One of the many skills we always need to be polishing as financial professionals is our listening skills.
The problem begins with the fact that as financial professionals we are more comfortable receiving our information in written form. Put us in a “selling” situation, especially over the telephone, and our listening skills may not be serving us very well.
As we all get into personal selling, and that is what networking is all about, we fall into a syndrome called “throwing up on the customer.” Briefly what happens is that we are so into our sales pitch about ourselves that we forget to listen.
An additional element to be considered is the normal human reluctance to “do business” with strangers. In this case, doing business with strangers is asking those who really don’t know us all that well to make introductions for us.
There are many industries that are hard to break into because they tend to only do business with people who are known to them. Private Equity Groups and Venture Capital Firms are perfect examples. Why is this? The reason is that the risks of doing business with strangers is very high. And, big money is at stake.
In the context of networking we are asking folks who don’t really know us to introduce us to their friends and business associates. If you think about this, you are asking for someone to do something that can have high risks. What if you don’t impress their friend or business contact? (Yes, I know the odds of that are low given the high quality of our august body.)
When you first make contact you may actually be presented with a test and not quite realize it if you don’t listen carefully. Sure, this first contact alone may be a valid use of your time, however, if you do well, there may be even more introductions down the line.
I strongly recommend reporting back to your networking contacts. Although it may sound like bothering folks who already may have been very kind, this is not actually the case. The truth is that not only will they have been thinking about you, they will also be awaiting a report on the results of the meeting they have set up for you.
The “test” of you as a qualified person and capable person may also include the opportunity to be of service to your networking contact. Just as you don’t want to feel like you are asking for a huge favor, neither do they. Here is where your listening skills are really needed. Is your networking contact asking you to do something for them? The something may actually be a “test” and if you pass, it may lead to even more introductions.
Avoid “throwing up” on your networking contacts. (It makes too much of a mess anyway!) Turn your hearing aid way up and turn on your listening skills. You may come away with more than you ever imagined was possible.