Frankie Dunn may have said it best when he says to his fighter Maggie Fitzgerald in the movie Million Dollar Baby, “Protect yourself at all times.”
That’s good advice for a fighter in the ring – and for the insurance advisor just learning the craft and going it alone. Well, you can’t go it alone as an advisor. You need to meet people and grow your network. Unfortunately, in trying to meet the right people, we don’t always succeed – which is to say that we sometimes meet the wrong people.
Here are a few of the people I have met at networking events, association meetings, conferences, conventions, and other business-related functions. Maybe you’ve met them too.
There’s always one of these. They’re negative about the economy, about health care reform, about the political climate, about their business, about the market – pretty much everything. Negative people love company and attract more negative people, so don’t be one of them. Try to only hang out with positive people. Positive people will lead to positive prospects, which will lead to positive clients.
All Harry cares about is selling to everyone that he can. He only wants to talk about his products and services. He’s sizing you up as a prospect, trying to identify your pain as it relates to your business, and looking to shake you down for your money. I have a gazillion stories about advisors looking to sell their services, do a fact-find, and set appointments right there at a networking event.
Self-Centered Sally is similar to Hard-Sell Harry, but it’s not so much that she’s pitching her wares as just wants to talk about how great she is at what she does, how everybody loves her, and how much money she makes. I work with a seasoned sales rep who’s new to her current role as a financial advisor; she previously worked in brokerage, along with some other places. She loves to tell you about all the important people she knows and how successful she’s been. People say she’s a know-it-all. I guess she needs to say all of these things to feel good about herself. Nobody benefits from those conversations other than her – and really, does she?
Ravenous Rick is just there for the buffet and the booze – that’s it. He’s happy if he can kibitz a little bit and get some drinks and nibbles. The ball game is on anyway, and he can fill his belly. If he has to chat about business, fine, but Rick doesn’t really want to talk about work, whether it’s his or anybody else’s. He’ll make small talk because he knows he should, but at the end of the day, Rick really couldn’t care less. He’s just glad he has a place to go and something to occupy his time. If business comes out of it, cool. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too – he had a good meal.
Ever go to an event and there’s someone working the room just to exchange business cards? If so, you’ve met Blackjack Betty. All Blackjack Betty cares about is throwing cards at people and collecting them; she thinks she’s in Atlantic City. So when she’s at an event, she wants to talk to a lot of people, but not for long. It’s really just about trading business cards to everybody she can. That’s networking in Blackjack Betty’s world. There is no rhyme or reason to her strategy, no target market, no focus. It’s a mixed-up shotgun approach: ready, fire, aim.
Silent Sam is doesn’t want to be there, but on some level, he knows he needs to be. He’s the guy who’s hanging around the coffee station; he’s shy, or at least reluctant to get out there to shake a hand and kiss a baby because he doesn’t want to come across as pitchy or sales-y. He may even lack confidence because he doesn’t know how to network. Sam hopes that the other person comes to him, but if that happens, then what? In fact, Silent Sam may be happiest when no one bothers him. He thinks, “You know, this networking stuff is not for me. It’s just not my thing. I’m quiet. I don’t really like to be around people like this.” He knows that’s wrong (especially for a financial advisor), and he feels a little down because of it, but again, the way he thinks is that, “I’ve escaped one. I’ve cheated the claws of death.”
All Social Susie wants to do is hang out with people she already knows and have a good time. Yes, it’s all about socializing – but that isn’t all bad. Of course, you should try to have a good time at a networking event, but it’s important not to forget your business purpose for being there in the first place. Now, there’s a lot to Social Susie. It’s not that she just wants to have a good time, but rather that she simply may not know how to have a good business conversation. In some cases, she may give the impression that she’s looking for a date (which could also be the case for the male version of Social Susie, Social Sid.) In some cases, this may be the only social outlet in Suzie’s life. Again, what’s the real purpose for Susie being there?
Networking Nick is a pro. He knows exactly why he’s at an event and what the outcome ought to be. Nick is out to meet people, help them, and learn something. He’s looking for his next venue so that he can do more of the same type of work that he’s so good at. Nick loves networking. He sees the value. The switch is always on for him, and he is very successful in his profession. In fact, Nick seems to know everybody, has the connections, has the ability, and loves nothing more than pointing people in the right direction for relationships. He’s a natural connector. Networking Nick chooses to hang out only with other Networking Nicks.
As an insurance advisor, it’s not up to you to change those mindsets – nor can you, really. It is, however, up to you to take Frankie Dunn’s advice and protect yourself at all times from people that are just out to waste your time and test your metal. Of course, some of these people are not all bad – they just may need some help. If you can help them, great. If not, move on.
So how many of these people have you met? And which one are you?
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.