November 15, 2011

To Do’s and Don’ts of Soliciting Your Personal Network

A “real friend” might brush a solicitation off and think no more about it, but too many solicitations to your “social connections” means you could earn a reputation you don’t want

I received the following e-mail from a young financial advisor named Hunter. He contacted me through Bill Good’s LinkedIn Profile, which you can do, too.

He wrote: “I have been enjoying your column in Research, and I just ordered Hot Prospects. Quick question: Why do you say not to "solicit" your friends/network for business?

"I am 26 and brand new in the financial-services industry, and all I keep hearing from books, my company, and others is "work your warm market," aka my personal network. I have called some people from this group and had some decent success closing business. Am I on the right track?

"This is something I am struggling with, because I don't want to put any of my friends in an awkward position (if that is the case); but I also need to grow my business and accomplish my income goals.  Plua, my mentor has never cold called and just grew his very successful business by working his warm market and third party referrals. Any clarity here would be greatly appreciated."

My reply: “Hunter, let’s talk about your skill in gauging the depth of the relationship. In your personal network are people with whom you have a deep personal relationship. You have worked on projects together. Perhaps you knew them from college. Many are your Facebook friends, and I mean friends. Short of really gross social errors, very few things you can say or do will permanently damage the relationship.

Let’s call this group “real friends.”

Ask them, “Do you know what I do now?” And then no matter what they say, explain what you do and ask them some questions to see if they have a need.

Then set an appointment. If they push back, then gently disengage. They go one step lower in your social ladder: social connections. They are cooler than your “warm market.” 

The definition of "social connection" is someone that you know that you would like to do business with, but who would feel awkward if you solicited their business directly. 

You have to decide, based on your people-reading skills, which group a person belongs to.

One of your “real friends” might just brush a solicitation off and think no more about it.

But too many solicitations to your “social connections,” and you could earn a reputation you don’t want.

Let’s say you know someone from church. This person owns 17 fast food franchises.

Real friend? Probably not.

He or she might well feel uncomfortable. You have not yet earned the right to solicit their business. The relationship is not strong enough. Solicit him, and a lot like him, and you will find the networks you want to penetrate are closed to you.

You broke the rule.

So my recommendation is: Network like crazy. Meet lots of people. Add them to your “private mailing list.”  Send educational material, feel good material, and interesting articles. Do this on company letterhead.

But never solicit. In time, your social connections will come to you.

***

Like you, I am very interested in building my LinkedIn® network. So I have an offer for you. If you will send me a LinkedIn invite, I will send you a sample letter you could send to your network of social connections. In your invitation, make sure you tell me, “Please send me the sample letter.” You don’t have a LinkedIn profile?  Ouch. Get one. Then send me an invitation: Bill Good’s LinkedIn Profile.

***

Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM® System helps advisors double their production or work half as much; visit www.billgood.com. His seminar program, “No More Pies! ®,” helps advisors manage ETF portfolios using technical analysis; see www.nomorepies.net. And his blog, financialadvisorsmarketing.net, has lots of useful information for advisors who need to beef up marketing. To preview Bill as a speaker, see his YouTube channel here: bit.ly/billgoodspeaker.

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