In the real estate industry, whether you are a private lender, broker, or investor, networking is a key factor of growing your business.
Conferences, local meetups, and networking events are everywhere in our industry and will help you stay ahead of the curve if you are a contributing member. Plus, they are an investment in yourself and your company, and you’ll want to make the most of the time spent away from the office.
And as you’ve undoubtedly gathered, networking entails a lot more than just showing up, grabbing some free food, and exchanging business cards. It’s about connecting with people, sharing about yourself and what you do, and collecting valuable contacts and knowledge to grow professionally.
To make the most of it, all it takes is a little preparation and practice. Here’s what you need to know before you grab your business cards and head to your next industry event.
Set Reasonable Expectation
When preparing for a networking event, establish goals for your time there. Is your goal to find a specific service in which your company has a need for? A goal to meet five new people in the industry? Or are you hoping to connect with one particular person or company? By setting specific goals you can better prepare yourself and use your time wisely at the event.
Dress to Impress
Research the event you’re going to attend, the location, and the general theme of the event. First impressions matter, and this way you can set yourself up for success in putting your best foot forward. Think of it as a more informal interview, you’ll want to dress the part.
Bring Business Cards
This one seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they’ve forgotten their cards at home, or that they just gave their last card away. Bring more cards than you think you may need and keep them on hand for the entirety of the event. One sided business card exchanges can leave a bad taste in folks’ mouths and could hinder their desire to follow-up with you in the future.
Focus on Making a Connection, Not a Sale
The overall goal for any event is to grow your network and allow for follow up with the appropriate folks after the event. With this in mind, don’t focus so much on making the sale right on the spot, but on making a connection. Show folks that you’re interested in more than just your opportunities. The best questions you can ask are ones that can’t be answered by just “yes” or “no” and allow for more fluid conversation.
After you ask for someone’s card, take notes on the card after they walk away or immediately after the event. This will help you to be more specific with your follow-up efforts. Even if you can’t write on their card, utilize your Notes app on your phone to highlight key topics and important information from your conversation. This can be as simple as the product or service they are looking for more information on, to favorite local food spots you discussed, to times that work best for follow-up.
Don’t Spam People with Cards
The closest thing to you throwing all your business cards away in the trash is by just passing them out to everyone you meet without having the actual conversations. If you haven’t built enough rapport with someone to encourage them to ask for your card, and vice versa, don’t just offer one because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do.
Making the connection is just the first step. To cultivate the relationship, you need to follow up with the folks you networked with. Make sure to personalize each phone call or email, letting each person know you enjoyed meeting them and mention something specific you talked about. A quick tip: One of the fastest ways to stop a connection in its tracks is to send everyone the same generic follow-up or LinkedIn connection request.
One of the best tools you can utilize in your career is networking, and you can make the most of it by preparing in advance, acting professionally during the event, and being proactive with your follow-up. Beyond that, simply try to enjoy yourself!