Because most advisors know that networking is the key to attracting and retaining clients, many are on the lookout for steps they can take to enhance this valuable skill. Three industry experts share their networking tips for advisors.
Many people feel that traditional networking is “tired” and is probably not meeting their needs anymore, John Pojeta, vice president of business development, The PT Services Group, said.
“How many times have we gone to an event where one of two things has happened?” he asked. “First we already know everyone in the room. Second, we may not know everyone, but we don’t come away with any useful new connections. I’d wager too many times.”
Building a network of ‘connectors’
A better way to approach networking, Pojeta said, is to focus on building a network of connectors.
“Think about where your clients spend money and what types of people could be helpful to them,” he said. For example, advisors should think of people like:
Real estate agents
Luxury and classic car salespeople
Hobby enthusiasts like golf professionals, fishing experts, hunting guides, and perhaps yacht captains, depending on your location.
Most advisors probably have existing mutual relationships with one or two CPAs and attorneys, he pointed out, but they should consider casting a wider net.
“Expand your relationships to multiple people,” he said. For example, he added, “connect with a variety of attorneys, each with different practice areas. When you’ve built a trusted web of professionals, you can then expand your role into that of a trusted advisor to your clients. When they are looking for an introduction or for a new relationship, you can recommend people in your web, without hesitation.”
It also should go without saying that this web will help to expand the advisor’s business. As they connect others, they will be inclined to do the same for the advisor, he added.
Networking with business owners
For Troy Korsgaden, an insurance carrier consultant and principal of Korsgaden International, the Business Introduction Program is an effective strategy for networking with business owners and building relationships over time.
This program gives owners a chance to get to know the agent while offering an opportunity to fully understand their needs. These are not sales meetings, Korsgaden pointed out. “They are brief, five-minute meetings for you to introduce yourself and your business,” he said.
“Start by committing to meet with four new business owners every day,” he continued. “Because the meetings are brief, they are easy to fit into your schedule. Plan on stopping at a different business on your way to work, on your way to lunch, on your way back from lunch, and on your way home. Make it fun and memorable. Bring cookies or candy to leave for the staff.
“You may leave a business card or brochure, but don’t go through the brochure during the meeting. Your goal is to get to know the business owners and have them get to know you.”
Korsgaden then shared a “talk path” he uses to introduce himself:
Hi, I’m Troy Korsgaden. I’m in the area getting to know people and I thought I’d stop by and introduce myself. I didn’t come by to try to sell you anything.
I have no reason to believe you’re interested in buying insurance or changing insurance companies. But I believe that people do business with people they know and trust.
So, what I’d like to do, with your permission, is to stop by occasionally, and maybe drop off some candy or cookies.
And, if you ever think of changing insurance companies, whether it’s one year from now, five years from now, or ten years from now—I hope that you’ll think of me first.
Would that be OK with you?
The next day, the agent should call to thank them and add them to their marketing and communications program. They should then schedule time on their calendar to stop by again in two weeks, on the same day, and at the same time.
“Then follow up at other appropriate times. As they get to know you, they will feel comfortable asking about your business and the services you provide. When that happens, you can schedule an appointment for them to come into your office to review their needs and current coverage in more detail,” he said.
Use centers of influence effectively
Agents should use a COI program as they network for clients. But rather than approaching COIs and immediately asking for referrals, they should think of these meetings as networking opportunities that will bring future referrals over time, advised Michelle Hubert, an MDRT qualifier with a track record of success in owning and operating a financial services agency, and coaching and developing leaders.
“Take time to get to know COIs and learn about their business,” she added. “Most people are happy to help once you’ve built a connection.”
Hubert then shared the following approach she uses to introduce herself to new COIs:
Hello. My name is Michelle Hubert, and I’m with ABC Agency right here in Manhattan, Kansas. As a business owner in the community, I’ll be meeting with leaders and business owners over the coming year.
The purpose of the meeting is to learn about your professional journey, pick your brain, and get your advice as I continue to build my business.
I promise I will not be asking for your business, only your professional insight and advice.
Would you be available for breakfast or lunch in the coming week?
“When you meet with a COI, always ask who else in the community you should talk to, and then schedule similar meetings with them,” Hubert said.
“Follow up every meeting with a handwritten thank-you note. Keep in touch with your COIs and let them know of your progress—when you try out an idea they suggested or meet with another professional
they recommended, for example. And always remember the golden rule of networking: Give value before you ask for value. Look for opportunities to support their organizations and business goals.”
Hubert added that if an agent commits to meeting with at least one COI each week, at the end of the year, they will have developed 52 new advocates for their business and gained some valuable business insights along the way.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at amseka@INNfeedback.com.
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