Business happens at the speed of trust and, if there is no trust, no value, no genuine connection, or no synergy, all the dinners, ball games, and golf outings in the world aren’t going to change those relationships.
That goes for business socials (golf outings, fundraisers, company outings) or social or semi-social situations (out to dinner with another couple you’re getting to know, seeing those you see every week at your kid’s sporting event, family barbecues – depending on your relationship).
Here are some suggestions to help you do everything (or at least most things) right when looking to transform social situations (or business socials) into business relationships.
Start by Introducing Yourself
I know this seems obvious but this obvious first step can be daunting to some. At a golf outing or other business social event not introducing yourself would be weird so this is probably not an issue. But how about that other dad you see every week at your son’s soccer practice that seems like a nice guy? Or the cheer mom that’s always complimenting your kid on her tucks? Introduce yourself and start asking some general questions about the kids, the other parents, other activities, and maybe work life and see what happens!
It’s not just about handing out business cards and discussing the awesomeness of your products and services. There might be some of that (the awesomeness thing, that is) when the time is right but remember, you shouldn’t be pitching your services to those you meet at an event. Or those you share a golf cart with. They’re not your prospects. Unless they tell you they are. Networking is about learning and potentially helping people – build their business, hire their next employee, or land their next job. Or helping with whatever. If you help others, they tend to help you right back. As a friend of mine says, “I think they call that networking!”
It’s About THEM
Always focus on learning about the other person until they start asking questions about you. Typically, I don’t talk about myself unless someone asks me a specific question. The exception might be if something just happened in my world that I’m excited about and want to share. If something is going on in your business or even personal life that is so exciting that others will relate or be interested in hearing, feel free to share. But remember to shift gears and start asking questions about them. By being interested you become interesting!
Be a Connector
As you’re learning about people you meet, think about who you can introduce them to that will help their cause. Some brokers you work with (and those you’re looking to work with) may have a niche in let’s say the manufacturing industry. Maybe you know the VP of Operations for a manufacturer and can provide an introduction. Givers always gain so look to offer help and make connections in the best interest of the parties involved. Having said all of this, be careful when connecting those you just met. You may want to get to know them better before introducing them to others. Before making an introduction, make sure you truly like the parties involved and that they’re good at what they do!
Find Common Ground
The best way to find common ground is to ask great questions. Especially of those you see every week at your kid’s soccer game. How did you get involved in financial services? What college did you attend? What made you become an independent broker? What are some of your current initiatives and goals? What are your biggest challenges? How do you market your business? What do you do for fun? If you don’t get similar questions asked in the form of, “How about yourself?” you’re doing something wrong or there’s simply not a good connection.
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Be very specific about what you want when it comes to business. If there is a specific type of referral you want, mention it (when the time is right). The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get it. Remember the manufacturing example I mentioned earlier? If that financial advisor doesn’t mention manufacturers and related details about how they help, that connection does not happen. So make it happen!
Speak the language of WE
Practice using WE language and establish collaboration and working together – what true networking is all about! You know, it’s great that we had the chance to spend time playing a few rounds together. Over golf, it’s difficult to compare notes about business. As time allows, I would love to explore how WE might help one another moving forward. Or, how can WE refer each other more business over time? Yes, you can be direct if you use WE language and make the business relationship truly that – a relationship!
Discuss Referral Partners
A referral partner is a profession that is in a position to refer you business because they meet and work with those you’re looking to meet and work with. Make sense? For a financial advisor, a CPA may be an excellent referral partner. Executive directors of assisted living communities may be good referral partners for estate planning attorneys. And so on. I call it the chicken and egg theory. When networking, mention the chickens that are in the best position to serve you the golden eggs. Hokey, I know!
Out of Sight is Out of Mind
Believe it! Establish a “staying in touch” strategy that keeps you connected and learning from those you meet, like, and value. This way, when you see them every week or the next time you’re socializing, you have plenty of topics to discuss. Examples of staying in touch include a standing phone meeting every 30 days, dinner whenever you’re in town, quarterly meetings, or whatever. Social media can help but there’s nothing like the personal touch. I have sushi with one client at least twice a year (she buys!) and we discuss movies, television, family stuff, and spend about 5 minutes discussing business.
The important thing is to never be that person in the bleachers at your kid’s game, or at the Father’s Day barbecue, that people are trying to avoid because you’re “that guy” looking to sell your stuff to everyone you talk to.
Nothing good can ever come out of that.