I received the following email today:
"After I listened to your audio on networking yesterday, I stopped to pick up a container of coffee at my local coffee shop. There was this man sitting at a table having his coffee and bagel. I sat down at a table along side of him and said hello.
"He turned to me and asked if I was retired, because I wasn't dressed in business attire. I replied to him that I was not, and was just there to pick up a coffee and bagel. He asked what I do for a living, and I told him I'm a Certified Professional Estimator. I followed your instructions to the letter of your audio on networking and asked him what line of business he was in and what I could do for him.
"Interestingly enough, he is the landlord of the shopping mall that this particular coffee shop was in. He explained to me his life history and we chatted for an hour.
"Guess what? I picked up a new client! Any work that will be performed in his mall that involves estimating construction costs will go to me. He will also be referring me to other mall landlords that he is connected with. Not bad, huh? As you indicated, you never know who you will be in contact with, and so you should position yourself to see what you can do for them."
No, this is not a tall tale about a financial advisor - but it could be! How many times do you stand in line at a grocery store, sit next to someone at a sporting event, or find yourself across the table from someone while sipping your coffee? These are networking stories just waiting to happen. We leave opportunities on the table every day!
You don't need to attend a networking event to network. Network, as in "to network," is a verb - an action word (as my third grade teacher Mrs. Ross used to say). You can network and create action almost anywhere.
I'm not suggesting you slap your business card in the hand of anyone and everyone you come in contact with and preach the benefits of whole or term life insurance. (I know financial advisors who do this, by the way - not good.) What I am suggesting is being friendly, interested, and a bit gutsy, when appropriate.
How to maintain your presence
How? When you make eye contact with someone or happen to be in close quarters, simply introduce yourself and maybe follow up with a few questions, again, as appropriate.
I do this all the time in airports, on airplanes, in hotel lobbies - even in the diner where I have my breakfast and read the morning paper. It's always helpful if you're in a business setting where people are frequently going to or coming from work.
(I know a conference-level producer who takes a lot of trips while traveling first class and staying in the best hotels. His reason is, he's more likely to meet people who can afford to be his clients this way; he just strikes up conversations wherever he happens to be, and lets nature take its course.)
Then again, you don't have to be in a business setting. You could be at an amusement park, waiting with another parent for your kid to come off the rides. It doesn't matter - just read the situation, use your best judgment, and take a deep breath. Other than park security hunting you down, you have nothing to lose.
But what do I say?
- "Hi, my name is Michael." (Best to use your own name.)
- "Nice to meet you!"
- "What kind of work do you do?"
- "What company are you with?"
- "Do you like what you do?"
These are great starting points. People are naturally curious, and if you come across as genuine and friendly, they'll often ask you the same (or similar) questions. And now you're networking!
Nowhere to go but up
Now, possibly more than ever, people are looking for good financial advice. You might be able to provide some in the most unlikely of places - and land a client. You never know until you start a conversation.
And remember: Networking is a verb, an action word.
Michael Goldberg is a speaker, author, consultant and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting.For more information or to subscribe to Michael's free online newsletter and blog The Building Blocks to Success please visit www.NetworkingForProducers.com or www.TheBuildingBlockstoSuccess.com.