Strong networks lay the foundation for successful businesses and prosperous careers. In the CRE world, networking is critical for finding new prospects and growing your client list. But many people dread the thought of introducing themselves to a group of strangers, or worse yet, speaking publicly.
Mastering the art of networking is a lifelong endeavor, and contrary to what some believe, it’s more than just aggressively handing out business cards. From starting right to making it a daily habit, following these tips will put you on the road to networking success.
1. Start locally
While it may be tempting to immediately try and connect with the biggest names in town, start by growing your connections locally. Get to know everyone in the office, especially the people you haven't talked to much. Networking isn’t only about meeting new people, it’s also about nurturing the relationships you already have.
2. Make a plan
Rather than simply handing your card out to as many people as possible, take the time to understand what you want to achieve through your network. Set clear goals before attending a conference and be specific when explaining your desired targets. People will not know how to help you if they aren't sure what you're looking for.
3. Help others
Don’t expect to get something from a new connection, but always be ready to help. Meet each connection with a genuine desire to help and people will remember you and be happy to lend a hand in the future.
4. Don’t forget the small things
From birthdays to hobbies, remembering the details makes you stand out. Personal connections are stronger than purely business ones, so even if you are connecting for business, always try to add a personal touch. Someone might not remember the details of your proposal, but he/she will remember your shared passion for kayaking.
5. “Who” is more important than “how many”
It’s better to make one strong connection than to get your card into 100 different hands. It’s even better when that one connection is exactly the person you want to talk to. Take the time to create quality connections rather just focusing on quantity.
6. Take the initiative
It’s no secret that networking can be awkward, but don’t let a bit of apprehension stop you. Take the initiative to approach strangers and strike up a conversation. If you lean towards the shy side, remember that the only reason people are at networking events is to make new connections.
7. Build your online presence
For most of us, the first thing we do after meeting someone new is check them out on LinkedIn. Everyone is doing that to you too, so do your best to make a strong online presence. The last thing you want is for a poor social media profile to undue the strong impression you’ve made in-person.
8. Embrace public speaking
Many people are downright terrified of public speaking, but it’s one of the best ways to boost your network. Speaking on a panel gets your name out there and exposes you and your work to lots of people at once. Also consider creating your own networking group. This will connect you to people in your market, facilitate connections among others and position you as a community leader.
9. Follow up and stay in touch
Sending the requisite follow-up email is a good start, but don’t stop there. Reach out to your contacts every few months. From asking about the status of a deal you discussed to simply seeing how they are doing, staying in touch deepens the connection and cultivates your network.
10. Make it an everyday habit
Don’t think of networking as a hassle to put up with at a few conferences a year; work to see it as an integral part of your daily routine. Networking is as much a frame of mind as it is a set of tactics, and the best networkers are always on the hunt to meet new people and find ways to create mutually beneficial relationships. Whether it’s connecting with people in the office or leading a panel, work everyday to make networking second nature.