How to Connect at an Event and Avoid Missing New Client Opportunities
It’s amazing how few insurance and financial services professionals have no clue
how to make connections at an event. I’ve seen too many pros attend networking events in hopes
of making connections that will result in new clients, but they don’t know how to
maximize the opportunities these events provide. I’ve even seen FA and wealth management firms who hold their own events. These cost a great deal of time and money. They work hard to promote the event to ensure a good turnout, then fail to connect at the event in the right way.
You would think that every insurance, financial, and broker professional would know better, but many don’t know the right way to get and stay connected with potential clients. Just recently, a Milwaukee based wealth management firm sent me an invitation to a breakfast event. I was interested in hearing the featured speaker and the other investment
experts on the program, so I accepted, even though I’d have to drive up from Chicago
where I live. Another reason I wanted to attend is that since I have trained a
great deal of insurance and financial services professionals in every aspect of
sales, marketing, and client service, I wanted to observe how the executives and
staff would interact with the invited guests.
The wealth management firm spent a great deal of money promoting the event through newspapers, targeted mailings, and radio mediums. The turnout was about 100 people. That’s darn good! They held the event at a First Class, and well-known hotel in the heart of the city. The principals of the firm greeted people at the door. Just a “Hello,” and
“Welcome.” The food was wonderful, and the speakers were great, but (here’s the”
but”) here’s what I observed: Before and after the program, the firms owners and
investment advisors talked to only a few people. Not one single person approached
me or others at the table to ask who I was. They never stopped to think that I might
be a HNW client who knows other HNW folks. One did come say hello to one of his
own invited guests, but ignored others at the table. Go figure. At the end of the
event, one of the firm’s principals thanked everyone for coming, and said, “If we
can ever be of service, please do contact our office.”
Here’s another interesting thing that happened. The owner of an independent insurance
firm was present. We exchanged cards. She never followed up with me. I don’t get
it. Why did she attend?
Tips to connect at an event
Below are some tips to help you to take advantage of networking opportunities such
as luncheons, chamber events, association meetings, and any event where your goal
is to make new connections. While some tips are simply common sense and should be
second nature to you, others may help you maximize opportunities these events can
- Never attend any function, without a large supply of business cards. Place them in your right pocket (if you are right- handed). Whenexchanging cards with people put the cards in your left pocket. Make sure to get the other person’s card.
- Be the first person to enter the room and the last to leave it. Doing so will dramatically increase your opportunities for making connections.
- Wear your name badge on the right so when you shake hands people will be able to read it easily.
- Position yourself at the “Center of Influence,” the center of the room and not the food and beverage areas. This way, you can see who is coming through the door and keep your eye out for anyone who might be a prospect.
- Don’t wait. Initiate. Approach people by walking toward them, smile, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. If you are holding your own event, welcome your guests and thank them for attending. (Note: In the next special post, I will provide great event ideas.)
- Create and memorize a matrix of “small talk” questions to apply that will “break the ice.” Keep it casual at first, you are simply connecting. “Hi, I’m Joe. Where are you from?” “I see you are from XYZ company. How long have you been with them?” “Have you attended many of these events?” “What do you do at XYZ Company?”
- Give the individual your memorized elevator speech, (a “one-minute commercial about yourself and what you do.)
- If the person is not a prospect, or someone who can refer business to you, be polite but brief. If you spot a potential customer, quickly conclude your conversation by saying, “Excuse me, there’s someone I need to meet. I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Perhaps we can talk later.” Always be gracious and professional.
- Know how to approach a VIP. “Hello Ms. Jones, I’ve been hoping to meet you. May I introduce myself?”
- When you do meet a potential client close your body toward theirs and make sure you maintain eye-contact while talking with them. If they have others with them, be sure to direct eye-contact to those individuals as well, and include them in the conversation. Be professional and never aggressive. It’s the quickest way to turn someone off.
- Ask for his or her business card. Ask, “Mr. Smith, “Would it be okay with you if I gave you a call sometime?” If you know the person might be a great client, say, “Perhaps we can have lunch sometime.”
- Move through the room. Never stay put in one area. Make it a goal to stay in the room until you make five really good connections and five quality conversations. This holds true at outside events and your own events. (Ask the waitress or waiter to save your food for later. You are not there to eat. You are there to meet and greet.) If it is your own firm’s event, go around every table or area and make every effort to meet every person there, even if a the guest was invited by a colleague. You are there as an ambassador of your firm.
- Stay solo. If you attend an event with another person, don’t stay together. Connect separately and get all the business cards and contacts you can. If you meet someone who would be a definite prospect, say, “May I bring you over to introduce you to my colleague?” Then, do it. It’s a good way to promote your firm.
- Know how to graciously break in to a group of people. What till there’s a break in conversation and say, “Hi! I’m Jane. I’d like to meet you!” Then, start introducing yourself to each person.
- Follow up with an e-mail the next day. Call the prospect in five days. If they are a qualified prospect, start building the relationship. As an insurance / financial advisor professional…are you too sophisticated and successful to connect at an event? Just think of the how much more successful you can be if you master the art of Connecting at an event.