We all know how to network, right? Actually, the question isnt rhetorical. If youre not turning many of your networking contacts into rock-solid customers, now may be the time to reassess your schmoozing skills.
Successful networkers, say advisors reached by National Underwriter, fine-tune efforts that systematically lead to new business. Among them: winning over people who can influence prospects; serving as a “strategic connector” and information resource for others; and being persistent in following up with promising leads.
Youre more likely to excel at all of these endeavors, producers agree, if youre discriminating about the folks you spend time with. To wit: Partake in activities that youre passionate about and that will link you to people who share your interests.
Trisha Gallagher Boisvert, a partner at The Gallagher Group, Andover, Mass., generates leads through 3 groups of personal interest: a successful womens entrepreneurial group, a mothers group and the local parent-teacher organization (PTO).
Michael OSullivan, a financial services professional for the Island Group, a Woodbury, N.Y.-based affiliate of MassMutual, interacts with business prospects at the Chamber of Commerce of Huntington, Long Island. He also serves on Chamber of Commerce committees, noting the volunteer efforts strengthen relationships with people who might provide ongoing referrals.
These individuals, popularly dubbed “centers of influence,” are key to effective networking, producers agree. Barry Zimmerman, a financial advisor for the Bulfinch Group, Boston, Mass., says these peoplemany of them existing clients and others who are just good friendshelp subtly to plug his business at the informal events he hosts for prospective clients.
“These outings are more about fun than finance,” says Zimmerman. “People are overwhelmed in their lives. While they may not make time to hear about estate planning, theyll certainly make time to divert themselves from stress to fun.”
An avid sports buff, Zimmerman avails clients and prospects of season tickets to professional baseball and basketball games in Boston. And he frequently sponsors golf lessons under the banner, “Swing for Success.”
“Ive found that by giving, you get back tremendously,” he says. “But theres a difference about giving. Theres giving whats easy to give and giving whats meaningful to receive. The key is to determine whats meaningful to prospects.”
For most prospective clients, adds Bob Littell, president of Jasper, Ga.-based Littell Consulting, whats especially meaningful to receiveand costs nothing to provideare contacts to people who can help them professionally or personally. To that end, he regularly arranges in-person meetings through a process he calls “netweaving.”