Networking, when done correctly, is extremely profitable and fun. I know from my experience, as well as from the experience of my colleagues and clients, that networking is a great way to meet new friends and make valuable connections for my business, which often result in new clients. After all, we all know that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Each new contact, is a new opportunity to grow your Book of Business from the outside in.
Networking is one of the best business building strategies for those socially oriented like the Royal and the Celebrity Archetypes. Effective networking is about connecting with others. Those connections might turn into sales, or they may yield a steady stream of referrals, alliances, advice, support, friendship, or extra special care when working on your projects. All of these are valuable, although few will ever happen at the first meeting, because networking is a process that takes time and effort, so if you’re going to network, you have to do it right.
Networking is more than face-time; it’s about really getting to know others.
Most people make one of two mistakes when they’re networking – doing too much, or too little.
Doing too much networking means attending meeting after meeting, but failing to really connect with other people in a meaningful way. Just showing up at networking meetings isn’t enough; you need to spend some time getting to know other people, learning about their businesses, and understanding how (and who) to refer to those folks, just as you are hoping they will do for you.
Doing too little networking means joining groups but not attending meetings, or attending meetings but not interacting with others in the group. Just being on a membership roster isn’t networking, and if you really want to network, you have to be prepared to step out of your shell and actually talk with other people.
Where you network matters.
When you network, you are looking to connect with more than just your prospects — you are looking for referral partners, potential alliance partners, and perhaps even colleagues with whom you can partner on large projects, or send prospects who are not a good fit with you. That means that at least one of your networking meetings should be with colleagues, another with prospects, and third with non-competing businesses who serve the same client you do to build your Business to Business group.
Not every person you meet is a prospect, but nearly every person you meet can be a valuable part of your network.
Just because someone isn’t a prospect right now doesn’t mean she won’t be in the future. And once you have her trust, she’ll be able to refer others in her circle of influence to you.
It is your responsibility to mingle and connect.
Too many people go to networking events hoping to make connections, but self-consciousness or shyness keeps them cowering on the sidelines, so the meeting is a waste of time, effort, and money. Everyone at the meeting is there for the same reason – to connect – so there is nothing to feel self-conscious about. Approach someone who is standing alone, introduce yourself, and ask him what he does if you want to get a conversation going. Do this three times at every meeting you go to, and soon you will know everyone there, and will be comfortable, not to mention popular.
People get bored or turned off really easily.
You need to be prepared to speak clearly, concisely, and positively about what you do. If the first words out of your mouth when someone asks you what you do are along the lines of “well, it’s complicated,” or “it’s hard to explain,” then you need to figure out what you can say that will be memorable, interesting, and explain what you do and for whom in just a few words.
Attend meetings or events where your ideal clients gather.
Until you’re very clear about whom you serve, it will be very tough to meet your clients. Merely attending random events with the intent of converting everyone you meet into clients just doesn’t work, so find events with people who share your Core Values, and meet them there.
Attend meetings or events where your colleagues gather.
Belonging to a trade or industry association is valuable for the support, community and educational aspects, and the connections you can make there will benefit you as well. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a good network among other Realtors®. As an important side note – Networking is about meeting NEW people, not recycling the same old ones time and time again. Avoid long-term commitments to small groups with limited people flow. These connections can become very profitable for both of you in the luxury real estate game.
Share a ride but not the whole evening with your friends.
I’m all for car-pooling, but you really need to be on your own at meetings when you intend to network. You look more approachable when you’re alone, and you have more autonomy as well.
Set goals for the event.
The default goal is to introduce yourself to at least five people in the room, which is a great goal for almost anyone. If you’re feeling self-conscious or shy, look around to see if there are any other people standing alone, and introduce yourself to them. Don’t worry about getting trapped in a conversation you can’t escape; nobody is looking for a new best friend. As a matter of fact, most of the people are there for the same reasons you are.
Wear a name tag on your right shoulder.
A name tag identifies you (handy when you’re trying to meet people), and putting it on your right shoulder allows right-handed people to see it clearly when you extend your arm for a handshake. If you wear your name tag on your belt, or on a lanyard on your chest, people’s eyes may stray to places that aren’t appropriate for public inspection, so do yourself (and the people you meet) a favor, and put your name tag in an easy-to-see-and-read spot.
Be prepared to introduce yourself well.
There are usually two opportunities to introduce yourself at a networking function: As you wander around the room meeting people casually, and again when the group does the round robin of introductions. My apologies if this sounds remedial, but you must be prepared to say your name, your company name or your professional title, and your ‘Sound Bite’. (Your ‘Sound Bite’ is a seven- to nine-word phrase that distills the essence of your value to a particular market.)
Sadly, I’ve met too many people who can barely spit out their names, let alone their company names or professional titles. If you’re not comfortable using your ‘Sound Bite’ during casual encounters, here’s a tip: Greet the person, say your name, and ask what he or she does. Example (this is best when you can read the person’s name off her name tag): “Hi Nancy, I’m Ronnie. What do you do?” The obvious path for this conversation to take is for the other person to tell you what she does, and then ask you what you do.
Have a great answer to the “what do you do?” question.
This is the perfect time to haul out your ‘Sound Bite’. That opens up the conversation immediately, and gives anyone who meets me a good idea of what you do.
Be prepared with a great follow-up to your ‘Sound Bite’.
If you are lucky enough to hear those three little words, “tell me more!”, as a response to your ‘Sound Bite’, you’ve got up to 30 seconds to share more information about your work and yourself. Bear in mind that 30 seconds is a long time in boredom years, so be prepared with a succinct, interesting response that invites even more interest.
Take advantage of the visibility opportunities.
Many groups offer places to display marketing materials, or even allow members to make short spotlight presentations. Two words of advice: Do it! This visibility will help people get to know you, and possibly remember you when the need for the service you provide arises.
Follow up with everyone you meet.
Send a personal note telling every person you met that it was nice to meet him or her on classy stationary through the mail if possible. If you met anyone really interesting, consider adding that person to your Business to Business group. You’ll be remembered, and will be closer to having a real relationship with those people, who may then start referring prospective clients to you.
Don’t assume that just because one person isn’t a potential client for you, that the relationship has no value.
The plain truth is that every client you’ve ever wanted is a mere six people away from you. What you will find at trade and association meetings are people who know other people, who know even more people, who might be great clients for you. But those great clients won’t be able to find you if you don’t make some connections first.
Make sure you end each of your conversations with the Magic Question.
“If you had a friend or family member that was interested in doing something with real estate, do you have someone you’d refer them to?” Then follow up with “May I have the honor of earning your trust?”
Interested in an advanced class in networking? Check out Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone