Are you networking properly?

Many people think of networking as “schmoozing”. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking may lead to some very unsuccessful networking. After all, you know a “schmoozer” when you see one – right? So do most people. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

The best networking is genuine networking. Be yourself. Make real connections. Granted – to do this you must trust yourself and believe in what you’re doing. That’s key. But if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, you’ve got bigger problems than your networking. You may want to go back to square one and re-think your business.

Before you network, spend some time considering what outcome you want to achieve. What is your ultimate goal that you feel networking will help you reach (or get closer to reaching)? Once you know the answer to that question, don’t be afraid to articulate it. Too often I find myself being “schmoozed” and I can’t even figure out why, or what the person hopes to gain from connecting with me. Be clear.

When talking to someone, articulate what it is you do (and what makes you special – yes, special) in a straightforward and concise manner. You will get asked what it is that you do, and if you ramble on with a long-winded explanation, you’re failing. Develop a brief statement that conveys your message quickly … and completely.

WRONG:
“I do all kinds of things. Um, like I help some people with their retirement, and I do some stuff with 403bs. I used to teach, before I … oh and I do 401k, too. You know, sometimes. Of course. And … you know, pretty much whatever.”

WRONG:
“I’m a financial advisor.”
(Better than the above, but not powerful enough.)

RIGHT:
“I started out as an economics professor, and now I specialize in helping Virginia educators work toward their retirement goals.”

In that one, short statement you’ve let them know all the right things …

  • What you do
    • Retirement planning
  • Who you do it for
    • Educators in Virginia
  • What sets you apart
    • You used to be an educator yourself … and in a financial field!

Another key to networking? Remember – it’s a two way street. LISTEN. It may sound intuitive, but too often people are so consumed with delivering their own message that they completely forget to pay attention to what anyone else has to say. Really listen to what others tell you. Ask open-ended questions and avoid those that can simply be replied to with a “yes” or a “no”. Don’t talk about the weather. Be confident in asking questions that lead into meaningful conversation.

Above all – never be afraid to ask the questions you want to ask. For example – “How do you feel about your current financial advisor?” That single question (which can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”) could lead you right into a meaty conversation. If the answer starts out with, “Well,” or “Um,” or “Actually,” – they’re probably open to looking elsewhere. If the response you get is “I love him/her.” – congratulate that person! … and still take their card. You can offer to send them your weekly or monthly newsletter or keep in touch. Couldn’t hurt. Remember this – you’re a powerful resource, and networking results take time.

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