So much of my business is from referrals. Introductions made by existing clients who want their friends, family members, colleagues, teammates, neighbors, networks to benefit in some way from my services as a financial advisor. I have forged relationships with new clients in the supermarket or coffee shop, on the golf course or just from being in the “right place at the right time”. Because my clients are both individuals and businesses, It’s important to me that people know what I do and how I can help them so that I come to mind when the time is right for them, or so that they might refer me to people they know. I network often and try and help to connect people with the services they need and the professionals who can provide them. At the beginning of the year, many business professionals seek more referrals and networking (whether in person or not) is often top of mind.
Over the years, I have learned some important lessons from networking that I want to share to help provide some insight:
- Always carry a business card. When you are out in the community, there may be opportunities in unexpected places for you to connect professionally. Don’t get caught off guard, keep them in your gym bag, glove compartment, wallet, eyeglass case, money clip, phone wallet, etc.
- Be resourceful. Be knowledgeable about other businesses/professionals in the area so that if people want to know who does something, you are able to connect them to that resource. One thing that is a bit “old school” is to have a binder with plastic card holder sheets so that you can collect business cards and see them at a glance - you can also scan business cards and organize them online.
- Be a rainmaker. Who do you know who others you know should meet? Make the connection between the two parties by setting up a meeting for the three of you - a lunch, a coffee, whatever. Help those who you think might like to know each other - perhaps they call upon the same types of clients, perhaps they might work jointly as complementary businesses, perhaps they just would enjoy making a new friend.
- Say thank you. I try to write at least two thank you notes a day. I keep a stack of cards on my desk. I want people to know they and their services are appreciated. An email is nice (and certainly better than nothing!), a handwritten note is kept. I am not perfect at this, but I am improving.
- Talk to the wallflowers. I see this time and time again - people go to networking events and only talk to and hang out with the people they already know. While it is fine to say hello and chat for a minute, that is not why you are there. Go and find someone who is not talking to anyone else. Bring them into the fold. Learn about their business. I have met some pretty great people that way.
- If someone gives you a lead or introduction, reward the activity not the result. If someone gives you a lead or introduction, thank them for the activity, regardless of whether it works out or not. Follow up on the lead/introduction promptly and let the person who referred you know that you called or met with their referral. They will be more likely to refer to you again because you took their suggestions seriously.
- Don’t assume. I have been in networking groups over the years and a number of my co-workers are presently. Some of the best referrals have come from people in businesses that some others may not have taken seriously - everyone knows somebody! Never make assumptions about someone else’s network.
- Don’t be a one way networker. The purpose of networking is not just to share referrals, but to share knowledge, to share resources. Don’t just take - look for ways to help other people to make connections, to develop professionally, to connect with resources for their business, to learn something new. If you take and never give, people get turned off to that.
- Share in the work. If you belong to a networking group, share in the work. Whether this is taking the meal reservations, arranging for a speaker, moderating the meeting, helping to recruit new members, everyone should do their part.
- Never stop networking. There are always people to meet. Whether these connections begin online in social media, by phone, in person, or by mail (one of the best employees I have who has worked with me for 15 years wrote me a letter to network for a job), never stop networking. Everyone has something to bring to the table - an idea, inspiration, resources, or information.
The opinions expressed are those of the author. Seek professional advice before taking any action in regard to your finances.
Todd A. Slingerland, CFP®
6 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203
(518) 867-4000 x105 firstname.lastname@example.org www.capitalfinancialplanning.net