The Most Important Rule of Networking

I often hear from advisors who get involved in various organizations such as alumni groups or non-profits.  But no matter how many groups they join, they never seem to find any new clients.  They’ll turn to me and ask, “I’ve joined every group I can think of, but nobody seems interested in hiring me as an advisor.  What am I doing wrong?”

As is often the case, the issue here is one of focus.  The advisor is focusing on himself.  Why is he joining so many groups? Because he wants to find new clients.  But that’s not why everyone else joined the group.  Everyone else joined the group because they believe in the cause of the organization.

For example, A Hand Up for Women is a non-profit in Knoxville whose mission is to provide a source of hope to women with the desire and motivation to pursue a more self-sufficient lifestyle.  The members of that group didn’t join because they were looking to network and find new clients.  They joined because the wanted to support the organization.

If you aren’t there to fully support the mission, everyone will see right through you.  One advisor told me how he joined an LGBT support organization because he thought it would be a good way to build a niche.  He said that he lasted just one meeting as he knew, and everyone else knew, that he was only there to focus on himself.

Being passionate about the organization is just the first step.  The most important rule of networking is that you have to give in order to get.  There’s no better way to demonstrate your value as an individual (and by extension, an advisor) than by giving yourself to the organization.

My son’s baseball coach works harder than anyone I know to teach the kids on the team how to play baseball, while making sure they are safe and having fun.  He’s always hustling to get things done and never hesitates to step in when the league needs help.  Consequently, I know that he will also do a fantastic job in his professional career.  After all, if he’s willing to work this hard and do such an excellent job at something he volunteers for, how amazing must he be at something he gets paid for?

When considering joining an organization to grow your business, take time to ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I passionate about the cause of this organization?
  • Would I join if I wasn’t a financial advisor?
  • How much time am I willing to dedicate to the organization?
  • Will I be able to clearly demonstrate my value as a person through my contributions?

One final note: last year, our company was looking for a new accountant.  The first person we called (and subsequently hired) was someone Susan knew from their work together on the board of A Hand Up For Women!

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