(From the July 2020 Edition of eFORUM)
By Mia and Andy Torr
When local networking events were abruptly cancelled earlier this year, thousands of business owners flocked to online networking until things went “back to normal.” For many, the relationships forming on the screen didn’t feel as real as sitting around a table. Online networking was simply a way to pass the time while we were all stuck at home.
Months later, as parts of our country are cautiously reopening, you might be wondering, Is this the new normal? Will we return to “real” networking? Will I be able to meet people like I used to?
Whatever may come, we know without a doubt that the relationships we form online can be every bit as powerful as those we build in person. The “new normal” will challenge all of us to get comfortable with both online and in-person networking.
Here are three tactics to help you adapt your networking strategy so you can make the best of your networking efforts in the months ahead — whether you’re at home, out on the town, or adapting to rolling closures.
Ask for introductions.
No matter where you’re networking, the 30 seconds it takes you to introduce your business will determine whether someone chooses to write you off or send you referrals. If you lead with your rates of return, they’ll smile politely and tune you out. If you come across as “another advisor,” they’ll also tune you out.
So how do you get past the stereotypical reactions to, “I’m a financial services professional?”
Try an indirect approach. In 30 seconds or less, describe the type of niche client you serve, the problem you solve for them, and then ask for introductions to that person. Asking for introductions signals to the other person that you’re not selling to them. They’re more likely to relax into the conversation with you, which could be the start of a new business relationship.
Seek out local influencers.
If your book of business is built on local connections, try building strategic relationships with the people in your city who lead networking groups. Attend their events (in person or online), appreciate their efforts, and find out how you can support their business.
Although it can take time to cultivate a relationship with an influencer, you’d be surprised how many doors can open when you build trust with someone who is at the head of a whole community of your ideal clients. Check out meetup.com for a listing of business networking groups near you.
Follow up and add value.
At its simplest, any business relationship is just a series of follow-ups that establish and nurture trust. Here are a few ways to build trust quickly:
As much as the novel coronavirus may have changed how we meet each other, the way we build relationships has stayed very much the same. Online networking can be just as powerful as in-person networking, and your business will be all the more resilient if you practise both.
Mia and Andy Torr are the co-founders of Authentic Networker, an international business community with more than 26,000 members in five countries. Register for our free online networking events at authenticnetworker.com/online.