I don’t like networking events.
I don’t like the fake smiles, cheesy jokes, overbearing personalities, awkward conversations, and unsolicited advice.
And of course I can’t stand the sales pitches for crap I will never ever buy.
On the bright side… sometimes there’s alcohol.
Although I’m a die-hard internet marketing guy I know these two things as fact:
- The more people you know the more insurance you sell.
- Networking events are one of the best ways to meet people.
So I figured, considering my disdain for networking events, I would be the perfect person to give ideas for getting the most out of something that I consider to be a necessary evil.
Here they are, 34 networking tips for insurance agents:
1) Be a Connector
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but there’s more to helping people connect with each other than you may have considered.
When you’re the person introducing two others you’ll naturally assume a position of power within that group of three.
Over time, the more people you connect, the higher you’ll climb up the power pyramid in your local community.
2) Show Up to Events Early
I understand the temptation to show up fashionably late – it’s a lot easier to blend into a full room of people and its more likely you’ll see someone you already know.
Show up late though, and you’re missing a key opportunity – meeting the organizers.
Event organizers hold a lot of “connection power” and when you’re one of the first people to show up you can help out, get to know them, and compliment the setup.
There’s a decent chance it’ll even get you a “shout out” during any microphone time later in the event.
3) Don’t Talk Insurance
Not only is insurance boring, but every business networking event I’ve ever been to is crawling with insurance agents.
At some point, every networker has been stuck talking to a super-boring insurance guy and they are forever on the lookout to avoid the situation.
Even if someone wants to talk about insurance, try to push it off until after the event. That way you’ll be in a better situation to sell and you’ll find out whether they’re really interested or were just making small talk.
4) Find More Networking Events
There are a lot more opportunities than just the local chamber of commerce.
Think outside the box, ask around, and check out this list to get you thinking:
- Chambers of Commerce
- Business Networking Groups
- Mastermind Groups
- Meetup.com Groups
- Charity Events
- School Board Meetings
- High School Sports Games
- Local Youth Sports Events
- City Government
- And check out local event sites like Eventbrite, Eventful, and Patch.com
5) Send Your Staff
You don’t have to do all the networking yourself.
In fact, it’s probably more important that your producers are out there shaking hands than you are.
Don’t just send them blind, give them some goals and objectives and make them read this article!
6) Have Memorable Cards
People expect you (the insurance guy) will have some boring business cards.
I’ll write another article with ideas for business cards that stand out so I’m not digging deep into that here but be creative and make them stand out.
At the very least, put your picture on there.
And by the way, for those captive guys who say they’re stuck with the company issued cards…
The marketing police don’t go to your chamber of commerce meetings and nobody can stop you from marketing yourself (not the agency) however the heck you want to. Or put a funny sticker or stamp on the back.
7) Set Networking Goals
Like anything in business, proper goals will improve your results.
Make a measurable goal for networking like adding new LinkedIn Connections, giving away a certain number of business cards, or sending a certain number of follow-up emails to your contacts.
Like any goals you set, these should be focused on the activities that lead to sales, not the actual sales themselves.
8) Always Give Your Card
Business cards are cheap.
Ever find yourself thinking, “Should I give this guy my card?” or “Does she really want a card?”
The answer is always yes. Give it to everyone 10 times.
9) Don’t Have Big Handouts
I know what these people are thinking…
“Instead of handing out business cards I’m going to give people a 5×7 postcard. It’ll really stand out.”
Here’s what I’m thinking when you hand it to me:
“Thanks a**hole. Now I have to hold on to this stupid thing until I can find a garbage can.”
Don’t be that guy. People may smile and take your postcard but annoying people is not good networking.
10) Do The Follow-Up
Just like in sales, poor follow-up can make all your networking efforts worthless.
Do you think someone’s going to buy insurance from you or refer your agency after one meeting at a networking event?
Of course not…. You need to develop strong relationships.
Devise a follow-up plan that serves to deepen the connections you make at networking events.
(Try not to creep anyone out.)
11) Use LinkedIn To Follow Up
LinkedIn is a perfect low-effort tool for forging stronger relationships with people you meet at networking events (or anywhere else).
There’s no social stigma against requesting a connection on LinkedIn from someone you met and had a conversation with.
A LinkedIn connection is not the end goal, in fact it’s really just the beginning but it is a great first step toward developing a deeper professional connection with anyone.
12) Follow Their Business on Twitter and Facebook
Most agents I know think of Twitter and Facebook only as tools to reach out to current and prospective clients.
It can also be used very effectively as a professional networking and monitoring tool.
Use your agency’s twitter account and use Facebook as your agency page (not as yourself) and follow and like all the businesses who’s owners you meet.
Likes on Facebook are free so it won’t cost you a dime to “like” every business you meet and “like” every post they make. That’s a lot of potential free goodwill!
While we’re on the subject, click here to “like” My Facebook page and click “like” everything I post in the future
I DO NOT recommend using Facebook to “friend” a person you meet professionally unless you have a connection with them that is deeper than business.
13) Follow Up Via Email
After meeting someone you feel a strong connection with send them an email.
You can develop a template for emails like this, however I strongly encourage you to customize each email to reference something you discussed with the individual.
If you don’t have anything specific to say to this person, take a peek at their website and mention something about it. Wouldn’t it get your attention if someone mentioned something on your agency’s website?
(When I get a generic form email that I know was also sent to everyone else at a networking event I usually report it as SPAM.)
14) Phone Call Follow Up
Have a good networking connection you’re trying to build into a great one?
Call them up out of the blue with a question about their business.
You can just make it up if you want to… Say you’re doing research for a client.
Everyone loves being the expert and they’ll think it might be a sales lead so they’ll love it.
If they’re a really important connection, put it on your calendar to reach out once a month.
15) Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
If you haven’t heard of or read this book you should really check it out. It’s been around for almost a century and the information it gives is fundamental, but powerful.
I have an audio version on my phone that I listen to about once a year.
(It also helps me get my kids to do what I them to. Not by much, but I’ll take all the help I can get!)
16) Remember Names and Use Them Often
This one comes straight from the Dale Carnegie Playbook. (see #15 above).
People love hearing the sound of their own name and it will make people like you more.
The added benefit is when you use others’ names they’ll feel like they owe it to learn your name and more about what you do.
When more people remember your name and that you sell insurance, you win!
17) Join a Networking Breakfast Group
The biggest one is Business Networking International and they have groups all over the world but they’re not the only one. Try searching Google for other local networking groups too.
They’ll usually only allow one member from each industry and it can sometimes be hard to find an opening for an insurance agent but there’s also a lot of turnover so be patient you’ll get in.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of referral networking groups but I’ll hold back my own feelings because I do think they can be very helpful most insurance agents.
18) Talk To The Wallflowers
One of the easiest tricks at networking events is to look for people who look shy or uncomfortable and start talking to them.
They’re usually relieved to have someone showing interest in them and it gives you someone you can take around and introduce to all your connections.
Who do you think will remember (and appreciate) you more:
- The person that was uncomfortably hiding in the corner until you helped them?
- Or Mr. Mayor who thinks he’s better than everyone and doesn’t need your help?
19) Bring a Wingman (Or Wingwoman)
Taking a partner or employee with you to a networking event can be a huge boost to both your networking productivity.
With someone there making you feel comfortable it’s easier to break out of your shell.
Also, you can act as filters for each other, introducing and sharing the valuable connections while keeping the less valuable connections to yourselves.
And, if you’re the business owner and you bring an employee, you’ll be forced to step up your own networking to set the right example.
20) Prepare General Questions About Business
Just like in sales, good questions are like gold at networking events.
Having a short list of 5-6 go-to questions you can ask nearly everyone will help you avoid awkward situations and make sure you’re always showing people how much you’re interested in them.
Don’t rely on your ability to come up with interesting questions on the spot. Make a list before you walk in the door.
Here’s an article with some good ideas to get you started.
21) Take Notes on Business Cards
It’s normal to assume you’ll remember all the little conversational details about the people you meet the next day.
Making some notes on the back of their card about what you discussed will give you good content for an email or LinkedIn connection request.
Anything about kids, family, or personal life is great because it shows the person you care about them as a person, not just a business connection.
22) Identify the Connectors
If you’ve read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell you’re already aware of the value of Connectors.
Even if you haven’t, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that some people have more social clout than others and it makes sense to identify those with the most influence and try to befriend them.
At each networking event you go to, identify 2-5 people you would like to know better, not for who they are but for who they know.
When you connect well with one from the list add a new one.
23) Keep Expectations Low at First
Like many things in marketing, many agents stop going to networking events because they don’t see results fast enough.
It takes time to build connections and much more time to see measurable results.
Trust that your networking time is an investment in your career and future and don’t worry about the sales.
I promise sales will come if you keep networking; I guarantee they won’t if you quit.
24) Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine more than a tip, but I’ll say it anyway.
I can’t stand people that go to networking events and walk around like they have a stick up their butt.
Why so serious?
Have a good time, throw back a couple drinks, enjoy yourself. People might actually want to talk to you!
25) Network With Your Clients
A lot of the advice on this page is oriented toward networking events, but that’s really only part of the whole networking equation.
Many of the tips and ideas on this page can be used on your own network of clients.
In fact, if you’re going to connect with someone on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter, shouldn’t you be doing that with your own clients first?
26) Always Be Networking
ABN lacks the sex appeal of ABC, but if you’re not networking you’ll never be closing.
If you want to be successful you’re going to need to be an insurance agent 100% of the time.
Does every single person you’re connected with know you sell insurance?
27) Moving Pennies Technique
I got this tip a while back from an MLM recruiter. I didn’t sign up to sell with him, but it’s not a bad tip.
Every morning take 10 pennies and put them in your left pocket.
Throughout the day, each time you meet a new person and tell them what you sell move the penny from the left pocket to the right one.
Your day isn’t over until your left pocket is empty.
28) Disappearing Cards Technique
While writing the above idea I came up with a new one that could work for people that hate networking events.
Put 20-30 cards in your pocket and as soon as they’re all gone you can leave.
Work fast or you’ll be handing them out to the cleaning crew. (they need insurance too, right?)
29) The Elevator Pitch
I hate overused business cliches (like elevator pitches) as much as the next guy but there is a value to having a well-rehearsed explanation of what you do.
The elevator pitch is an explanation of what you do that’s quick enough to tell someone between floors on an elevator.
Make sure your elevator pitch is intriguing. A good elevator pitch makes people stop, think, and ask you a follow up question.
If you’re going to talk about yourself you want it to be because people asked.
30) Talk About What Excites You
Nobody really cares about it.
But people will listen to anything if you speak with passion.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your family, your hobby, the lacrosse team you coach or anything else!
When you speak with passion people will listen, they’ll want to introduce you to others and most importantly – they’ll never forget you.
31) It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who They Know
You’re not networking to sell insurance to the people you meet.
You’re networking to sell insurance to FRIENDS of the people you meet.
Remember that it only takes one really good networking connection to make up for all the time you spend doing it.
32) Describe Your Perfect Client
Although you can probably sell something to just about anyone, its easier for people to refer you if you narrow down your targeted client.
Find a way to tell all your networking connections specifically who your ideal client is (or the situation your ideal client may be in)
Saying, “My perfect client is everyone” is the best way to get zero referrals.
33) Keep a Networking Journal
Just like sales, networking is an activity that can be analyzed and improved through study and experience.
Keeping a journal of your networking experiences is a great way to identify new connections to target, keep track of things other people did that were good and bad, and find opportunities to improve your own networking skills.
Just don’t hide it under your bed, that’s the first place your little brother will look for it!
34) Be Memorable
No aspect of networking is more important than having people remember you.
Be the person everyone wants to meet.
And the one they’ll remember tomorrow.
Or don’t waste your time.