How to network better

By Jessica Bruno | May 9, 2014 | Last updated on May 9, 2014
3 min read

Networking guides going back to 1936’s How to Win Friends and Influence People say it’s more important to listen than speak when meeting someone new. Is that true, or are you missing out on an opportunity to make an impression?

Brian Himmelman

Brian Himmelman, B.Comm., CFP President, Himmelman and Associates, Halifax Years in business: 17

It’s true. Whether it be sales or connecting with people, the number one thing is to have that person like you. Listening shows you respect them and that you’re interested. At the end, say, “If you’re interested in what I do, I’d love the opportunity to talk about it at a later date.”

The key is balancing not being too forward and aggressive with not missing the follow-up cue. Let’s say you tell someone you’ll follow up in two weeks but you wait six—you’ll lose people. If I met somebody at a function, I wouldn’t be going to LinkedIn the next morning, but it should be within 48 hours. I’d send a quick note saying, “It was a pleasure meeting you. I’d love to get together for a coffee.”

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I’d then leave that for about a month, and then I’d go back and say, “Do you have time for that coffee?” as opposed to, “Can we get together so I can talk about what I do?”

Susan Stefura

Susan Stefura, CFP, R.F.P., FCSI, TEP, Fellow of the FPSC Principal, Bespoke Financial Consulting, Toronto Years in business: 24

When we’re meeting with clients, we let them do the talking. But you also want to make an impression. You can’t do that unless you talk. Have a synopsis that’s quick and succinct about the type of work you do. It will help both of you better understand how you can help each other. Asking specific questions is something you need to do as well, like, “Where do we go from here?”

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Networking is not a one-way conversation. It has to be an information exchange—you’re both getting to know each other. If you’re just taking notes, it’ll come across that you’re not interested. You have to respond to what the person is saying, or he or she will start to tune out. For me, I’d start to feel a little used. If you’re asking me questions and tapping into my knowledge, I’d want to know, “What am I getting out of this?”

But, listening to what someone is saying carefully will indicate how you can give back.

Ngoc Day

Ngoc Day, CFP, CIM, RFP, TEP, M.Sc. Fee-only advisor, Macdonald, Shymko and Company, Vancouver Years in business: 12

After listening, you need to clearly state your value. Tailor your statement to your listeners. What services would they be interested in? If I’m talking to someone I’ve met before, and they’re asking me about what I do, I don’t want to miss that opportunity. That’s assuming I’ve listened during previous encounters, and I know the person I’m talking to, what they’re looking for, and something about them.

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When I was new in my career, I was at a social event and an acquaintance started talking to me about his finances. He needed some estate and retirement planning. I made the mistake of trying to solve his problems and of telling him about my background too early. I thought I was whetting his appetite, but I wasn’t listening to his questions or his story. I realized too late that he’d gone away with the feeling that I was trying to sell myself.

Now I would simply say, “I work in that area, and I help people with those issues.” Then I’d invite him to call me later if he’s interested.

Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.