Answering FAQs about successful networking

By Michael Goldberg

Knock Out Networking


The key to networking is language. Language drives conversations.; conversations drive actions.; and actions drive relationships. If you focus on the relationships, then the business will be there.

I want to address some questions you might have about networking strategies, generating more referrals and how to make better connections with your clients and prospects (or your left hook!).

Here are some FAQs from agents (top producers, mind you), and I'd like to weigh in.

How can I encourage my clients to network?

You must simply ask. “I pride myself on my business relationships. Would you be open to networking and seeing how we might help one another over time?” Always make your overtures mutual and you will build great relationships that last.

How can I get people to return the favor after I refer them business?

Again, you must simply ask. But here’s the kicker: There may be a good reason why those you refer aren’t referring you right back. In fact, it could be 1 of 6 reasons, and you need to find out which one it is. Not an easy task. Ready?
    1. They don’t realize they could do so (which is entirely possible).
    2. They don’t know how to refer you more business.
    3. They’re not in a good position to refer you business, given their job.
    4. They have a brother-in-law who’s an agent who gets your referral business.
    5. They don’t have confidence in your competence — yet.
    6. They don’t like and/or trust you.
Tough to hear some of this stuff, I know. The only way to resolve this issue is to be direct and ask. Otherwise, you won’t sleep. Remember, this is an example of direct conflict, which is why most advisors won’t ask the question. But it must be asked. Look at this as a developmental opportunity.

Your inquiry may sound something like this: “Bill, would you be open to exploring how we can refer each other more business? I've referred you clients, and I'd like to help you return the favor!” Say it with a smile and a wink, but say it. Be prepared for the answer, as this should prompt the truth (one of the six reasons). Be open and appreciative of the feedback. This is where great relationships are often made, so make them.

How should I talk business at a golf tournament?

I would keep the conversation short, light and within your group — probably a one-time chat between holes. Simply ask what the others do for work. If their line of work is interesting and you like them, ask if they would be open to brainstorming with some shop talk over drinks at the 19th hole. Explore how you can help one another (networking) rather than setting up appointments with them to talk about the importance of your work (selling). See the difference?

How should a young advisor network comfortably with high-net-worth individuals of an older age?

Young buck, you must realize that, in most cases, the older men and women at the country club, or wherever else, are not going to want to do business with you. They’re experienced and successful; therefore, they will already be working with (or interested in working with) their contemporaries who are already successful. But we were all young and new once. So, look to build great relationships by asking successful elders for their advice and insight. Be clear about the type of business you’re looking for so they can best tell you where to go, what to say and to whom. Be likable, inquisitive, specific with your language, and humble. If you take this approach, it will go a long way.

What’s the best strategy for breaking out of my comfort zone to begin building networking relationships?

Like the Nike ad says, “Just do it.” Put a networking event, chamber mixer, association meeting, golf outing, or alumni meeting into your calendar as a priority, and show up. Search the Internet and your community for some of the organizations or events that interest you. Every time you go to an event or speak with a client, you will get more focused and confident. Then the magic will happen.
How do I convert casual acquaintances into business prospects?

There is no surefire way. Remember, a prospect is someone who is already interested in doing business with you. The best way to at least have a shot of talking about business is to ask people you meet about the type of work they do. They will ask you in return. The more questions you ask about their work, the more you will probably be asked about yours. This is where your elevator pitch and target market come in handy. It will make you more referable. And remember: Don’t try to sell them, at least not on the first date. Focus on networking.

What’s the best way to ask clients — who you're not sure are happy with your service — for referrals?

My initial concern is why you’re not sure if your clients are happy. You may want to resolve this uncertainty first. Simply reach out to a sampling of your clients and ask them why they are, in fact, your clients. Find out why they’re happy and how you might make them even happier. Happy clients are the first step in cultivating referral relationships.

How can I get more referrals from clients?

There's no way around it here. You must ask them. But they must be thrilled with you first. Assuming they are, simply ask how you might go about referring one another business. If they’re not in business themselves, ask how you can help one another in your respective work. You must ask the question and form a “we” relationship. If it’s not “we” focused, the relationship will always feel strained and your overtures will always feel awkward and forced. Make sense?

How do I work with other professionals?

First, what type of professionals do you want to work with? CPAs? Attorneys? Bankers? You’ll need to figure out what professions are most attractive to you and, when networking, look to meet people who work in that profession. “I’m looking to be introduced to a CPA who is interested in a mutually beneficial referral relationship.” Where do you need to go to make that happen?

I’m a president of an education foundation for a school district. How do I start reaching out to local members in the community and turn them into business?

You never want to compromise your role in any organization. A conflict of interest helps nobody. But you may be able to approach those you know the best about getting together offline and talking shop. “How can we help one another?” In some cases, networking connections will transform into prospects.

The key to networking is language. Language drives conversations.; conversations drive actions.; and actions drive relationships. So networking develops relationships. If you focus on the relationships, then the business will be there.

Did I answer your questions?

See also:

Do you make these 6 networking mistakes?

In-person vs. online networking: It's the same party

Networking with strangers: the great American business myth