The Case for Networking: Among Skills Brokers Should Have, Small Talk Is Key
In last week’s column, I wrote about 10 things commercial brokers can do to maximize their productivity. While an all-inclusive list would contain dozens more, I highlighted those that I thought were the most important. The response to that column was tremendous and produced many emails with questions and comments.
Interestingly, a few readers questioned the importance of, and benefits derived from, networking. In this week’s column I will go into further detail about my perspective on networking and why I believe it to be a critical component of a commercial broker’s recipe for success.
These comments questioning networking’s inclusion on the list were surprising to me given that real estate brokerage is a relationship business and relationships are greatly enhanced by face-to-face contact, perhaps more than any other kind of business.
Typically, a broker will attempt to develop a relationship with a principal through cold calls and mailings. Most property owners are deluged with phone calls from brokers every day, particularly if that principal owns a property in a neighborhood that is considered “hot” or owns a particularly attractive property. Many of these phone calls fall on deaf ears, as owners may find it difficult to differentiate between the many calls they receive. I believe that getting the owner on the phone, regardless of the duration or quality of the conversation is somewhat beneficial, as that point of contact gets the owner to know the broker’s name. Cold calls made regularly have a positive impact on the relationship-building effort between the parties.
Mailings of pertinent information to a property owner also help develop that relationship. Having the owner see the company name, and the broker’s name, in regular mailings creates a familiarity that can also help the broker make inroads with that principal. Good old-fashioned hard mailings make a far better impression than emails, which can be easily deleted with a quick keystroke. While a strategy of mixing both hard mailings and email blasts is probably best, hard mailings have a more positive impact on relationship building.
While these two techniques are essential, neither phone calls nor mailings are typically enough to develop a close relationship that is going to lead to regular business opportunities. A basic premise of sales—and that goes for all sales, not just commercial real estate sales—is that people work with people they know well and like. Yes, likability is a key variable for a salesperson. In fact, likability, under certain circumstances, may trump capability. I’m not saying the you can be an incompetent salesperson and regularly get business because someone likes you. However, if you are solid, have a track record and prove that you can do a good job, if the client likes you business can be won from a broker who may have a more high-powered resume.
So how do you get well-known and liked? Phone calls and mailings are not generally enough to get you there. Face-to-face meetings go much further to create the bond you are looking for. And in our business, the best way to get in front of market participants is to get out there and network.
There are many ways to accomplish this. The easiest way to network is to attend some of the many conferences, seminars and trade shows that are presented by numerous organizations. Charity events that are in some way related to the real estate industry or which are honoring a prominent person in the industry also present great opportunities to meet people. There is usually a half-hour or so before the formal program begins at these events, providing an opportunity to walk around and meet several of the attendees. There are also many trade organizations that have regular meetings where there is a captive audience of potential clients. Always bring a stack of business cards with you and use them. Earlier in my career, my attendance at these events led to relationships that have produced dozens of transactions over the years. I continue to make networking part of my business plan.
You can take networking to the next level by meeting folks you want to develop relationships with for breakfast, lunch or dinner, which is a great way to spend quality time with a potential client. This is such an effective technique that marketing and sales consultant Keith Ferrazzi wrote a great book entitled, Never Eat Alone, which expands on the benefits of this approach.
Get out there as much as you possibly can as these face-to-face meetings can form the basis of relationships that will lead to business opportunities year after year. Networking deserves to be on the list. After you have incorporated it into your weekly routine, it will become clear why it should be.
Robert Knakal is the chairman and founding partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services and in his career has brokered the sale of more than 1,250 properties, having a market value in excess of $8.5 billion.