I speak to a lot of financial advisor
groups, and for one year, I asked just about every audience if they felt networking worked for them. You know the answer? About 1 percent of those I asked responded that networking worked for them. Wow.
Yet, the number one strategy many recommend to people starting in sales or as an entrepreneur is – go network. Is that good advice? Why do we say it if we don’t do it ourselves? Well, I think it’s easy to tell someone else to do something that you think should work. At the core, we think that networking should work. The key is to find out if and how networking
works for you. Is there a secret?
Networking, according to those that do it successfully — meaning they actually can attribute significant new business from the activity of networking — is not about trading business cards. It's not about finding people who may be good prospects for your firm. It’s not.
Successful networking is about finding and cultivating potential advocates
. It’s not about finding hot prospects. Finding hot prospects often leads to you trying to sell them something, calling them and turning them off. Finding and cultivating advocates is totally different. An advocate is someone that is already well connected and may or may not ever become your client.
An advocate may be in the human resources department. He or she may be the president of the chamber of commerce. They may head a non-profit or a committee at your church. They are already great networkers and connectors. And they are the ones who are worth literally millions to professionals.
One advocate can bring 10 clients to you, while if you reach out to one potential prospect at a networking event, you will often end up frustrated and with zero new sales. It takes a change in focus from trying to meet prospects to trying to find and meet advocates.
So, who could be an advocate for you? They may not be your best clients, but rather the clients who have the highest propensity to be able to introduce you to others in your target market
. They may not be someone in your target market. Think about who is well-connected in your community, in your industry, in the media, and in your target market. Think contrarian. Who could be your best advocates to introduce you to potential clients?
List the 20 people you believe could be advocates, check them out on LinkedIn
, write down how you will reach out to them — not to sell them something but to get to know them. To connect. To let them get to know you. If they really are a potential advocate, they will be a connector, and they will be a fantastic advocate for you. But first, you have to find them and work to connect with them. It takes a bit of patience and it may not provide immediate gratification, but it will pay off.