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Who You Know Matters More Than Your Brilliance

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There’s too much emphasis now placed upon “what you know. I know…I know…heresy!

But here’s a radical thought: most professional advisers today actually know enough.  Sure, we always need to improve and there’s always more to learn and continuous learning is simply a part of being a professional…BUT…the balance between professional improvement and improving the performance of the professional is wrong for too many people at the moment.  The focus upon “knowing more and more” technical stuff is in many instances detracting from the business development of the professional.

To develop successful professionals there has to be a continuous investment in developing competency but there also has to be a continuous focus upon developing relationships and professional reputation simultaneously.

One of best known truisms in business is “it’s not what you know, but who you know” and this is especially true in professional services where trust is a critical element for consumers selecting a professional to guide them in significant life and business decisions.  Getting to know people must happen usually before we’ll trust them.  Getting to be known BY people must happen before they will decide to do business with us…it cuts both ways.

The bottom line is that if there are two equally competent professionals but only one of them is well known and has a strong network and profile, then it is that one who will prosper the most. It’s a pretty simple concept then, all other things being equal:

Your success at networking makes a massive difference to how many prospects you have, and how many clients you can create“.

So what are the keys to making networking work?

  1. Attitude: This is the thing that makes or breaks networking efforts.  You really do have to be thinking about the “triple wine” right from the start.  How can you build relationships where you provide value and help another business person create a win?  How does that help customers create a win?  Finally, is there a potential win in it for you?  Your attitude has to be about creating the first two wins well before the third one- help them win first is the key.
  2. It is a 100% of the time activity.  Everything and everyone in business is a networking opportunity.  Everyone you met is potentially a great potential centre of influence or advocate.
  3. Be the adventurer.  Somebody had to be the first person to venture forth and discover new worlds….be that adventurer. Be the one who is willing to open conversations and meet people who are just as nervous as you are about meeting new people…
  4. Be interested.  Find out about them, their history, what they like…find out about new business contacts firstly as people – then worry about finding out about their business. Be interested in other people as human beings first, and as business owners second.  People like other people who show a genuine interest in them first.
  5. Be interesting.  Bland is boring and kills networking opportunities.  This is where your own value proposition is so incredibly powerful – being able to create interest and intrigue when it is your turn to introduce yourself can make or break networking opportunities.  It may be 5 minutes into a conversation before you get your 30 seconds to be interesting (because you focus on them, and are “interested” first, right?) – but when that time comes you need to be interesting.  There is nothing more bland than wheeling out an industry title or job descriptor – you know what I mean: “I’m an accountant specialising in tax planning….” or “I’m a financial planner specialising in portfolio management….”  Yawn.  Move on….networking opportunity dead!
  6. Follow up. Don’t let the 10 minutes of conversation just become 10 wasted minutes of 2 people’s lives.  Follow up afterwards.  Send a thank you, mail some information of interest to them, connect on LinkedIn, follow them on social media platforms – reach out and engage.  Make the contact count.
  7. Use the Law of Reciprocity.  Do people small favours.  Introduce them to other potentially useful people. Send some business opportunities their way.  Put in a good word for them with people you know that they want to know….do good things for other people and most will feel obliged to do good things for you when they can.
  8. Have a system. You can’t afford to forget people – or have them forget you. You need a system for maintaining contact details, and basic knowledge of all your potential future advocates or clients that you meet through networking – AND you need a system to maintain ongoing engagement and contact.  Just storing their details is not enough – you have to have a system for reaching out and staying engaged too.

Related: The Pathway To Professional Greatness as an Advisor

The most successful sales people, the greatest business builders and leaders, political leaders…they all build careers and empires on the back of superb networking abilities.  Getting known…”who you know”….will carry you a long way towards where you want to be.

Work on it.

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