When there’s a social backdrop such as there is in a club (see Networking, Part 1), it’s a bit easier to find some common ground to get the conversation going, or perhaps there’s an activity involved that naturally opens lines of communication. On the other hand, I find that industry events or those cocktail hours that are set up for the sole purpose of networking can be tough to ease into.
But first, why is networking in the industry even important? Well, for starters, it’s an opportunity to meet others who also work in your industry but might be in other roles, such as mortgage brokers, attorneys, commercial agents, etc. We work with some of these people on nearly every deal, so by establishing these relationships you can start developing a power team of people you might want to work with in the future. Plus, networking within the industry can set up a cycle of referrals that could mean additional income down the line. I recently had someone come into my office looking for a storefront so that she could open up a nail salon. I don’t work with retail space, but through some past networking I know a couple of commercial agents who I trust that might appreciate the referral (and maybe they will return the favor in the future, or perhaps there is potential for me to collect a referral fee). It’s not always easy to meet these people through the natural course of business, especially if you are brand new to the industry, so look into some local professional networking events to develop your list of contacts.
I find that these networking events can be very intimidating, so here is a list of some tips that I collected over the past year that have helped me be a little more confident in those situations:
- Have a 30-second elevator speech prepared. Rehearse this before you go in. What do you do? Do you have an area of expertise that others in the room might find valuable?
- Have plenty of business cards and a pen to write notes on the back of cards you receive from others. Step aside when you can to jot down things that you want to remember later, such as their interests or keywords that will remind you of any stories they might have shared. You want to be able to reference this in later correspondence so that they remember who you are.
- It shouldn’t be a contest to see who gets the most business cards. Trading cards and moving to the next handshake is more likely to have your card end up in the trash. Spend some time talking to people and get to know them. You’ll remember them better and chances are that they will remember you better too.
- Go to events with a goal (and again, this goal should not be about collecting cards). Maybe this is “meet five really solid contacts” or “find a new mortgage broker to begin developing a relationship with.” If you set a goal and stick to it, you increase your chances of making the event worthwhile for you.
- People like to talk about themselves. Ask questions. Be an engaged participant.
- Let’s be honest though - not everyone is a joy to talk to. When you find yourself in a dead-end conversation with someone you are not interested in, give yourself permission to find a polite way to exit so that you can meet someone else. Don’t waste their time and don’t let them waste yours. You might also want to use that pen you brought to discreetly make some kind of notation on the card they gave you to remind you later that they might not be worth following up with.
- Follow up with your new contacts by sending an email the next day saying how nice it was to meet them. Include a mention of something you talked about to add a personal touch. Continue to follow-up with them in the coming months if appropriate.
Sounds a lot like dating, doesn’t it? But it’s one way of meeting new people who can help your business in many ways down the line. Besides, you get your face out there and you establish yourself as a serious player in the industry.
Do you have any other tips? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.