Because networking is the lifeblood of any profitable business, many financial advisors are always looking for ways to do it right. Here are some suggestions that will put you on the right path to networking your way to success.
First, think about the professionals who could benefit from your help. For us, these include CPAs, tax planners, insurance professionals, valuation specialists, attorneys, realtors and mortgage professionals.
Once you have your target, start networking. Some of the best networking tips I know are from Ford Harding’s book Rain Making. Here are 10 tips I have paraphrased from the book:
1. Networking is all about helping people. Helping your clients and referral partners achieve their goals is important. The best way to do this is to give them real help without conditions or expectations. This means you will sometimes give without getting back. Don’t count pennies and minutes—your goodwill will come back to you.
2. Learn about your referral partners’ services and how to spot leads for them. You must know enough about what your partners do to be truly effective. Review their materials and ask them to give you their client presentations. Ask them how they acquire clients, what their average client looks like, what the appropriate qualifying questions are, and, what is most important, how you can help them.
3. Don’t keep score. If you give a referral partner four leads and he gives you two after you have both made your best efforts, you have done what you set out to do. Treat your networking relationship as you would a friendship.
4. Realize that networking involves a sense of urgency and obligation. I know this is the opposite of No. 3. But for networking to work, you should actively try to help someone who has helped you. Go through your client lists, review the names in your Rolodex and don’t wait for the client with a flashing light that says, “I need a CPA” to walk through the door before thinking about making a referral.
5. Show your referral how your services may add value to his business. Explain how your services enhance the value of your referral’s practice by making his business process move more easily or more quickly or by enhancing his prestige and professional credibility. Position your services in a way that shows value to both the prospect and the networking contact.
6. Show gratitude and appreciation to your referral. If a contact provides you with a well-researched lead, thank her and take her to lunch. Remember to treat her like a friend.
7. Maintain the trust that making a referral involves. Making a professional referral requires a great deal of trust because what happens will ultimately reflect on you. Remember that if the situation does not work out, you will have two disappointed and unhappy people on your hands—the referral source and the client. Deliver high levels of service and follow-through, and always have realistic expectations.
8. Spend your time selling the services of your referral source. You are very credible in describing the services of people you trust. Use strong adjectives such as honest, skilled, etc., in doing so. Helping a networking partner to close a deal and sell his services is the biggest help you can offer.
9. Put the time in. As you reap, so shall you sow. Networking can be very effective, but it requires a sustained and consistent effort and must be nurtured over time. Keep in touch with your referral partner and always advise him of any changes or new products and services you might have.
10. Be selective about who you network with. This allows you to give your time both tactically and selflessly to working with these individuals. Pick the right partners, give the partnership a sincere and sustained effort, and don’t be afraid to make changes. Here are some questions to ask when choosing networking partners:
- Who has sent me good leads in the past?
- Who sells to the same people I do?
- Who benefits from the same events and circumstances that I do?
- Whom do my competitors successfully network with?
- Whom can I help?
- Who has asked me for help in the past?
- Whom have I been able to help in the past?
- Who wants to help me?
- Who is really good at networking?
Ike Z. Devji, J.D., is executive vice president of The Wealthy 100, a wealth-strategy firm in Phoenix, and of-counsel to the law firm of Lodmell & Lodmell, P.C. He consults on asset protection for high-net-worth clients. You can contact him at email@example.com.