It is often said that if you want to be a successful investor you need to network. The mistake that many investors make is not knowing the difference between marketing and networking. Marketing is the act of generating leads in a direct effort to find deals. Networking is the process of meeting contacts with the thought of working together down the road. If you can attract business from your first meeting, more power to you. However, most networking is usually a slow process that can have a big reward in the future. Simply meeting people is only the start of your networking. If you want to get the most out of it, there are a few basic things you can do that will dramatically change your results.
The first step of successful networking is to understand that you need to do more than just show up. Networking isn’t like school: you won’t get credit for simply attending. If you show up to networking events unprepared to talk to people, you are better off not even showing up. There should be a genuine excitement in trying to connect with like-minded people that can help grow your business. If you are mad that you are not watching the game or missed out on a family event, your negative attitude is going to come across when you meet people. Everyone knows that first impressions are important, but they are particularly important at real estate events. If you are not going to be active in meeting and talking to people, you may be doing more harm than good by showing up.
There are numerous ways to become a successful real estate investor. Networking events often have a large sample of different personalities present. One of your networking goals should be to find someone that you feel is a good fit for working with you. Simply listen to many different people talk about how they do business and what kind of deals they look for to determine who you may want to work with in the future. Often times you will learn more about your local market and your own business by eliminating things you don’t want to do that you hear from other investors. This means talking to as many different people as you can and not dismissing any approach you hear. You never know when you will talk to someone that creates a spark or gives you a different way to do business. Even if you don’t agree with how a fellow investor works, you should spend a few minutes listening to what they have to say. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do.
You are being judged every time you meet someone new. You need to be prepared to talk about deals, the industry or your own business if someone approaches you. There is no reason to be unprepared with something to say when you show up at these events. There are many investors in the same boat as you and may be looking for someone to work with on a deal down the road. How prepared you are and how well you know the business are two of the things you will be judged on. Even if your business is robust and you currently have a good pipeline, you never know when it will change on a dime. The more contacts you make and deals you are exposed to, the more likely you can weather any change in the market and reduce lulls in your business. Putting your best foot forward every time you network and being prepared for every meeting can make this happen.
The best networking contacts are the ones that are made by being honest. You do this by being yourself at every meeting and event that you go to. There should be a certain level of professionalism that you want to portray, but if you are a flip flop guy: wear flip flops. If you have a fun loving personality and like to make jokes: let your fun side come out. As long as you remember that there will be a certain segment of people that may not appreciate your candor, you should let your personality shine though. You don’t want to show up with a mustard stain on your shirt or your hair not touched, but people like to work with they feel comfortable with. If you show the “real you,” people will appreciate it and want to work with you. The more other people know about you in a short amount of time, the more likely they will remember you and want to work with you down the road.
Good networking doesn’t happen overnight. It is usually a compilation of work that sometimes spans weeks or even months. If you embrace the process and constantly put your best foot forward, the contacts you make will be good ones. If you can close a deal from a networking contact, you will cement the relationship and they will speak highly of you to their contacts. If you do this enough, over time you will start to get referrals from people you have never met without paying for it. This is how you grow your business and networking makes it happen. If you treat networking as something you want to do instead of something you have to, you will quickly see the benefits.