How Do You Turn Social Situations into BUSINESS?
October 8, 2014 by Michael Goldberg
But here’s the truth: People don’t want to feel obligated to do business with you just because you took them to a ball game, wined and dined them over lunch, or spent hours playing golf with them on a Tuesday afternoon. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best financial advisor, broker, planner, rep, producer, agent, or wholesaler in the world — business happens at the speed of trust. So if there is no trust, no value, no genuine relationship, or no synergy, all the ball games in the world aren’t going to transform those prospects into clients.
A few years back, a wholesaler for an annuity company saw me speak at an event and subsequently hired me to speak at a couple of his “road shows.” He thought my message about networking would be a great incentive to attract financial advisors to his events, and he was right. In fact, his events were such a success that he not only hired me again, but he also referred me to some of his counterparts around the country who also hired me. I returned the favor by introducing him to some of my client firms in his region.
Now, the business was nice, but I also thought I got a great friend out of the deal. We’re based only a few hours from one another and share a love for the same football and baseball teams — a rare find! But the relationship never really took off. For some reason, the wholesaler became reluctant to respond to my messages. Then I actually saw him at a client event (to which I referred him) where again I was serving as speaker. He was very nice to me and even apologized for being so bad about returning messages. I joked about it, but that was the last time we spoke. I still have a relationship with him, but it’s not the type of relationship I thought it was going to be.
Here’s my point: I thought I did everything right in terms of building the relationship. The connection felt natural and our conversations were fun and never felt forced. Nevertheless, he may have felt that if we developed the relationship further he would then be obligated to hire me, which I’m hoping wasn’t the case. Even when you do everything right, it’s never a sure thing. So imagine the cost of doing only some things right, or of doing everything wrong!
Here are a few practical suggestions to help you do everything (or at least most everything) right when looking to develop social situations into business.
Understand What Networking Is All About
Networking is not about just shaking hands and kissing babies, handing out business cards, promoting your firm and sharing how awesome your products are, or even pitching your wares. OK, so networking does entail some of that, but not much. Networking is really about learning from and potentially helping people — good people; those you genuinely like and want to help. If you help great people, they help you right back!
It’s All about Them
Always focus on learning about the other person until they start asking questions about you. Typically, I don’t talk about myself at all unless someone asks me a specific question. The only exception to that rule is if something just happened in my world and I’m really excited about it and want to share. If something is going on in your business or even your personal life that’s so exciting that others will relate to or be interested in hearing, feel free to share. But remember to shift gears and start asking questions about them. By being interested, you naturally become interesting.
Be a Connector
As you’re learning about the people you meet, think about who you can introduce them to — who could help their cause. For example, let’s say some clients you work with (and those prospects you’re looking to work with) have a niche in the manufacturing industry. Maybe you know the VP of operations for a manufacturer and can facilitate an introduction.
Givers always gain, so look to offer help and make connections in the best interest of all parties involved. I have two hard-and-fast guidelines when providing introductions: 1) you must really like the person (because if you don’t, your friends may not either), and 2) all parties must be great at what they do (professionally, they must offer value and make you look great in the process). It is, after all, all about looking good!
Find Common Ground
The best way to find common ground is to ask great questions such as: So, how did you get involved in financial services? What college did you attend? What made you become an accountant? 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 they don’t respond with similar questions along the lines of “How about yourself?,” you’re either doing something wrong or there simply isn’t 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 in your request, the more likely you are to get it. Remember the manufacturing example I mentioned earlier? If that financial professional doesn’t mention manufacturers and related details about how they might help, the connection will not happen. So make it happen!
Speak the Language of “We”
Practice using “we” language to establish collaboration and opportunities to work together — the true goal of networking. Try using phrases like, “You know, it’s been great that we’ve had the chance to spend some time playing golf and learning about each other’s businesses. I would love to explore how we might help one another moving forward.” Or, “How can we refer more business to each other over time?” Yes, you can be direct if you use “we” language and make the business relationship truly that — a relationship predicated on mutual give and take.
Out of Sight Is Out of Mind
The old adage is indeed true — out of sight is out of mind. So, establish a “staying in touch” strategy that ensures you are connected to and learning from those you meet, like, and value. These strategies can include a standing phone meeting every 30 days, dinner whenever you’re in town, quarterly meetings, or whatever, really. For example, I have sushi with a client (she buys!) every quarter, but we mostly discuss movies, television, and family stuff. We spend about five minutes discussing business.
These ideas are far from revolutionary, but most business owners (including financial pros) don’t have a system in place to ensure many of the little things — including cultivating new relationships — are done consistently. Who are you looking to meet or get to know better? Implement some of these ideas into your day-to-day interactions with clients, prospects, and referral sources and see what happens.
Out of sight really is out of mind!