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When I first made the jump from engineering to financial advising, it was a bit overwhelming. Not only did I let go of my salary and benefits, but I also jumped into an industry I had no experience in. I never before had to prospect or ‘sell’ to a prospect. It almost felt like I had to learn a new language.
During my initial prospecting, I reached out to someone who didn’t require my services, but instead invited me to a networking group meeting. This was great, exactly what I needed to do. So I went.
It was pretty neat. I had never been to something like that before. And after one meeting, I figured it was something I’d like to join. I’ve always been quiet and shy, and presentations were never my strong suit. Having regular meetings to help expand my skills, while networking and meeting other professionals was obvious perks I had to pursue.
Here’s What I Found
At first, a networking group seems like a great idea. It can be rewarding, get you out of your comfort zone, and ultimately be good for business. All of the success you have within a networking group is up to the other people in the network. So it really depends on how your group is set up, what the structure is, how much effort everyone puts into the group, and how well everyone else complements your business.
In my experience, people often missed meetings or didn’t put as much effort into it as I did or I would have liked. But it’s one of those things where you get what you put in if you can wait long enough. So having some structure within the group is great (meeting frequencies, expectations, etc.), as long as everyone takes them seriously, but when you or they don’t, it can feel like a waste of time.
Networking groups can be expensive too, really expensive. Membership fees, meeting fees, travel, and taking time out of your day and week, all adds up. To me, it really didn’t make sense to pay to be part of a group of people that I could just talk to whenever I wanted. Especially now in a COVID world, it just doesn’t make sense. Everyone is just a phone or Zoom call away.
The biggest downside to a preset networking group is not everyone might be your first choice for their profession. People within the group might not align with your ideal clients, you may have bad experiences within the group that would put you in a position where you won’t network with them, or you might already have established relationships with other professionals. If any of those are the case, it automatically reduces the size and advantage of the networking group.
Here’s What I’d Recommend
Networking is definitely a good idea, and a networking group can be a good way to get yourself out of your comfort zone, connect with other professionals, and of course, grow your business. But not all networking groups are created equally, and even with the best of intentions, it can still be a tricky and long process to get to where you want to be.
Instead of joining a networking group, I’d recommend making your own. Here’s how:
- Network with professionals who compliment your business. If you can refer clients to other professionals that can help them with tasks you can’t, it makes their lives easier and makes you look good. If you’re a realtor, it would be great to know a mortgage broker, house inspector, insurance agents, the list goes on and on. Build strong relationships with people you intend to do business with.
- Network with professionals you get along with. Most professional services are based almost entirely on relationships. If they do a great job, you get along, and it’s nice to see them and work with them, then it’s a win-win. Just make sure that your relationship with them doesn’t get in the way of looking out for the clients’ best interests.
- Network with professionals who share your ambition. A big advantage of a networking group is the group itself. Being motivated or being held accountable by other people around you can help keep you going. Prospecting and growing your business is tough, so take any help you can get. Another advantage is joint or group presentations. Throw a homebuyer seminar, or turn any of your services into an educational event. Prospects appreciate it, and it gives you credibility.
A networking group can be essential for your business, but in my opinion, it’s better to make one than join one. Professionals should be picky about who they work with. They need to look out for their clients’ best interests before anything else.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.