OK, so you’ve made it to the networking event. Now what? For many, it can be daunting to approach complete strangers – especially when you’re a financial advisor and when everyone becomes guarded when you mention what you do. There’s no sure thing when meeting new people because everyone is so different, and we all tend to have our own agendas.
What is networking?
Networking is all about meeting people, getting to know them, and potentially helping them. That’s it! When looking to “work the room,” always refer back to the most successful definition of networking: learning about and helping others. When your objective is to learn something about other people – or, even better, your target market – you can’t lose. Make it your objection to look into their culture, trends related to their profile, upcoming conferences they might benefit from, information on products that might help them, articles and publications related to their experience, and further contacts from whom they benefit. Helping someone in your target market is even better. Givers always gain, and favors get returned, especially when the time comes to ask for them. Remember, you’re looking to start a relationship. Choose your attitude before arriving at the meeting, be genuine, and have fun.
What to ask
Repeat after me: It’s all about them. Confidently introduce yourself and ask a series of general questions to learn more about your contact’s work, goals, and initiatives. Here are some of my favorite questions to ask people to break the ice and, more importantly, to get to know them.
- “How did you learn of this meeting?” (If it’s not obvious)
- “‘Have you been here before?” If yes, “What brought you back?”
- “Do you know a lot of people here?”
- “What kind of work do you do?” (Again, if it’s not obvious)
- “What company do you work for?”
- “How long have you been at it?”
- “Do you like what you do?”
- “What is it about your work you like most? Least?”
- “What are you looking for here?”
- “‘Do you have a target market?”
- “How do you market your business?”
- “What does a perfect prospect look like for you? Why?”
- “What do you do for fun?” (Sports, kids, vacation, hobbies, etc.)
- “What can I do to help you?” (If I like them!)
That’s my short list, in no short order – and no particular order. I pick and choose as appropriate and as the conversation flows. Notice how it’s all about them? If you develop a good connection or the person you meet is any kind of networker, they should be asking you the same questions right back. Remember, this will almost always begin as a superficial conversation. If there is a connection, then great; if not, that’s fine, too. After a few minutes, just say, “It was nice to meet you. Let me know if I can help you with anything at the event today; otherwise, good luck, and I hope to see you soon.” And that’s it. Never be rude, off-putting, or curt with anyone. Keep in mind that most people (even financial advisors) are not very good at talking to strangers.