Networking: The Foundation of a Career

NetworkingA successful career is based on the foundation of your network.

This is true in any industry, but I believe it to be inconceivably crucial in real estate.

If I was only able to give one piece of advice to anyone new to the real estate industry, it would be to network like crazy. It doesn’t matter your position, everyone’s network is important. Realtors, brokers, lenders, investors, attorneys, contractors, anyone who works in the real estate space at all, lives or dies by their network.

A major portion of my job in Business Development is networking. I like to say that I get paid to talk to people. I’ve attended plenty of networking events, meetings and conferences since joining the RCN Capital team, and I’m by no means a master networker, but here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way for anyone new to networking or would like to step up their networking game.

  1. Everyone in the room was once in your shoes. It’s okay to be nervous when you’re first starting out.

Being at a networking event where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating, and to some, terrifying.  For the last year, I’ve attended about 1-2 events a week, and I still get nervous going to them by myself. Push through it. It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay not to try.

Start by talking with one person. It’s usually easiest to walk up to someone who is by themselves and introduce yourself.

  1. Quality over quantity.

You don’t have to talk with everyone. In a room of 100 people, you are better off forming one or two very strong relationships than you are talking to everyone at a surface level. Some of my best business partnerships have come from meeting one person at an event and really getting into a conversation that seems to have nothing to do with real estate.

  1. Focus on creating value for the other person

“It is better to be interested than interesting.”

Think about the last time someone called you to ask for donations. Think about the last time you got unsolicited mail or phone calls. How many of those have actually gone anywhere with you? Virtually none, right?

Unfortunately, that’s how most people’s introductions sound. “Hi, I’m _____. I’m looking to become a realtor. I specialize in this market, and I’m looking for clients, do you know anyone?” How likely are you to be really engaged in that conversation? I will tell you that for me, I’ve already tuned out, and I network for a living. The same is true of investors and brokers that I work with. People often reach out and say, “I’m an investor looking to get started.” And that’s the end of their statement. If you go into networking with your hand out, you will only find others with their hand out. You may get lucky, but you’re limiting the success you could have compared to if you focused on what the other person needs, and then seeing if you can provide that.

One of the things that works for me is to approach every networking event like an interview. I’m looking to keep asking questions of the other person and draw out the information that I think is most important to me. Like a good interview, this means asking the other person specific questions, but spending the majority of your time listening. It’s also a great tactic to ask leading questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Most people are interested in finding people that can help them, but that fails due to two more important issues:

  • Most people like to talk about themselves
  • People like to work with people that they like.

Lean into this and ask people questions about themselves.

  1. Follow up with those people.

I’ll admit this is an area that even I currently struggle with. It is incredibly difficult to actually do meaningful follow up with people after networking events. It is also incredibly crucial.

This does not mean follow up once, then never again. Create a schedule for your follow up, and stick to it. CRMs, and the calendar functions in your email platform are your best friends here.

If you use LinkedIn, make sure to send them a request as well.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go off topic.

As I said in my second point, some of my strongest business relationships were formed from intense conversations at networking events that had nothing to do with real estate. I have had conversations about everything from their child being on video game teams, to mindset and meditation, to the best food we’ve eaten, to where in the world we’ve traveled. I try to spend most of this listening, rather than interjecting my opinion constantly.

For regularly attended networking events, if you focus on forming friendships, you will have drastically more success than if you focus on who can provide you with benefits to your business. For networking events that only happen once, or that you can only attend once, it’s fine to be a little more transactional.

  1. Be yourself as much as you can.

In networking scenarios, most people have to force themselves to be a little more outgoing than usual, but with everything else, be yourself. People like to work with people that they like to spend time with or talk with.

Hopefully these tips will help give you more confidence with your ability to handle networking situations, but here is the most important tip of all.

  1. Get out there!

Networking is a skill. Like all other skills, you must practice networking to master it over time. SO get out to local events, and start practicing!

If you have any questions, or want a few more tips, feel free to reach out!

You can find me on LinkedIn, and here’s my email: sballard@rcncapital.com