Networking is one of those words that conjures up mixed images. Some people love it, while others see it as something they do under sufferance. Networking is about building relationships that are genuine and long-lasting. For financial planners, having an effective and sustained network can make all the difference in the success of their planning practice.
The key is to have a network which is:
Take the long-term view
It’s easy to spot the person who networks with the sole intent of focusing on what they can gain and short-term outcomes. They’re the person who takes the ‘it’s all about me’ approach to networking. When you meet them, they typically spend most of the time talking about themselves or milking you for information that will help them.
In contrast, people who take a long-term view of networking recognise the value in establishing long-term relationships. Good relationships take time, which means that every investment of energy and interaction you have with a client, potential client or stakeholder, matters.
Levelling up your network
It’s crucial to know whether your network is an asset or a liability. Does it help you drive your business forward or does it hold your business back? If you want to build a network which is an asset, these five key steps will help you take your network to the next level.
Identify your network. Ask yourself – who’s in it and how effective is it? Identify any gaps that exist (i.e. people who are missing from your network) and where there are blockages (i.e. people with whom it’s hard to get things done). This includes knowing who are the connectors and influencers in your organisation and network. These people know people, and therefore know how and who to influence. In short, they are connected and know how to get things done and can more easily navigate roadblocks.
Consider how much energy you drive into your network. Ask yourself – am I striking the right balance between reaching out to people and asking for something, and reaching out to others and offering help and support?
Seek to broaden your network. Consciously seek out people with different backgrounds and experiences, so that your network has character and depth. The best way to do this is to get involved in a range of business functions and events, where you are able to meet people from different backgrounds and industries.
If you manage a team of people, work with them to assess the effectiveness of their network. Consider – is it effective? Are they collaborating across the team? How does the team work together effectively to leverage each other’s networks? Reflect on how you can reward and encourage your team members who engage in healthy and effective collaborative behaviours.
The final step is being clear on how you engage and interact with people. People who network well are clear on why they network and how they do it. They are planned, consistent and focused.
For financial planners who want to take their network to the next level, they can apply the following elements to their approach:
As Richard Branson said: “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.”
Enjoy building your network and always do it from a position of integrity.
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