Trudy Turner, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CPWA
Senior Wealth Manager, Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management
Emma Cramm, CFP®
Wealth Planner, Cadent Capital
Editor’s Note: This article was compiled from the “Networking with Purpose” breakout session from the 2020 FPA NexGen One Day Experience, hosted by Trudy Turner, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CPWA, and Emma Cramm, CFP®. Visit https://fpalearning.onefpa.org to listen to sessions from this event and others.
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Getting started in the biz is tricky. Who do you reach out to when you need a little guidance or someone to refer clients to about specific areas you don’t cover? Having a wealth of contacts is vital to your success. As the adage goes, it’s not what you know—it’s who you know. Networking is a vital part of any professional development plan.
Talking to new people can be frightening for some. Others may find it second nature. Regardless, the pandemic made it even trickier to meet others, and you might need to adapt your plans. Trudy has several tips that she discussed with other financial planners, as well as a “secret recipe” of five C’s that she incorporates into all her networking efforts.
One of her general tidbits of advice is to try to seek out one-on-one engagements. Jumping into a group of people can be anxiety-inducing for an introverted personality, and also ineffective if they continue their conversation with you being nothing more than a bystander. It’s easier to guide the conversation if it’s just you and the other person.
But how do you actually get that first conversation? Especially with ongoing social distancing, you might need to get creative. LinkedIn is powerful and should not be neglected. Try to connect with specific people who you look up to or even just people with the skill set and expertise that you desire to have in your network. If you already have some first connections on LinkedIn, try to see if they can introduce you to their connections that you are keen on networking with. Other options include emailing or even calling people to see if they have some time for you. You would be surprised at the number of yeses you will hear, as a lot of people in the financial planning industry genuinely want to help others.
In better times, going to conferences is recommended, as you can meet many people there. Don’t forget about your local FPA chapters, too! Even if you don’t have “the talk” then, you can always exchange contact information with a new colleague and follow up with them later. Even better is going where the people are that you want to network with. As an example, Trudy highlighted a time when she wanted to meet Black lawyers. So what did she do? She reached out to her local association for Black attorneys. She isn’t an attorney, but she asked if it would be fine if she joined one of their meetings, and they happily obliged.
Some tips on how to network are great, but who do you network with? That brings us to the titular point of this article: networking with purpose. Networking with everyone and their grandma is great at padding the numbers in your friends list, but does that take you anywhere professionally?
Think about who you need in your network. You should be networking for a reason. Who might be helpful for you and your clients? You might need CPAs, or you might need divorce or estate or other specific attorneys. There may be other specialists that you can call upon or give referrals to depending on exactly what your target clientele is.
It’s important to not self-reject yourself by not reaching out. You would be surprised at the number of people who are more than willing to meet up for a coffee or even a Zoom conversation.
If you are a career changer, try to capitalize on the network that you already have from your old firm and industry. At some point, you might just have to cold call new candidates, but try using LinkedIn and other connections first. And if you know another person in the same boat—both of you looking to network—you could try going to events together. Hang out with your friend who is a CPA, attorney, or CFP® professional and go out into the throngs of people together. A wing mate always helps take the edge off.
Trudy has five “secret ingredients” that she underlines all her networking efforts with to ensure she is making the best use of her time.
Connection. You need to connect somehow with the person you are trying to network with. Find some mutual ground. Are you a CPA? Try to talk with other CPAs. Do you share a hobby? Capitalize on that.
If you’re purposely meeting a specific person one-on-one, do some research beforehand. Don’t go into it blind. You just need one or two topics to show that you are genuinely interested in them.
If you’re getting referrals from clients, friends, or other sources, see if you can get a little info about the referred person so you’re more prepared.
Creativity. One typically thinks of networking as a boring room of people standing around and talking to each other. Try to be creative and come up with unique and exciting ways to connect to make the initial connection more memorable.
You could invite them to a quaint coffee shop. How about a bike ride? Attend seminars or holiday functions with them. Do something memorable.
Comfort. You need to be comfortable and authentic. You shouldn’t have a stuffy elevator speech. You need to be able to casually talk about what you do, so you don’t come across as awkward or unknowledgeable.
Showing that you love your job and are excited helps convey your enthusiasm, but it’s also important to not just say that you are a financial planner. What do you help clients do?
Having a case-study story that you like to share is a great method of connecting with people. Coming up with your “story” can be difficult, especially for new people, but career changers have lots to pull from, even if their experiences aren’t in financial planning.
If you’re more analytical and math-oriented, you could focus on a time when you did X plan and saved Y dollars for a client. If you’re more of a people person, you can talk about the emotional relief you gave by helping a client who was having a child or moving and buying a home, and how excited it made you to help them.
Come up with a story that speaks true of who you are and what you value.
Consistency. Consistently network. It has to be a regular activity. Networking isn’t something you just do once in your life at the beginning of your career. Make time to network weekly or monthly. It needs to be part of your schedule.
Character. How you communicate with people will dictate your success. It’s important to understand yourself first. Then you can see how people are different and how you have to change your strategy.
This doesn’t mean you should be fake, but you do need to get on the same wavelength, lest you end up talking past each other.
If you like small talk, but they are more of a “get to brass tacks” sort of person, you might need to keep your fluffy conversations to a minimum. Conversely, if they do like small talk and you don’t, you might just need to get better about talking about the weather. But don’t change you.
Trudy had two resources that she wished to share with up-and-coming financial planners.
The first one is the book So You Want to Be a Financial Planner by Nancy Landon Jones, which is packed full of questions you may have and helpful answers. It’s basically an FAQ for people new to the profession.
The other resource is the You’re a Financial Planner…Now What? podcast, which discusses common challenges for new financial planners. Now you are a CFP® professional, but where do you go from here? Read the stories and listen to the podcast on your daily commute or walks for tips on where to take yourself next.
Lastly, it’s important that you network with clients. You won’t have a business without them! That’s another entire discussion, but Trudy said she has great success asking for client referrals from existing clients right after helping them save a bunch of money.