4 Major Networking Tips, Online and Off

4 min read
March 10, 2016

Please welcome guest contributor Arlene Moss to the XYPN Advisor Blog! Arlene serves as the Network’s Director of Advisor Success in addition to running her own coaching company for financial advisors. She’s an expert at coaching planners to their greatest potential, and has spent years teaching financial professionals how to reach success in business.

Today, Arlene shares her tips on networking for advisors -- both in the real world and in the virtual space. Enjoy!

“Networking” is not usually a word that evokes joy and excitement in people (especially introverted people). It’s seen as a business chore that must be done if you want to grow your business and get to the next level.

After all, it’s not always what you know, but who.

As painful as networking can feel, financial advisors can actually learn how to leverage both in-person events and online spaces as opportunities to develop genuine relationships and lasting connections.

The key is to avoid forcing anything -- forcing yourself to be someone you’re not, forcing yourself into conversations, forcing attendance at events you’d rather not be at or in online communities you don’t enjoy.

Beyond that golden rule, there are only a few more things you need to know and practice in order to excel at growing your network and boosting your own visibility and success through the people you know. Consider these 4 big networking tips, for both online and off in the real world.

Seek to Build Lasting Relationships

Networking is not a professional version of speed dating. You want long term relationships that are actually productive, for all parties involved? Aim to build them!

Don’t just set a goal of meeting X amount of new people when you go to a networking event -- and then neglect all the people you met the week before.

Instead of just focusing on meeting people and getting rid of all your business cards, think about setting goals like “meet people twice and have separate follow-up conversations.” And don’t make yourself wrong for showing up at a networking event and spending time with people you know. Yes, it’s easier than going up to people you don’t know. But it’s also the only way to build a genuine, lasting relationship in which you actually get to know another professional.

Plan Ahead and Reach Out Before the Event

If you are planning on attending an in-person event, don’t show up with no idea who will be there or who you want to connect with. It’s never a fun feeling to be the person standing alone at the door, scanning the crowd in an attempt to find a familiar face.

Think ahead of time about who you expect to see so you know who you might be able to connect with right away. Or do one better: reach out to potential event attendees and find out who plans to be there. Then make a plan to meet up briefly at the event.

This allows you to start the evening with reconnection -- and won’t throw you off your game if you don’t know anyone from the get-go. Think of it as your warm up lap, then reach out to new people.

Join Online Professional, Social, and Networking Groups

Use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook -- whatever network your people are on, you should be on there and getting active, too.

Don't neglect industry communities and organizations, such as NAPFA, FPA, and of course, XYPN. And don’t forget about subgroups of these membership platforms, which include great, open communities like the XYPN Radio VIP Community.

You can start by lurking and getting the vibe, then start to weigh in with your opinions and questions. Online networking is all about give and take. You can't only show up to ask, but no one expects you to know it all and never need help.

Know what gets shared where and the culture of each group you join. For example, don’t be the person who starts selling in a group that is explicitly against members doing so. (You never want to be the person who instigates the friendly "I just want to remind everyone of the guidelines" post from the community admin.)

Go Beyond the Group

Connect with people beyond just the main forum Q&A and light conversation between multiple community members. Reach out with personal messages. (This is especially easy on LinkedIn and Facebook, which reminds you of birthdays and anniversaries.)

Take a moment every now and then to touch base with folks, just to see how life if going. Use your CRM to remind you about events and issues in your connections' lives. Sending a friendly message asking how things are going, followed by a question about how Junior's college search is going is a simple way to say, "I remember you, and not just because you are a referral source."

The more personal and pointed you make your connections, the more value they can provide. (And the more value you can provide for them, too!) And don’t forget -- you can be the one to facilitate connections between individuals in your network, too.

Recently I heard a woman I had just met lamenting her need for a PR rep on her FPA board. I had, not a week earlier, been talking to a friend working in PR about how he needed to get more connected with folks in the financial planning industry. Voila! They are both in NYC and a match made in heaven. I connected them -- and now they both think I’m amazing!

Regardless of the type of networking you do, it all takes time and it all requires that you genuinely care. There are too many people in the world to do business with to hang out with the phonies.

We all have the luxury of sticking with the old "know, like, and trust" trifecta. So as you network with folks focus on those with whom you genuinely connect, and set a goal for yourself of being authentic in all your interactions.

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