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Life Health > Running Your Business

Meeting a prospect at a social event: the right way to network

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So you’re standing at a barbeque, beer and plate of chicken in hand, and you’re talking to another guest who is a pretty interesting person. 

You find out that he/she is a business owner, rather successful, and an intelligent and likable person. You can’t help thinking “This is the kind of business owner I’d like to have as a client.”

Now what do you do?

Unfortunately, many financial advisors don’t have a good answer to that question. If you don’t handle the situation correctly, you can do one of two horrid things:

  1. You can possibly lose an opportunity to create a new client; or

  2. You can become the social pariah of the century.

The first part of “what to do” takes place at the event.  Other professionals are more well-versed on proper networking skills in this circumstance, but I’ll share their best advice: “Don’t pounce!”  By asking prospects questions about their business you can gain valuable information. Your behavior will show that you are appropriately interested in them. You will also be able to determine out how to best to contact them later. 

When you meet new people at a social event, they will often ask you “And what do you do?” If you’ve mastered the art of questioning people about their work life, you can frame your answer in a way that relates to them

My friend, networker extraordinaire Michael Goldberg, has a favorite phrase: “Funny you should ask.” And it aptly applies when the other person asks you about your career. 

If you truly listen to stories that prospects tell you about their business, you can formulate your answer in a way that applies to their life.  This will give you the opening to start a real relationship with them.

If you have reveal prospects’ business challenges through ordinary social conversation, you can get them to expand on them at the party. Then you might say, “That’s something we have a lot of information about.  This isn’t the right venue for us to get into detail, but I’d be happy to give you a call and schedule a time to talk further.”  This is your first chance to see if they’re amenable to an additional conversation. 

People always ask me if they should bring business cards to social events. Remember, it’s more important to bring a pen than your business cards.  First, who is going to call you back?? No one. 

But your chance to make a follow-up call, such as in the above example, means that you will need to get their phone number.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s why napkins were invented!!

It’s unlikely that someone will immediately pull out their smart phone and schedule an appointment in the middle of, say, a wedding party. (Though in these days of reliance on technology, who knows?)  But they will give you their phone number —availing you of the opportunity to schedule the second conversation.

The phone call to this new prospect needs to be structured as follows:

  • First: Say hello and your name.

  • Second: Remind them about where you met and a brief part of the conversation that will jog their memory as to what you discussed about their business.

  • Third: Reintroduce the idea of getting together to share information, as promised

  • Fourth: Tell them what might be the benefit of knowing that information

  • And last, ask for the appointment.

Example: Hi, Bill, this is Gail Goodman. We met at John and Susan’s wedding last weekend and during our conversation you told me that your major challenge has been to attract good talent and keep your competitors from stealing them away. 

I had told you that at my company (ABC Financial) we have a lot of ideas on how you might be able to do that. And I’d like to find a time when we can sit down and expand on our conversation.  I know you’re a busy person, so what is generally the least crazy time of day for you – mornings or afternoons?

The key to successful social prospecting is the combination of what you talk about at the event and how you use the information they share on the follow-up phone call.  Your first skill needs to be an ability to create the conversation (“Tell me more about that.”)

Then you can subtly suggest that a more detailed conversation might be in order. Once you are ready to make the call, you must extract the part of the conversation you can most use as a benefit for suggesting the appointment.

Many new advisors are challenged by this type of prospecting because they are getting used to the new “mantle” of being a financial advisor.  It is important to remember that when you attend social events, you are first a guest.  And good guests talk to other people.

Since that is our forte, we should use our genuine interest in other people, our subtle questioning skills and our likeability to create a possible opportunity for an appointment.

If you find yourself getting anxious, it probably means that you are more focused on “getting a new lead” than in genuinely enjoying the process.  First, have a good time.

After that, see if something naturally arises while being a good guest. The more you ask people about themselves, the more they like you.  The best result of that: more social invitations. 

As my mother always said, “Remember to behave yourself.”




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