I was coaching a financial advisor not too long ago. He had a desire to create a training program to help other financial advisors grow their business through networking.
Since this is what I do for a living (you know, the whole coaching, training thing), he thought I could help him. In essence, I was training my competition, but what the heck.
This advisor was very focused on his business, his message, his approach. Finally, I asked him, “What are you going to actually teach advisors?” He said, “I want them to go to networking events, get to know people, ask questions and set up appointments with them. Then in those appointments, the advisor can sell their products.”
By the way, you can’t make this stuff up.
I said to him, “Here’s the problem. Most advisors and agents do that anyway. And what you’re describing is not business networking. It’s selling. The focus is on the sale, not the relationship. It’s one of the major reasons why most advisors and agents fail at growing their business in the first place.”
He was dumbfounded.
Selling and networking are two different sports, played in two different stadiums, at two different points in time. Both selling and networking are important but, they each have their time and place in the “sales cycle.” Networking events are not the time or place to sell.
Can you be successful at selling your products and services at networking events, chambers of commerce, association meetings, meet-ups, service groups, and online communities?
Sure, it happens. But there’s a big price to pay.
1. There is a conflict of interest
And I mean right off the bat! Those you meet at networking events are not there to invest their money, shop for life insurance, or buy your product or service. Unless they tell you they are. Which is pretty rare.
Those that attend events are looking to promote their own products and services. Imagine what it would be like if everyone at that networking mixer was simply there to sell their wares to one another. It would be chaos and wouldn’t be very much fun. In fact, there are networking events like that but they don’t tend to attract the most successful business people. I wonder why?
2. It de-values your business
Retirement planning, life insurance, annuities, long term care, mutual funds, property and casualty coverage, health insurance, supplemental benefits, and other related products and services are important. No question about it.
To promote, and ultimately sell, these services in good faith requires prospects and clients to trust you with very personal and private information. And it takes time to establish trust with those you meet, especially when it comes to something that’s so important, personal and expensive. Don’t de-value what you offer by not establishing a relationship first.
If you abuse your position at a networking event, not even the bad networkers will want to talk to you. (Photo: iStock)
3. Good networkers will not want to talk to you
Good (no, great!) networkers know that networking is about learning from and helping others. They know if you help great people they help you right back.
As a financial advisor or producer, don’t you want good networkers to like you? If you look at those you meet at networking events as prospects, I promise they won’t like you almost all of the time.
4. Bad networkers will not want to talk to you
Why would they? If you’re busy selling them, it will get in the way of them selling you. It’s all very complicated really. Besides, bad networkers running bad businesses won’t exactly make for good clients. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
5. It will be difficult to get referrals and introductions
If you’re all about products, services, and assuming everyone you meet is your next client, very few people will be open to introducing you to their best contacts and connections.
6. Those that run good networking events will not invite you back
The word does get around. I’ve mentioned in the past that I lead a networking group where the attendees get vetted and need to be “approved” before registering for the event. If word gets around that they’re misbehaving (selling, spamming, acting weird), they’re not invited back.
7. You’ll feed into a stereotype that already exists
What is the common stereotype of a financial advisor? Dishonest. Salesy. Product focused.
Good stereotypes must come from somewhere! This is why many financial advisors don’t like to mention that they’re financial advisors. They would rather refer to themselves as a financial “dream maker” or financial “coach.” Simply focus on learning from those you meet with the intention of helping them and see what happens.
8. You’ll get frustrated and stop going to events
Once you see how difficult it is to set sales appointments with those you meet at events, you’ll stop going and complain that networking is not a good strategy for growing your business. And you would be right!
Maybe the biggest price to pay is your story will become someone else’s blog!
Growing your business or practice as a financial advisor, insurance agent or as any type of sales producer is tough. Really tough. Why do anything that will prevent those you meet to know, like and trust you? That will only make growing your business even tougher.
The most successful sales producers are always looking to develop important and authentic relationships with more and better people. And networking (correctly!) is the best way to get there.
What price are you willing to pay?