Networking is an essential skill for any financial advisor. The right connections can elevate your business from fledgling to thriving. The more people you know, the more opportunities will present themselves. Depending on your personal style, you may find networking events exhilarating, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying. You might prefer chatting in groups or talking one-on-one. Whatever your preference, the following suggestions can help anyone better their approach to networking.
If you’re someone who dreads networking events, it may help to prepare yourself in advance. Research the event to find out who it will attract. Try to identify a short list of people whom you want to meet. Having a specific list of people to “find” can help make a crowded room less overwhelming. Think of a few conversation starters that you can use if things get awkward. Learn a bit about the venue: Will they be serving food or beverages? What’s the dress code? The last thing you want is to be self-conscious about your attire. Meditation or relaxation exercises before the event may help lessen the anxiety, too.
2. Be Authentic
This is probably this single most important thing to remember: Be authentic. Nobody likes listening to a sales pitch or talking to a phony persona. Don’t spend your conversations looking around for someone more important to talk to. Don’t worry about selling your services to anyone. Instead, focus on building a rapport with others and getting to know more about them and their business. Most people gravitate toward those who are friendly, genuine, and engaged in what others are saying.
The best way to get people on your side is to help them out. Figure out what you can do for them, not the other way around. Building a positive reputation can pay big dividends in the long run. Demonstrate your expertise by giving the occasional tidbit of free advice and act in service of others.
Networking will amount to very few results without follow-up. Take notes of names and opportunities. Be sure to contact people later so they don’t forget you. LinkedIn makes this process easier than an email or phone call. Make it a habit to look up a contact on LinkedIn after meeting him or her and send an invitation to connect along a short message.
Don’t be afraid to step away from a networking event. If you feel overwhelmed, head outside for a minute or even adjourn to the bathroom. A moment of alone-time can also be the perfect opportunity to write things down, refresh your mind, or motivate yourself to keep networking.
Whatever you do, remember to relax. Smile. Have fun. If you don’t hit it off with people, that’s okay. If you feel uncomfortable, just remember that most of the people there probably feel the same way. Even social butterflies can find networking events exhausting. You don’t have to be the life of the party, just friendly and personable. Once you’ve been to several events, it’ll start becoming routine. Keep at it and watch your network grow.