9 Tips for Becoming a Better Networker

Networking is a critical part of any CRE professional's job. As a matter of fact, it’s a critical part of everybody’s job. And with conference season in full swing, there's no better time to brush up on your networking skills and maybe even pick up some new ones. 

Before you even start to see how you can improve your skills, you may need to ask yourself the question – am I doing enough networking? According to a 2012 survey of over 12,000 business professionals, you need to spend about 6.2 hours per week to see return for your networking efforts. Whether you are new to commercial real estate or a seasoned veteran; whether you are a leasing broker or a portfolio manager, you probably need to be doing more networking.

Here is a list of nine tips to supercharge your networking efforts. Follow these tips, and you’ll be generating new prospects, building a personal brand, and becoming a pillar of the commercial real estate community in no time.

1. Set goals

Before attending an event or a conference, spend some time thinking through what would make the event a success. Do you want to find five new prospects? Or learn something new about a market you’re thinking of entering? Just collect 25 business cards? Once you have your goal in mind, figure out how many conversations you need to have to accomplish it.

2. Don’t try and meet every person in the room

Although it may be tempting to mix and mingle with every person in the room, this is usually not a good strategy. If you collect 100 business cards, but make little impression on each connection, was it a good use of your time? Probably not. Instead, you should seek out a balance of quantity and quality and achieve a certain number of high-value interactions.

3. Approach people in twos

Networking can be a bit awkward — even if you’re a seasoned vet. A helpful trick to break the ice is to approach people that are chatting in twos. Although it may seem counterintuitive — since they are already talking — approaching a small group of people is actually the easiest way to start a conversation. The couple either already knows each other or they just met. In either scenario, they are both looking to make connections (why else would they be at a networking event?). If they already know each other, they’ll appreciate you taking the initiative; if they just met, they'll gladly welcome another connection.

Just a word of caution: be sure to read their expressions when you approach. Not every conversation should be interrupted. If you really get the sense that you are not welcome, make a quick goodbye and find a new attendee to shake hands with.

4. Do timely follow-up

Good networking is as much about the initial introduction as it is about the aftermath. Aim to follow up with any introduction within 48 hours. One of the easiest ways to do so is to use apps, like CardMunch, which take a picture of the business card and automatically sync with your contacts on LinkedIn. When you do send your follow-up note, be sure to include some specifics about your initial meeting.

5. Connect your connections

Don’t hoard your connections. After all, a network has many interconnecting nodes – do your part in connecting your connections. Whether you're introducing two secondary connections based on a common interest in fly-fishing or for something a little more formal, you will develop a reputation for being a facilitator and a good person to know.  

6. Conduct an ROI analysis

If you aren’t running some ROI analysis on your networking hours, you’re seriously missing out. Although it can be tricky quantifying the hours you schmooze, it can help determine if an event will be worth the time.

To quantify the value of an event, consider both the time and dollar expenses. These often include some combination of registration costs, travel costs, and the opportunity cost of preparation (number of hours * value of hours). If you think the value of new connections is more than that total cost, you can bet the event is worth your time.

7. Wear your name tag on your non-dominant side

No one really likes wearing name tags. They’re difficult to read, the clip is crooked, or the lanyard is too long. They make awkward situations even more awkward when you squint and tilt your head just to misread a name. Help avoid the worst of this by wearing your nametag clearly and visibly on your left side. That way, when you go to shake hands, your arm does not block the already difficult-to-read tag.

8. Speak on a panel

If you hate public speaking more than you hate networking, this tip might not be for you. But, for everyone else, it’s one of the easiest ways to meet a lot of people at once. Speak on a panel and your name and biography will be posted all over the event’s website, marketing collateral, social media and more. People at the event will hear you speak and, if the event is recorded, your panel presence can be viewed on YouTube for years to come — so say something insightful. This could be the most efficient 45 networking minutes of your life.   

9. Have a good online presence

After meeting someone new, what’s the next thing you do? Probably Google them or find them on LinkedIn? Yeah – everyone else does it too. That means that your online presence is just as important as your offline presence. If you make a great impression at a happy hour, but your social media profiles are off-putting, it can undo some of the productive conversations you’ve already had.

Billy Fink
Billy Fink
Billy Fink is a former member of the VTS team.
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