Are you making the most of working with professional connections? Matt Anderson gives practical tips on how you can develop your skills in this key area
Isn’t it odd that there is endless content available on the systems and processes for building and leveraging client relationships to boost business, but so little is written on the topic of how to generate quality business opportunities from working with professional introducers?
Ultimately, about 70% of meetings that advisers have with other potential professional connections are a complete waste of time. Here’s how to avoid this happening to you (most of the time).
Do your homework
Before you meet with someone, take a few minutes to review their LinkedIn and/or company profile. It helps to paint a broad picture, gives you an overview of their work, their work history, and where they were educated. Often, more importantly, you can look at your mutual connections. Any one of these could be a handy conversation starter or way to establish some common ground. I’ve got off on the right foot with two people recently based on the fact we both spoke German. It can be that particular.
Remember: the purpose is not to have a pleasant meeting but to generate business opportunities as soon as you can.
Here are the three main areas on which to focus:
1. Focus on the other person first
Meetings will always go better when you focus on their needs first.
In any meeting you have, goal one is to know, like and trust the other person. As soon as you get there, you can move to point 2.
Hopefully the person has already come to you as a result of being highly recommended by someone you trust. This gives you a head start.
For most people in your network, you need to get a sense of their competence. However, you don’t need them to train you as their replacement! Avoid spending significant time talking about ‘what they do’. Firstly, it’s comfort zone conversation for the other person. They could talk about it for the entire 1-2-1 and you might well never see them again because virtually nothing was accomplished. (They will most likely say to themselves: ‘I got nothing out of that.’) Also, it probably won’t help you identify ways you can help them, which is fundamental to actually generating business.
The exception would be if you must have industry-related clarity before you can start referring them to anyone in your network.
What does your gut tell you about this person? Do they show any signs of being a ‘connector’ based on questions they ask you? You can ‘see’ people doing this kind of thinking. They literally look off to the side.
When you find yourself meeting with someone who is more of a type “A” personality than you and they appear to want to ‘lead’ the conversation, let them ask you a couple of questions and then respond to their next question with: “That’s a great question and I’d love to tell you more, but I’m really curious how you…” and then ask them something. Focus on them first. Because if you can’t do something tangible for them, it’s a fairly remote possibility that they will do something for you first.
2. Do everything you possibly can to help them
This is where the relationship can become productive.
Most IFAs never get to this place. They meet a nice person who they don’t quite know how to deal with and generally nothing happens. Two hours were wasted. This is not for you!
Fall in love with helping people and you will start to get some fabulous results for yourself. To be successful in generating new business from introducers, you have to genuinely take pleasure in helping others and seeing them benefit from the relationship usually before you do. It took me 14 years to learn this.
A common mistake which some IFAs make in these situations, is merely to give lip service to the “How can I help you?” question, failing to mask that they’re really thinking: “I hope I sell you something.” Do not fool yourself by thinking that you are different and can fool others. People can sense veiled insincerity very easily in these situations.
It is crucial to drill down and find out who they want to meet while you are together. Most potential introducers find it difficult to be clear about the business they want. You may need to help them narrow it down to specific people in that meeting otherwise you might not get another chance to meet that person again.
Start out by asking them about specific industries they work with, niche markets and specific professions until the person says they want to meet people in banking, franchising, venture capital, healthcare, or law firms. If they name a huge industry or profession such as “the medical field,” you must dig further to narrow it down to dentists, care home owners, or suppliers to hospitals. Ask for:
- A prospect list (although almost no one has one)
- Names of companies and/ or people, departments, professions, and industries where they want more business
- Titles of people they want to meet
- Situations where they can help others (less helpful but a useful reference tool)
- The professions of their best referral sources (note: you can ask people in your network if they know such people too – even if you don’t, e.g. ask your accountant: “Who at your firm specialises in working with the abc industry?)
- Pain points to listen out for in conversation
- Questions you can ask people that might lead to a need
- Write down what they want: it’s important for people to see that their needs matter to you.
- Follow up within 24-48 hours on what you said you would do. You will really surprise them because hardly anybody does this. Most people only talk a good game.
Introductions are not the only currency for helping potential introducers but they are the best. Helping people in other ways that mean more to them can range from A-Z, professional to personal. It is a relationship business! Think hard: How can I most add value to this person?
3. Spell out exactly who you want to meet
Once you help the other person – if you’ve done Part 2 well and are making introductions for them – you won’t have to tell most people what you’re looking for because they will ask you first!
The best thing to do is to have a pre-prepared list of who you want to meet. You can use the same format as Point 2 above and literally go over this with them. This makes it easier for people to help you. In addition to your list, either give or email the other person a brief paragraph that introduces you to their contacts. 98% of people have no idea what to say to best position you, so you offer: “would it be helpful if I emailed you a couple of things to share with your clients?” No one will object. It is a huge mistake to leave this up to others.
Lastly, if you can’t get through these steps in one meeting, do all you can to set up a second meeting on the spot. Clearly, not all relationships are going to develop at the same pace. Therefore by setting out the next step in this way you do your best to sustain the momentum that is usually otherwise lost.
Developing your skills as an effective networker will generate long term business benefits throughout your career. It’s now over to you to put these techniques into practice so that they become second nature and start to produce the results you are looking for. I wish you well.