually want to be there! Hopefully you do. Smiling and laughing are the best ways to accomplish the fun factor. You’ll attract more fun people and have a much easier time making a connection and potentially developing a relationship. By the way, who do you think you’ll meet if you’re NOT smiling?

Have a great opener
What is the best possible thing you can say to someone when you meet them? It doesn’t have to be witty, it just has to be engaging. Of course, if you can be witty, all the better! “Listen, I’m horrible at meeting new people so I’m going to practice on you and you can tell me how I did. Fair enough? My name is ….” “I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only financial advisor in the room but I’m hoping to be the most memorable. My name is…”

My favorite “opener” is “My name is Michael. Very nice to meet you. Boy, do I have an interesting story to share with you!” (The HOF story I shared earlier became my “opener” a few times already. It created immediate interest and engagement and that’s the point!) Share an interesting story with those you meet and speak to. Just don’t go on and on. Allow others to share the stage!

Let them know what you want
When the time is right, absolutely let those you meet know what you ultimately want to accomplish. “I’m always looking to meet CPA’s that do work with manufacturing companies.” Don’t expect others to introduce you to their best contacts and clients because it takes time to earn trust and develop relationships but do let people know your goals. Just don’t forget to ask about their goals, dreams, and aspirations.

Be thankful
“I really appreciate your time and getting the chance to meet and know you better!” “Thank you for your advice, insight, and recommendations. I will absolutely take you up on your suggestion.” If you can be thankful and show that those you meet (not all of them of course) have made a difference, they’ll have no problem helping you in the future.

Of course, don’t forget to use common courtesy, mind your manners, follow up, stay in touch, and develop a relationship over time. All easy stuff I know!

Don’t worry, when you’re a celebrity, you won’t have to work that hard at it either!

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