Detroit: “I’ve never been a natural networker” started Lisa as we wrapped up our webinar. “I read the Oechsli Institute's 2011 FA Report which stated that ‘strategic networking’ is one of the five high-impact marketing activities - so I guess I should learn how to network. Do you have any tips when the markets are this volatile? What about networking for new advisors?”

If you aren’t heavily networking as a new advisor, especially in today’s environment, you may be left behind. We hear stories nearly every day from new (and veteran) advisors who bring in business because they put themselves in affluent traffic and are prepared. In a recent study, 46% of new advisors brought in at least one new $1MM+ client through strategic networking last year, and we know that number would be much higher if new advisors went in with a game plan and executed the right way.

When the markets are volatile, the networking soil is even more fertile with opportunities. Why? Because everyone talking about the markets and the economy. So how do we capitalize? Whether you’re involved in a civic organization (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, etc.), philanthropic group, or a smaller niche group, the following are 5 tips for new advisors to improve their networking skills in a tough market environment.

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1. Be More Assertive

At one point when referring to marketvolatility, Lisa threw out to the group, “I feel like most people just want to weather the storm.” Lisa feels like she is being too pushy when she attempts to bring up business and the markets are down, however, this mindset is entirely wrong. The truth is, businesses and investors need you more than ever before. If there were a major medical pandemic sweeping the nation would doctors be in more or less demand? Talk about a rhetorical question. People need your services now more than ever before; but understand that not everyone is going to be banging down your door, you need to let them know it’s open. The first step is to ratchet up your assertiveness by at least fifty percent (for Lisa, maybe 75%).

2. Turn Defensive Questions into Offensive Responses

As you are out networking, and people know what you do professionally, they are going to ask about your thoughts o the markets or ask you “how’s business” – it’s inevitable. Your response during those moments can make all the difference. Your objective is to redirect that conversation into an opportunity and not show any hint of defensiveness or nervousness. If someone asks “What do you think about the markets?” You might respond with ““This has been a crazy environment, but we’ve working extremely hard, meeting with clients and making certain they’re protected on all fronts. We’re in the process of updating financial plans and re-evaluating risk. Has anyone done that for you in today’s environment? It’s extremely important…” These typical conversations are business opportunities when you’re prepared.

3. Follow Up Magic

You’ve taken the time to meet a lot of new people; you’ve invested the time and resources to be involved…now what? Your follow-up to the people you meet in networking events can make or break you. The first step to effective follow-up is thinking on your feet. When you are at the actual networking function, come out of each new conversation with a follow-up already lined up. This requires some creativity and a search for passion points. For example, if you are meeting a potential prospect and know of an article that may be of interest to them, mention it then! You might say, “You know, I read this great article on cycling the other day in the NY Times. Since you are an avid cyclist, I should send it to you – can I get your card?” If you discover another person works close to your office you might say, “I didn’t realize you were right down the street. Where do you typically grab lunch? We should meet-up next week. How about Friday?” The trick is not waiting until after the fact to come up with your follow up - do it live! After the event, you can send them a nice handwritten note reinforcing the already planned follow-up tactic.

4. Have a Power Lunch

One way to follow up is through power lunches. What is a power lunch? It’s simply a lunch at a place to be seen where people conduct business. Strategically select at least one person from your networking group a week and ask them to lunch. During that lunch make an effort to learn more about them personally, their family, their business, and resist any temptation to pitch. After all, affluent investors are not receptive to the ‘hard-sell’. They want to do business with people they like, trust and respect – so make a friend first. You might ask…

  • What do you enjoy most about your work?
  • How did you initially build your business?
  • How did you get started with your work?
  • What types of clients do you serve best?
  • What are your plans for your business?

5. Get LinkedIn

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of networking online. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 120MM users. As you meet new people at live events and look for new opportunities, LinkedIn can play a major role. Lisa had a LinkedIn account but wasn’t building connections on it from people she met at networking functions. Make a habit of always adding new contacts online after every new encounter. Run a search on LinkedIn and personalize the request message to them. Then review their profile and look for areas of commonality. …Did you go to the same college? Do you have any mutual connections? Are you involved in similar online groups?

Networking in today’s environment is more important than ever before. People are searching for answers, and your objective is to be front and center. Lisa just needed a game plan, a new way of thinking, and a willingness to up her assertiveness. New Advisors must stay visible, uncover networking opportunities, and be prepared.

To learn more about The Oechsli Institute visit www.oechsli.com. Follow Stephen (@stephenboswell) and Kevin (@KevinANichols) on twitter.