16: Networking in Real Estate
Networking is a muscle and you have to exercise it in order for it to grow.
About This Episode
Nobody loves networking events, but they’re a necessary evil that will always be part of life in real estate. There aren't many comparable events that can so quickly grow your network and help you expand your business, but being prepared is important.
From what to do with your hands to how to start a conversation with noteworthy clothing, this episode offers tips on how to conquer your next networking event. Networking can happen anywhere, and with the right preparation you can be sure to make the most of every opportunity.
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JON: You enter a large room. Maybe it’s the ballroom of a hotel or the lobby of a school. Maybe it’s in a bar, but there definitely is a bar there regardless of the location, because most of us need some form of liquid courage to engage in conversation with complete strangers. Everyone’s wearing nametags, which you scan in the hope of finding someone you know, or at the very least an employee of a company you know, so you can have something better to say than the usual opening question, which is “So...what do you do?”
JON: You’re at a networking event, and if you’re like most people, you don’t want to be there. Most adults will attend at least one, and typically early in their career, because networking events are a necessary evil for those looking to expand their network. Like speed-dating, they’re events set up with the sole purpose of meeting new people. Unlike speed-dating, there isn’t a clear end goal for these connections. Say you really hit it off with someone - what’s the next step?
JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha and on this episode, we address the awkwardness, anxiety, and necessity of networking in real estate.
JON: There’s a certain expectation for real estate agents to be extroverts, which probably comes as no surprise to you. You either are yourself an extrovert, or you’re an introvert who’s learned to thrive in what’s generally seen as an extroverted profession. Real estate is more about having a legitimate interest in helping people than it is about being required to talk to any and everyone who draws breath in a room. It’s very natural to feel overwhelmed by groups of people, particularly when you don’t know any of them and everyone has joined together for one sole purpose.
JON: And that’s really what makes networking events so uncomfortable - the fact that everyone took time out of their day to go to a place and connect with strangers. It’s unnatural to force connections, just like it would be weird to decide that today’s the day you’ll meet your future spouse, or that you’re going to go to a football game alone with the hope that you make a new best friend. Forcing things generally doesn’t make them happen; if it did, everyone who bought a lottery ticket would be very, very rich.
JON: The reason that most people attend such events is that connections really do happen there, and for someone whose job revolves around knowing and connecting people, those connections can result in business, referrals, and commissions. And I think we all like commissions.
JON: Adrienne Meisels is the CEO and Founder of myPlanit, an app designed to simplify your real estate life by keeping track of everything from mileage to the houses your client really loved. Here’s Adrienne:
ADRIENNE: A few things. First of all, I think networking is a muscle and that you have to exercise it in order for it to grow. And even if you hate doing it initially, the more you do it, it will start to grow and you will even potentially like it. Believe it or not, I used to be a little shy and I would hate to go to an event by myself. So one thing that I would suggest if it's possible, if these are like networking events, is for them to bring a wing man with them. So at least they have a home base to go to. And another thing that I would suggest is that people at networking events, they are there because they want to meet you because they want to meet other people. So if the focus is on, like you know, we all tend to internalize and have our insecurities, but if we were to change that perspective, right and say, hey, you know, I have value to add and that they want to meet me to, then maybe it makes it sort of easier to be able to do that no matter what the networking event is.
JON: No matter what the event is, make sure that you do some prep work beforehand. This means updating your business card and bringing enough of them for everyone, but it also means making them easily accessible. Nothing’s more awkward than trying to trade cards with someone only to fumble in your pockets for a while and come up empty-handed.
JON: Show up with a plausible exit strategy. If you get stuck talking to someone for too long, or if the person is just really boring, tell them you appreciate their time but you’re going to keep meeting new people. That’s why everyone’s there, after all, so they might even appreciate the easy out. Show up to the event with some easy icebreaker questions that have nothing to do with a person’s occupation. Networking inevitably becomes about everyone’s job and what they can do for you, so start off with something fun. What do they do in their free time? What’s the best movie they’ve seen lately?
JON: If you’re drinking, limit yourself to two drinks max. A drink or two can help ease some of the social anxiety - but you’re there to meet people, and no one wants to be the guy slurring his words or knocking over tables like a big clumsy dinosaur. In business school, one of my favorite professors advised that if you have a drink, hold it in your left hand. That way you’ve still got your right hand free to shake hands, and as anyone who’s ever posed for a photograph can tell you, being confident about what to do with your hands can immediately make you feel much more comfortable.
JON: Another thing you can do before arriving is to make sure that your digital presence is up to snuff. When’s the last time you updated your website, or your Facebook page? If things go well for you at your networking event, then everyone you hand your business card to will go home and check you out - so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward online.
JON: If you’re feeling especially shy, show up early for introverted hour. Most people don’t show up to an event on time, so for the first hour or so you can expect there to be less people, which makes it a lot easier to engage with everyone. Talking to people while in line for the bathroom or bar is the most natural way to make a connection. You’re both already there wasting time, so why not skip flipping through Instagram and instead tell them about that great film you recently saw?
JON: Mallory Meehan is a Professor of Real Estate at Penn State, where she teaches courses on risk management. Mallory is one of those people who strangers love to open up to, whether she wants it or not. Here’s Mallory:
MALLORY: Real estate really is about who you know, who these people are. So networking is a core of being successful in real estate and it's amazing how many people you can meet by simply just going to a simple event or just making conversation. When I'm flying and I've talked to the person next to me, you know, I find out all sorts of things about them and that's networking. You know how many times I've handed out a business card when I'm in the airport or I'm on a bus or a train somewhere. It's incredible. But you have to be that person to step out of your shell and really want to engage in conversation. One of the best things about networking, every time I travel, I really try to wear something Penn State because I will tell you that we have the largest alumni networking group in the world. And so wherever I go, somebody will say, oh, Penn State, you know, my nephew went there. There's always a conversation starter. If you see somebody wearing Penn State, and it's the funniest thing because when I went to Rome, I saw Penn Staters and we did a We Are chant in Rome and the Coliseum, so it's like you know the craziest things, but when I travel I try to wear something like that and so you know, maybe if there's something that might be a conversation starter, if you have something that's an easy way to network.
JON: You might be listening to this and thinking to yourself that you have no need for these tips. You are a licensed real estate agent and conqueror of all things social! You could strike up a conversation with a brick wall or a potted plant, or any other inanimate object we place before you, and you’d probably sell it a house, too, if we left you alone with it for long enough!
JON: While networking events are never a bad idea for anyone interested in growing their network, you don’t have to think of them as one size fits all. Diversify your events, and use these tips while you engage with your local community, which is after all where your business should thrive. Look up volunteer events, workshops, conferences, or even active groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Meetup.com. Reach out to fellow alumni or join clubs that aren’t career focused at all.
JON: Michael Hellickson is the founder and President of ClubWealth Coaching. After building his own thriving real estate business, he saw the need for comprehensive coaching services geared towards real estate agents. Here’s Michael:
MICHAEL: There's no question that attending industry events is the best way to network. You know, there's no substitute for face to face. You got to get face to face with people to really get to know them. So I'd recommend going to a lot of industry events. Obviously we hold big events for a reason and we spend a lot of money to make them happen. But we do it because it's important for our clients to network with one another. So yeah, no question.
JON: And how do you choose which events to go to?
MICHAEL: I look for who resonates with me, whose culture fits me. There are some very different cultures inside the real estate industry and they're very pronounced. You know, there's definitely the all prospecting all the time crowd, there's the all technology, all the time crowd. There's the all referral based business all the time crowd. There's the, I know I'm gonna I'm going to learn as much as I can for you, but I'm not going to share anything with you crowd. Right? Like there's a lot of kinds of different groups out there. There's the, we're going to crush it and we're going to make tons of money and we don't care who we walk on crowd. So you gotta be really careful about which events you go to because those offenses come with that crowd. So take a look at, you know, what are people saying about those groups online? You know, what's the vibe or what is the culture of that organization? And once you understand that, you'll know which ones to go to.
JON: One of the hardest parts about meeting a lot of people at once is remembering their names. Some people, myself included, are just naturally bad at remembering a name if they’ve only heard it once or twice. Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936 when he published How to Win Friends and Influence People. In that book he recommends using a person’s name in conversation. You’ll be more likely to remember it, and it’ll endear you to the person. As Dale Carnegie put it, a person’s name is a sweet sound to him or her. Beyond just making sweet sounds to your conversation partner, using names with one another can make everyone feel more like friends and less like awkward strangers fumbling from topic to topic.
JON: Time your entry into any conversation well. Don’t walk in just when it’s getting lively. If only two people are talking, it’s wise not to interrupt. Three or more people standing around generally means they’re in networking mode, and they’ll likely make room for you as you approach. Remember to smile. No one wants to talk to the woman scowling her way around the room.
JON: Once a conversation is rolling, be generous with your interactions. Give before you ask, and make a point to listen. As a general rule in real estate, being genuinely interested in people will get you a long way. Even if you think you have nothing to add to a topic, just seeming interested in someone’s story or life can be a generous act that will keep the conversation flowing.
JON: Look for opportunities where you can help someone, which will make it much easier to follow up after the event. If you talked to someone about a news article, email it to them afterwards with a quick note about staying in touch. Many people who excel at networking will even keep notes about the people they meet throughout the event, which gives you another opportunity to use and remember their name.
JON: Your end goal should be to become a super connector. Aside from sounding like the title of a master lego builder, super connectors are people who know everyone. They’re the people who always “know a guy.” That guy might be a plumber, or an electrician, or a man with a chainsaw who can rid them of the tree in their front yard for a few beers and some pizza. If you’re known as the person who knows a guy for every conceivable task, then you won’t even have to go to networking events - the network will come to you.
JON: Lars Hedenborg is the founder of Real Estate B-School, where he teaches agents how to scale their business. After getting started in real estate in 2007, he now works about one day a week at his business, which he set up to run just fine without his watchful eye. Here’s Lars:
LARS: So I wasn't, I'm not a very outgoing guy. I generally don't like to be at a thing where there's an obvious agenda. So I've never been in a BNI or any sort of obvious networking group. But once I connected with you, the networking would happen by systematically delivering value to you. So I guess that's not like a dead on answer. I'm just not a networker, you know? So, um, but I have been doing the same or a slight slight modification of the same thing we do now. I started 10 years ago, which was once you get in my database, you're always going to be in my database and I'm going to add value in any way I can consistently. And you're going to pick up a pie once a year and you're going to get pictures with Santa once a year and you're going to get Valentine's chocolate once a year and you're going to come to our fall event, our baseball event. You know, it's just this thing that just runs. And I create, I don't love those things that I'm a part of, you know, even being there. But I'm there and people love it. They will surprisingly, they'll drive 45 minutes for a $7 pie, you know? And so we create the network in the database.
JON: And so do you ever, do you include everyone in those kinds of invites? Everyone you've ever done business with who was a new database?
LARS: We, it depends. I mean, if some people sort of go off the database if they're not active or you know, and we have a different sliver of the database for people that are really active referring us. So the IP events for that, but we don't overcomplicate it. We just have two levels in the database. We have a program, we call it orphan buyers. When we’re the listing agent we take in the buyer as our client after closing, because we know 90% of the time their agent is not going to keep in touch with them. And we just assume that they're our client and we just have a presence in the transaction and we handle them. You know, they see some of our communications cause it's forwarded on to them. So you know, it's an awesome opportunity to double the size of your database in a single year as an agent.
JON: As an agent, the more people you know, the better you can do your job. If you’re legitimately good friends with a lot of people, they’ll feel comfortable reaching out when they consider buying or selling real estate. You’ve got to give something if you expect anything in return - and here’s where your social job can come in mighty handy for those you’re networking with.
JON: As uncomfortable as it might be to walk into a room full of strangers with the intention to force meaningful connections, networking events are ubiquitous because they get results. Bring a friend, have a drink but not too many, and work the room with a smile and a genuine desire to learn more about everyone there. You might be surprised who you’ll meet.
JON: That’s it for this episode of Shop Talk, thanks for listening! You can subscribe to us on iTunes so new episodes magically download as soon as they’re posted! Join us next time for a talk with Michael Hellickson, President of ClubWealth Coaching, about how you should be growing your real estate business.
JON: Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.