We’re in the throes of prime networking season. Summer parties and industry events all provide real estate agents with opportunities to make connections and generate more business. Just like anything else, networking is a skill — one that many of us are uncomfortable practicing.
Below are 10 tips to help you network and garner more referral business like a pro.
1. Have a plan. Whether it’s committing to make three new connections or to meet one specific person, it’s important to decide what you want to get out of each event you attend. If you can get a list of attendees in advance, identify who you want to connect with and if you know someone who can introduce you (and of course, vice versa).
2. Figure out your icebreaker/elevator pitch in advance. Think of a way to introduce yourself or your company in a fun, interesting way. Develop a few-sentence description that describes you or your company. Rather than simply saying you’re an agent or broker, include something that sets you apart. Perhaps you focus on a specific neighborhood or type of buyer/seller, or you sold a unique property that everyone knows about. A description that receives a smile or positive reaction makes people more receptive to starting a conversation.
Be sure to tailor your pitch to your audience. If you’re meeting with other agents, you might want to emphasize your market knowledge and area expertise. If you’re meeting with prospective homebuyers or sellers, your pitch should reflect that.
3. Make your name memorable. Remembering who you met after an event can be challenging, even if you collect a business card. Try to come up with a way to make your name memorable. Consider if your name is often misspelled or mispronounced and offer clarification. Does your company name have a fun or interesting meaning or story behind it that you can share?
4. Make yourself memorable. While you want to be dressed appropriately for any event, try to wear something that can help start a conversation. Logo-wear is a great way to immediately identify yourself as an agent or broker and orchestrate a dialogue about your company or business. Or, wear a fun accent piece (bonus points if it ties in with your company’s colors) like jewelry, socks, shoes or a tie that are easy for someone to comment on as a way to break the ice.
5. Divide and conquer. If you attend an event with a group or another person, try to split up — at least for part of the time. Try not to sit together, or at least leave an open chair between you. That way, if the table or row fills up, you’ll have the opportunity to make a new connection.
If you’ve reviewed the attendees in advance, divide up the list of people with whom you want to connect. At a large event, you’ll have a better chance of speaking with more people. It’s okay to reconnect with your partner if you both need to speak with someone. Send each other a text or let the person you're speaking with know you’ll find your colleague and circle back at some point during the event.
6. Listen and learn. Interactions at networking events can sometimes last only a few minutes, so it’s important to listen intently and ask open-ended questions to make them as productive as possible. Try to identify an opportunity where you have common ground, can solve a problem or can fulfill a direct need. Mention if you’ve handled a referral from their area or have sold/found buyers for properties in a specific area. Do you have friends, colleagues or experiences in common that can help you make a deeper connection?
7. Follow up and be a giver. Look for ways to provide a “five-minute favor” — e.g., finding a small way to add value to someone’s life in a few minutes. Think of a question you can ask to spark a conversation. Ask about a current market or neighborhood, or if there’s a question/information that you could provide help with. Sending an article, making an introduction or providing information is an easy way to follow up and keep a dialogue going.
8. Keep your body language open and welcoming. You’re at an event to mingle, so you want people to feel comfortable approaching you as well. Smiling, nodding and making eye contact shows that you’re engaged and interested. Include a new person who joins the conversation with an introduction — both of yourself and who you’re speaking with. Doing so will also help you remember names.
9. Say goodbye graciously. Determining how to end a conversation can sometimes be challenging, but it’s expected at a networking event. Some ways to “extricate” yourself from a conversation include:
-Tell the person you’re speaking with that you enjoyed your conversation, but you need to “keep mingling.”
-Let them know that you’re getting a drink/something to eat and offer to get them one.
-Thank them for chatting with you and let them know you’ll be following up with the information you offered during your conversation.
-Invite them to lunch or coffee, or to visit your office the next time they are in your city.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for the business, if it’s appropriate. Sometimes it does make sense to ask for a referral/business opportunity — if the person you’re speaking with specifically asks. When that does occur, it’s critical to follow up as quickly as possible. Send an email or call within 24 hours, offering to set up an appointment. Provide some options that work for your schedule. Find out if anyone else needs to be included in the conversation or appointment and get contact information for everyone who needs to be involved.
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