I used to attend a lot more networking events when I first started my law firm when I had very little clients and I think that experience, unfortunately, made me attend far fewer events.
Networking is an integral part of building any business whether it’s a law firm, third-party administrator, financial advisor, or even a limousine owner. For me, networking is all about building relationships that can help you generate business. It takes time, lots of effort, and is quite rewarding in the long run.
The biggest pet peeve I have about networking is what I call the obnoxious direct sell. Picture being at a networking event and you own a third party administration company. You meet a financial advisor and the first thing he asks you is who is the financial advisor on your 401(k) plan. You just met this guy and he’s already trying to be your financial advisor. You barely know him more than a stranger on the street and he’s trying to sell you a service you probably don’t need if you did a diligent job of hiring an advisor.
To me, the purpose of networking is to meet people who are spheres of influence, who can refer you business when someone they know needs someone of your caliber to help. These relationships require trust and they require time, so doing the hard sell to sell a service to this potential source of business is going to backfire.
When I’m meeting another retirement plan provider or another professional, I’m not going to ask them who their ERISA attorney is. They know what I do for a living if they listened to the introduction. If they like what they hear what I have to say, they will develop a relationship and if they need an ERISA attorney, they’ll call or if someone they know who needs an ERISA attorney, they’ll send them my name.
Networking is like dating. If you go too fast to the hoop, you’re likely to get blocked/rejected. Any good relationship is developed from trust that takes time and you need to see the bigger picture. Concentrate on developing pipelines of referrals and less on the quick score.
If you develop a good reputation in this business and you develop great relationships, you’ll make it. If you see relationships just as a direct way of selling, you’re going to fail and offend a lot of people.