The Art of Networking: Building Professional Relationships as a Real Estate Professional, Part 1

According to GREEN President Mark LePera, networking is one of the core components of the business’s success model (it’s in the name, after all!). It’s because the company holds networking at such a premium that it’s worth the time to discuss what value it possesses.

When solving any sort of problem, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to have the answers. Being a business professional doesn’t mean that you get graded solely for what you know, and life doesn’t have some teacher accusing you of answer-sharing. As a matter of fact, you’re not only allowed to ask the person next to you, you’re encouraged to do so.

That’s really the value of something like networking. Especially in the world of real estate. Two people chatting – not cheating – to solve a mutual problem.

Part of GREEN’S approach with this (or any other) blog topic is to provide the readers with as much value as possible. Since there’s no shortage of people in the realm of real estate claiming to be networking experts, what readers should find in this blog is something that challenges them through questions and sourceable concepts.

What is Professional Networking?

As defined by Merriam-Webster, “networking” is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” That means that two or more people exchanging info or skills (as individuals, clubs, organizations, etc.), coming together to foster each others’ growth in the world of business is networking. However, consumers and businesses can certainly engage in networking, that’s a relationship that exists to conduct business between the two parties.

Some of the best business opportunities happen under the most informal circumstances.

With networking, however, the term exists separately. It usually refers to two or more business professionals who want to help each other get business and who are trading contact information so that they can work together on a project outside of the meeting.

A Few Basics to Consider…

Networking exists specifically to connect to people, which would imply that the people involved might not have met the other person’s contacts or, function under circumstances that wouldn’t have allowed them to make the connection in a usual business day. Also, if two people are “networking,” it would mean that they both have an interest in solving some sort of problem in the general sense (e.g., “getting more business,” “learning about how a business can be bettered by another person’s services,” etc.).

So, if two people are networking, there might be a unique problem that they’re both trying to solve, and the value of their relationship is determined by how well they can both help each other.

Also, as long as two people are willing to talk about what they do for a living “off the clock,” then networking can occur at any time and place (even holidays!). Always being open to conducting business means always being prepared to present your best image, and pitch, and being ready to help someone else solve whatever problems that they have.

For the world of real estate, networking can mean quite a few things. In terms of direct business, it can mean getting leads on property to buy or sell by “getting themselves out there.” It can mean getting to know a competitor and turning things into a friendly partnership, finding a real estate investor, or a chance to be a part of a business opportunity someone else put together.

But as previously discussed, networking isn’t limited to this definition. It’s really about what goals you are looking to accomplish, and how you and someone else can come together to solve each other’s problems. This can be a wide number of things in the world of real estate. Getting legal advice, finding a tax expert, learning the “ins and outs” of banking, hearing stories about successful use of social media to “close a deal”… all of these may fit under the larger umbrella term of “networking.” The advent of the smartphone means that we have options outside of physical chats like phone calls, text messaging, Facebook chats, “tweeting,” emails, Instagram comments, LinkedIn posts, or anything else constitutes networking.

So, if you’re communicating with someone you consider “professional” about how you can help each other in some way, then you’re networking. And if that’s a shock to you how loose those parameters are, it’s a safe bet you’re doing some kind of networking.

Establishing Your Goals

For you to be successful, you have to figure out just what it is you’re trying to do, and put some serious targets and deadlines on the table. For instance, if you’re looking to make money fixing and flipping houses and you’re new to the process, you might need a partner on-site who can offer advice. Just as well, recommended home inspectors, repair crews and landscaping all might come in handy if you’re confident in both their skills and their pricing.

Every person you meet can become a potential source for a business opportunity. Those contacts you make can really help open doors!

Since opportunity and risk lurk around almost every metaphorical corner, you should make it a point to be as well-informed of “the lay of the land” in your social spheres as possible. That’s what networking is all about. Every single person you’ll encounter is a potential partner, sale, or adviser if you allow them to be by maximizing your network. Even if you find yourself to be shy or introverted, you will continuously increase your odds with every card you pocket and every contact you put into your phone.

Of course, everyone is different, having different strengths and weaknesses. Appreciating that means saying with fair confidence that everyone is going to network a little bit differently, and that theory can be corroborated by one’s search for “networking tips” on the internet. Cabot and Walravens in Forbes separately speak to the values of “valuing everyone” and fertilizing the social landscape,” working on strengthening relationships past the “what can you do for me” corridor of understanding and just having them on standby in the friendship categories. Inc. offers a different list of tips to consider, which include “priming the pump” on what you want to discuss with people (as well as who you are looking to meet) and focusing on the emotional energies of every person in the room. That might also entail not only paying attention to people, but making sure that you’re behaving in a way that makes you attractive to people.

That brings up the following question: How can you be more socially attractive to people at an event to engage them, get to know them, and develop a long-term relationship that solves problems and creates mutual benefit?

Forbes and Inc. are sources that speak to the general concepts of networking. Some of the industry-specific sources that discuss networking from a real estate perspective. For instance, the Inman News article on “Power Networking” brings up the subject of specific game plans to engage people during the event attended. Though it’s a condensation of advice offered in Bob Burg’s general advice given in this book “Endless Referrals,” it nevertheless brings up great questions about how a real estate professional should act at a social function. The primer questions like “Where’s the best place to stand?” and “What’s the ideal number of people to approach if I’m wanting to introduce myself to a group?” will get followed up with questions like “How do I make a connection?”, “Should I talk about the neighborhoods?”, “How can the event be segued into creating some sort of business relationship?”.

Leave a lasting impression, not just with a business card but by how you treat people. Simply stated: Kindness and generosity matter.

There’s also value to be had in thinking about the connections made outside of the event. The key theme of that article (though never summarized as such) is the value of the follow-up to remember people’s birthdays, anniversaries, and stay on the radar for people whose connections you value. That brings into play the following question: What strategies do you have to remind others of yourself? Is it a physical business card they’ll take out long after they’ve left the meeting with you? Is there a digital reminder like a LinkedIn Notification or an email reminding them that you’d like to explore business opportunities further? Will they remember you after the initial introduction, and how well will they remember you?

Making Networking Work For You

Of course, networking goes beyond both vague ideals and standards. Part of the problem with troubleshooting social networking issues is that the general advice one might offer doesn’t take into consideration the specifics of the person (characteristics, values, etc.) with the location (what kind of event, when/where the event is, who is in attendance).

Readers of this blog are instead encouraged to take a scientific approach, as there’s a great deal with experimentation in any business venture. “Icebreaker” introductions, funny stories, business opportunities, and otherwise workable patter in your ability to talk to people and get them in your contacts list will get tried and re-tooled before you master any of them.

With networking, it’s really about the following: What can you do for someone? What can someone else do for you? And why are these relationships valuable?

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