Networking is important for real estate Brokers because it enables them to build and deepen relationships with existing and prospective clients. In the past, networking meant meeting people face- to-face at REBNY, workshops or continuing education events. Technology such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites has changed the game but nothing can take the place of human interaction.
Looking a person in the eye, shaking his or her hand and registering nonverbal cues allows you to build rapport and connect in a manner that technology based social networking cannot.
Here are some tips to help you succeed at the “old” art of networking.
Understand the purpose of networking. Networking is not about transacting business. It is about building relationships, putting a name to a face and connecting. Yes, you network for business but not to corner someone for a deal. Instead, use the opportunity for face time to be likable and make professional business contacts.
Choose wisely. There are numerous networking functions every week so you must actively choose which ones to attend. Some are general in nature while others focus on specific boroughs or product types such as multifamily. If you attend several events without results, don’t give up on networking, just find groups that fit better.
Prepare elevator speech. In about 20 to 30 seconds, be able to answer the question “what do you do?” Write it down and practice so you can articulate it clearly. Tell how you do your role, your company and what makes you different. Whether you are competing for business, looking for referrals or seeking a new firm, make it easy for people to understand what you do and remember you.
Be consistent. Have a systematic approach to networking. Create a plan and stick to it. Whether you plan to attend one networking event a week or month, consistency is vital. Over time you will become recognizable and deepen your contacts.
Help others. Throughout my career I have found that when I help others, it returns to me in spades. Approach networking from the vantage point of being a resource and offering assistance to others. People will remember you for this and be interested in speaking with you again. Put your goals on the back burner and think about the other person.
Master small talk. Before a networking function, brush up on current events. Being conversant in the happenings of the market, sports or the news of the day will enable you to engage in necessary idle banter.
Engage others. Don’t be a wallflower. Join others by listening and asking good, open-ended questions. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Gain a good sense of who people are and what is important to them. Being a good listener and understanding what drives others will help you position yourself appropriately.
Request business cards. Personally, I am oft-put by people who walk around handing out their business cards to everyone. I prefer to request a person’s card. This shows genuine interest and lets me control the next steps.
Follow up. Immediate follow up demonstrates interest and professionalism. Drop a quick e-mail saying “Nice meeting you at the XYZ function last night. I will follow up with you about our discussion later in the week.” Then call to schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Meet over meals. Connecting over breakfast, lunch or coffee is a great way to build on an initial meeting. Generally, a meal takes less than an hour and we eat them anyway. So why not use it for networking. Also, breaking bread deepens a psychological bond.
Refresh contacts. Relationships that are not cultivated grow stale. Stay in touch by sending an e-mail, calling, scheduling a meeting or making sure you see them at the next networking function.
Leverage online networking. Online networking is a great complement to in-person efforts. For example, after meeting someone you can send a LinkedIn invite to connect and learn more. A word of caution: LinkedIn is for business, Facebook is not. Do not send a friend invite on Facebook to someone you just met at a networking function.
Be sincere. All of these tips work if, and only if, you are sincere. Be yourself. You don’t need to be a great salesperson or a great conversationalist to succeed at networking. You just need to behave in a manner that suits your personality, demeanor and goals.
Face-to-face networking is a great way to build business contacts, learn or even find a new job. These tips will help you do just that.