Many advisors I work with want to leap frog over the networking stage and go straight to helping people one-on-one. The early, heavy networking stage of practice growth can be painful or a new financial advisor. That stage can be painful for an old advisor! For some it just never becomes easy. Well, that was a buzz kill of a first paragraph! What’s an advisor to do?
Well, I will tell you what not to do. Don’t be what you are not. You are setting yourself up for failure if you decide to fake it. First, it’s no fun! If you wanted to do a job that is no fun you could still be working for ”The Man”. You could hang out in a Dilbert-esque world of cubes. Is that what you had in mind? I didn’t think so.
You want to develop deeper relationships with your clients and referral partners. How can you begin an authentic relationship if you are pretending to be someone else? The financial advisors I work with started their businesses to do what they love and work with people they love. They want to go to sleep at night leaving the world a little better than when they got out of bed in the morning. That is an admirable goal, so there’s no need to hide it. In order to honor that goal you need to be who you are.
Our society is geared toward extroverts. I don’t know why, and I most certainly won’t claim it is fair. In fact I could write a complete blog on why it is unfair. But, let’s focus on what to do about it. Many people pretend. They gird their loins and head into battle. Those folks hit the networking event and start smiling and shaking hands and hate every minute of it.
Let’s think of another way to handle that situation. First, remember your goal to be authentic is valid and good. Don’t let the rush of the crowd make you waver in that knowledge. Your. Goal. Is. Good. Start your venture with a goal not to meet 20 new people for 5 minutes apiece. Meet 5 people. Spend 20 minutes with each of them. Your creed is quality not quantity. You will leave with a deeper knowledge of the folks you spend time with and you won’t feel as exhausted. Who knows, you may even begin to enjoy this!
Don’t stand at the entrance scanning the crowd for too long. I am pretty outgoing and the thought of that first “Gee, do I know anyone?” crowd scan makes me start sweating right here at my desk. Think ahead of time about who you expect to see and look for those people. Better yet drop a few contacts an email, find out who will be there, and plan to meet up. Nothing warms the heart like walking into a crowded room and getting the old “Hey, I’ve been looking for you!” wave from across the room. Start the evening reconnecting. Think of it as your warm up lap, then reach out to new people.
Take time out mid-event. Walk down a quiet hallway. Hold your phone to your head and pretend to listen to an important message. Just get some time away from the stimulation of the crowd. Recharge in your own way. Yes there are those of us that can head into a party exhausted and be energized by the crowd, but an introvert is usually not. You wouldn't put diesel in a gasoline engine, don’t put extrovert fuel in your introvert engine!
Play to your strengths. You want long term relationships? Don’t neglect to build them. Plenty of set a goal of new people to meet at a networking event. Great idea. But what about the poor sap you met last week? Is he dead to you because 7 days have passed? Add to that goal list some folks to meet the SECOND time. And reward yourself with a certain amount of time just visiting the people you've gotten to know. It’s a reward, but in truth, it’s really the guts of why you are there. Build those genuine relationships!
And finally, don’t push yourself beyond your endurance level. This is not some marathon where we want you to cross the finish line and then barf on your shoes. (As one who has volunteered at the finish line of a lot of races, there is NEVER a time when we want someone to cross the finish line and barf on their shoes, but are you with me on the analogy?) When you get tired, go home. You have done your best for the night, you deserve some quiet and time to recharge.
If you are interested in reading more, I recommend Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack. I absolutely love this book and the great support it provides the reluctant networker. It inspired much of the thought that led to this posting
What are the tips that you take into the networking fray with you? Are there other books you recommend? I love learning from introverts who have mastered the art. Please share your ideas with us.