December means parties. Clients have them. The Chamber does too. The local symphony has a holiday concert. Friends have friends over. Families gather. Say yes to them all. There’s a lot more to be gained than free food and liquor. You can make connections that might turn into business.
The British TV sitcom, Yes, Prime Minister had a great observation about state funerals. Heads of state could meet and informally chat. It wasn’t a conference, like the G-20 summit. There were no expectations. Meeting people at a party is the ultimate in casual connections. It isn’t a referral introduction from a client. It isn’t an initial prospect meeting. There are no expectations.
A Dozen Opportunities
Here are a dozen reasons why you want to attend an event every night if possible during the holiday season:
1. Being in the right place. Pick the right events to attend. There’s a mover and shaker you want to meet. You know you could never get them on the phone. You know they belong to a community organization and they have a leadership role. It’s highly likely they will attend the holiday blowout.
Opportunity: It’s your best chance to walk up and introduce yourself.
2. Bring a gift to remember. You are invited to someone’s home. Obviously you don’t arrive empty handed. Whatever you bring isn’t perishable or bearing the firm’s logo. It might be a nice wine in a larger format (3 liter) bottle. (They appear in December at wine shops. They can be reasonable.) It might be a framed photo of them. It absolutely has a tag with a greeting to your hosts and your name printed clearly.
Opportunity: As your hosts look through the loot the next day, they see your classy gift. They say: “Wow! She’s thoughtful. We should try to see more of her in the New Year. Let’s plan a dinner party, invite a few friends…”
3. Working the room. It’s the last thing you want to do after a busy day in the office. However, you are at a community function. The mayor and several business leaders are there. You make the rounds.
Opportunity: You meet more of those high profile people who wouldn’t take your call otherwise.
4. Interests in common. You are at the holiday concert. During intermission, you meet some people on the drinks line. You get talking and realize they are fellow wine fans. Like you, they are eager to share their knowledge and talk about new finds.
Opportunity: They dress well. They might have the potential to be clients, but they could be great friends. Those shared interests provide the rationale for exchanging contact information.
Related: Why Should I Do Business With You?
5. Connecting afterwards via LinkedIn. You met a couple of architects at the museum’s holiday reception. They talk about commissions they have received. They ask questions about the economy. It’s a good conversation.
Opportunity: Offering or asking for a card might seem pushy if the conversation lasted under five minutes. You ask if they are on LinkedIn. They are. You suggest connecting. Your invitation references where you met and what you discussed.
6. Complimenting people. “I can’t believe it! It’s the CEO from that big drug company in town! He’s here at the Chamber Christmas party! I’ve got to meet this guy! But what will I say?”
Opportunity: A compliment is always a good icebreaker. You duck behind a Christmas tree and pull out your Smartphone, checking for news on their company. They just reported great earnings. You walk over and congratulate him on having a great quarter.
7. Inviting them over. That wine loving couple you met earlier. They seem like really nice people. You connected on the phone afterwards. You told them about the great wine deal you just found. You can tell you’ve got a connection. Time for the next step.
Opportunity: Invite them to your house or out to a wine bar for a holiday drink. You and your spouse plus the other couple makes a foursome. The spouses bond. The other couple starts to tell you about themselves.8.
8. Going out for dinner afterwards. You attended the tree lighting in the town square. It attracted a huge crowd. Santa arrived on his sleigh. Carol singers added to the mood. You saw the owner of a local business that you patronize. They brought their spouse. The ceremony is over. The crowd disperses.
Opportunity: Suggest stopping someplace local for dinner. They need to eat too. Everyone knows they are covering their own tab. You learn about the business owner outside the context of their store.
9. Meeting senior management in a social situation. You are attending the office holiday party. “Wow! Your manager somehow got the national head of wealth management to attend! Your fellow advisors act as if Darth Vader is walking around the Death Star. When will you ever see this person again, other than on a webinar?
Opportunity: You walk over and introduce yourself. You saw glowing things about your manager. You let them know you’ve been with the firm many years. You sound optimistic about the business going forward. After the holiday, the guy asks your manager; “Who was that guy with the great attitude?”
10. What do you do? It works both ways. Your alumni association has a holiday get together. It gets a better turnout than the monthly lunches. Over drinks and munchies, you see some new faces. You ask what they do. You return the favor.
Opportunity: Assuming they are business owners, middle managers or professionals, they have the potential to be prospects. You suggest connecting on LinkedIn.
11. Party at a client’s home. Your client invites you to their holiday open house. It’s a catered event. The place is packed. You always meet your client in her or your office. You have been invited into their home.
Opportunity: You see the books on their shelves, the type of art they like and sports equipment near the front door. You start to learn about their interests outside work and investing.
12. Meet the next generation. You are at a different client’s home. It’s a family affair. Your client introduces their grown children. They have children too. One day, these folks will inherit.
Opportunity: It’s your chance to talk with the next generation and identify interests in common. Your client will likely sing your praises afterwards.
Many advisors think attending parties and thinking like an advisor is a chore. They want to let their hair down and party. Staying in character, taking an interest in others and spotting opportunities can pay off.
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