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4 Strategies for Impactful Networking

“Networking is the glue that binds the business world together.”

We’ve all heard this or something like it a hundred times in a hundred different ways, but it remains true even as technology transforms the ways we communicate and do business. Advising people on financial matters is a uniquely personal profession because it involves handling some of the most valuable assets in our client’s lives. That means we have to meet people in order to establish the trust clients need if they’re going to ask our advice about what to do with those assets.

The vast majority of professionals agree that networking is one of the major keys to securing new prospective clients, sharing knowledge, and growing your business. So why does the practice get such a bad rap?

A lot of people think that they just don’t like the act of networking in general – we’ve all heard friends or colleagues say that networking is just an uncomfortable means to an end. But the truth is that networking done correctly is as enjoyable and impactful as it is useful for your career. Advisors simply need to look a little more closely at the events they’re attending and integrate the best parts of networking philosophy into their daily lives, so they can find contacts and customers in places they might never have expected. Here are a few tips aimed at delivering that experience and finding the networks you really need to be a part of.

1. Networking activities should be on-brand.

A lot of networking events end up being aimless meetings, not really delivering on business development or network building at all. Everyone’s been to at least one lunch or mixer that was boring and yielded absolutely no useful contacts. Casual meetings or mixers run into this issue more often, despite seeming like the most relaxed way to engage with networking. In fact, people in these casual settings tend to gravitate towards people they already know in order to avoid any awkward encounters or conversations with strangers. It’s vital that you make sure you’re spending networking time with groups or in places that will cater to your career development as a financial advisor.

Additionally, take the time beforehand to understand the values and preferences of the groups you’re looking to meet before you go. What values drive their work ethic? What needs define their business? Use these questions to generate a fruitful conversation once you’ve been introduced to someone you need to know.

2. Networking is more than just networking events.

Networking is far more than the events you attend. Meetings and conferences can certainly be helpful, but they’re not where the majority of your prospective clients are going to be. Opportunities to network in a way that grows your business are more likely to appear in your community, especially if you approach them in an authentic way. Be open to conversations with local business owners and neighbors. These are potentially valuable contacts you might never have access to at a traditional networking event. You don’t know who might be at your gym, at the bar you’re going to, or at a PTA meeting at your child’s school. The best recommendation for your services is the way those people see you interacting with your community.

Additionally, be on the lookout for opportunities to help that community in a visible way. Most towns and cities have local sports teams or school events to sponsor, both of which can create an organic gathering of business leaders and other people you need to know.

3. Remember, networking is a two-way street.

One important part of networking that can get lost in conversations about tactics and growth is the opportunity it offers to help other people expand their professional and social networks and drive more business for themselves as well. If you treat networking interactions as opportunities for you to help others without any expectation of getting something in return, you will grow your network and your business much more quickly.

Help other people expand their networks and they will remember you. Help people get new clients and they will thank you. Help other people grow their business and you will be growing yours as well.

This attitude makes networking feel far less artificial and self-interested than it is portrayed by critics, and takes the process back to its roots in simply meeting people and sharing knowledge. This is doubly true when you’re engaging with members of your local community who might be uncomfortable with dry, transactional conversations that end in the exchange of business cards. Networking can be an authentic, enjoyable process if you engage with it as a way to bring your professional and social networks to someone new who might — but is not obligated to — help you in turn.

4. Maintain your network.

Most networking fails due to lack of follow up. None of the networking events you go to or conversations you strike up will be worthwhile if you don’t follow up and strengthen that connection. Maintenance is the difference between a collection of conversations and a professional network.

Follow up later that day or the next day at the latest. Phone calls, emails, texts, even LinkedIn profiles can be convenient tools for starting the conversations that turn an introduction into a network. The right mixture of mediums is vital if you get and keep the attention of potential customers and contacts. If you’re not sure what the best way to contact someone is, then ask them when you’re getting their contact information. They’ll will be glad to share their preference with you. It’s in their interest as much as it is in yours to continue the introduction and network with you.

Another good way to maintain your network is to ensure you are posting frequent updates on the social media account(s) you maintain for business purposes. This helps keep you top-of-mind with your contacts. In addition, liking and commenting on connection’s posts will go a long way in keeping your relationship active with that person.

Networking effectively is incredibly important for financial advisors because you need to build close relationships with the potential clients you meet in order for them to put their trust in you. Putting in the work to develop your networks will help build your business with a pipeline of prospective clients and referral sources. If all goes well they’ll be asking you what to do with their most valuable assets, and how your expertise can support their financial security and make their lives (and possibly their network of friends’ lives) more comfortable.

Christopher Crawford is the Director of Advisor Relationships for the Buffalo Funds. He has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry, previously holding positions at Invesco, IMA Financial Group, and Arthur J. Gallagher. At the Buffalo Funds, Christopher works with investment consultant relations, key account management, institutional distribution and client service. His main goal is to partner with advisors to bring business building ideas and provide unparalleled customer support to their business, always striving to make it easy and reliable to work with the entire Buffalo Funds investment team. Christopher received an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and a B.S.F.A. from Southern Methodist University. He also holds licenses for the Series 7, Series 63, and Series 65.
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Christopher Crawford
Director, Advisor Relationships