Networking — that elusive, difficult, tedious, formal process of discussing what you do with other professionals and asking for referrals. Yuck, right?
Then you may be doing it wrong.
People commonly associate networking with going to organized events: Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Investor Associations (REIA), Business Networking International (BNI), etc. While all are good places to network, they are only a few drops in the bucket of opportunities available.
But Steve, networking is hard!
I don’t want to feel like I’m begging for business.
I hate those big meetings.
Hold on tight, I’m about to change your mindset…
What is Networking?
Networking is the lifeblood of every business. No matter what you do, you need to interact with other people, whether that is for finding customers, vendors, properties, resources, employees, anything.
The ultimate goal of networking is to have people know you and bring ready, willing and able customers to your business. It’s not a one-time action; it’s continuous and really should be considered a form of marketing or advertising (I can hear the groans already!).
Most people have this idea that networking is convincing others to do your marketing for you. While that would be great, it’s really not how networking works. What you want is people who know you telling other people about how great you are; that they should contact you because you can help them.
At its essence, networking is communicating what you do to other people. In other words, having a conversation. Talking to people who don’t know you very well and educating them, however briefly, about what you do.
What if you changed your definition of networking?
What if “networking” was simply talking to people?
What if “networking” became “chatting” or “small talk”?
Hmmm. That’s not so scary. Now networking is nothing more than being friendly.
Saying “Hello” to someone in line at the grocery store and asking how they like that item they just put in their cart.
Asking someone at the coffee shop if they like the caramel macchiato. Little ice breakers.
If you strike up a brief conversation with someone, as they’re ready to leave, you could ask them if they know of any properties for sale. Tell them you buy houses, and if they know of any for sale or that look run down, please let you know so you can help the seller. Maybe offer a referral bonus, or send gift cards, or whatever works for you.
Does This Really Work?
The best networkers I know simply talk to people. That’s it. Eventually they say what they do, or the person asks them what they do. Isn’t that brilliant? Get strangers to ask you what you do for a living, when you’re waiting to tell them exactly that.
People like to talk about themselves, even with a stranger. This won’t work every time. You occasionally may get a grumpy person who doesn’t want to engage. That’s OK, apologize for bothering them and let them go. Hey, everyone can have a bad day, right?
Most people will respond out of politeness. And the reality is a smile and friendly attitude brightens anyone’s day, so most people will talk to you. The important thing is to be interested in them. You have to develop some affinity with the person before you tell them what you do. Don’t come on like a bull in a china shop by explaining details of your business right away. Or at all. Less is more.
Just talk to them out of a genuine interest in them, or the weather, or a question about a grocery item they’re buying, or the shoes they’re wearing. Something about them. Then as you’re parting, it’s a quick ask and hand them a business card.
Check out my Real Estate Developers podcast with Mike Fitzgerald. His superpower is networking, and he tells you exactly how easy it can be: Find it on YouTube, and watch my podcast on Facebook LIVE every Wednesday at 2 pm Arizona time at RealEstateDisruptors.net
You Did It!
You just networked with someone you didn’t know five minutes ago. No high-pressure meeting, no having to drive across town for a lunch event, and no time commitment. And if you picked a person who doesn’t want to talk to you or fall flat on your face? So what, it’s over in a matter of minutes. No harm, no foul, move on.
Think about how many people you cross paths with every day in your daily routine: Pumping gas into your car — There’s someone at the pump next to you, how do they like their truck? Grabbing lunch out — The person behind you, what do they recommend?
Networking isn’t being all professional, sitting at nice restaurants and listening to speakers (there are those opportunities, and take them, too). Networking is talking to people out of interest in them. Eventually you get to what you do and ask them to help you if they can.
Just talk to people. Be curious about them and their things. Be observant so you can find a subject to discuss. (“Hey, how about this weather?” gets old pretty fast.) Be interested in them, and you will enjoy it too. The first few times may be tough to make yourself start a conversation, but soon you will find it second nature. Be genuinely curious about other people, and before you know it, you will be a master networker.
All without “networking.”