After a decade of being a partner in a New York City life insurance firm, Elmer G. Leterman launched his own brokerage in 1936. You can imagine how tough it must have been for Elmer to attract new clients during the throes of the Great Depression. His breakthrough turned out to be a twist on networking: The Leterman Lunch.
Each week he'd canvass Manhattan to identify three people who "should meet," and invite them to lunch at a local restaurant. For example, he'd invite an entrepreneurial chef with a vision to launch a new restaurant, an investor with an appetite for food ventures and a construction expert with a good reputation for on-budget, beautiful buildings. He would go around the table and introduce them, noting why they should converse about the chef's opportunity.
He never brought brochures and never mentioned his insurance product line. He kept the conversation focused on the mutual opportunity of the other three. He would follow up after the lunch to make sure they'd kept in touch and celebrated when the introductions led to new business and personal relationships.
Leterman held these lunches 50 times a year and by the mid-1940s emerged as one of the most successful insurance brokers in New York City. His company morphed into the Leterman-Gortz Corporation, which exists to this day. Talk about a legacy!
How was he so successful? Just do the math of goodwill. Multiply three grateful people by 50 and then compound them by a decade. This equated to endless referrals from people who can't thank Leterman enough for his generosity. He was a people connector, not a resource collector. He took the long view on networking, using it as a way to create opportunities for others.
Why Most Networkers Get It Wrong
When people attend a networking event, a social situation or have a casual conversation with someone they've just met, they aren't looking to be sold on anything. But too often they encounter others trying to leverage the experience to market, sell or gather new connections that can move their business or career forward. It's a big disconnect. When you approach networking as a prospecting event, you usually walk away empty-handed and come across as pushy or "me-focused."
It makes sense that you take this approach. After all, it's harder than ever to find new clients in a world where no one returns phone calls, answers emails or allows casual drop-in presentations. Likely, your best clients came from a referral or a chance meeting at a social event, during travel or on the street. So we pursue networking as a way of directly growing our business, not realizing that the real game is creating value for others and forging deep relationships.
A Proven System for Connecting People
I've developed a system for connecting people, and over the last 15 years, it's dramatically scaled both the size and quality of my network of relationships.
Here's how it works:
1. Focus Conversations on Them
When you meet others, during the 'what do you do?' part of the conversation, simply headline that you are a financial advisor with a focus/specialty on ____________. Then immediately shift your attention to their line of work, asking, "What are you working on these days that you are excited about?" This will usually lead to them talking about a project, a business venture or even something personal they are passionate about. In many situations, you'll detect that they are dealing with a challenge, and this is where you might spot your connection opportunity. I usually prod, "What stands between you and success on this?" In many cases, they'll identify an obstacle that someone you know just might have an answer for. Tell them about your associate and how he or she can help, and then exchange contact information.
2. Fuse Connections Immediately
Within three business days, make the introduction. You may choose to organize a lunch or conference call, which is usually the most powerful way to fuse people. If that's not practical, introduce them via a three-way email, including LinkedIn or website links to establish mutual credibility. Right after you send the email, text or call your current contact with a heads-up that you think they will get value out of meeting your new connection. This greatly increases his or her likelihood to respond to the email and get the ball rolling.
3. Expect Nothing in Return
Once the connection is made, disappear from the conversation, leaving them to go off and make magic together. No matter how well things turn out, never expect reciprocity. Instead, trust them to pay it forward, connecting others in the future when they spot the opportunity. This no-st rings approach will maximize their good feelings towards you and pay handsome dividends in the long run. And you will never be disappointed or feel taken advantage of!
In 2020, Leterman's approach to networking is still a sound practice for financial advisors. Your network is likely your greatest asset, and it will grow when you share it with ot hers to promote success. To quote Dale Carnegie, one of Elmer's contemporaries: "You will accomplish more by developing a sincere interest in people than trying to get people interested in you."
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial advisors.
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