Agents Decoded: Networking is a long game — here's how to play it
When you're building your business through networking, think beyond referrals. Make yourself indispensable by becoming a "resource directory" for clients.
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Networking has to be one of the most misunderstood practices in the real estate industry.
All real estate agents are encouraged to join networking groups, their local chamber of commerce or civic organizations — but they often give up because they can go months without receiving a referral.
Without a doubt, agents who are good at networking develop business from it. But agents who do not get results right away often blame circumstances, or a mismatch of their personality, rather than examine what they may be doing wrong.
Networking, broadly defined, is a way of leveraging your business and personal connections to help you bring in new customers or vendors, or to get great advice for running your business.
In my experience, most agents who try to build their practice through networking begin with the same assumption: Networking will help them gain referrals from the contacts they meet.
While we all want to generate business, this approach misses a crucial part of the overall equation: Networking makes us more valuable to our clients even if we don't get new prospects right away.
But many agents see a lack of referrals as a sign that their participation in a BNI, civic organization or chamber of commerce was not productive. The heart of the issue, however, lies in the infrequency of the real estate transaction.
Real property is not a consumable. There are no Presidents' Day sales or buy one, get one free offers to stimulate activity. If I owned a bakery, I could publicize a sale on donuts and get a stampede of people at my counter the following Sunday morning. It's not so easy to convince people to pack up, sell their home, and move.
This is where the savvy networker knows how to play the long game.
As real estate agents, we are the welcome wagon of the community. Our clients and prospects look to us not just for our ability to open doors, but our capacity to make introductions for them. The low hanging fruits are mortgage loan officers, home inspectors, title companies and lawyers. You might add some contractors to the list, but our resource directory should be far larger.
A brief list includes the following:
Workers comp attorney
Estate sales specialist
Mold remediation professional
Fair housing organization
Swimming pool company
Garage door company
Radon mitigation company
Lead-based paint assessor
Oil tank testing
Oil spill specialist
I could make the list go on for pages.
Simply put, the value of an agent's Rolodex cannot be exaggerated. If I've been able to assist a past client or prospect by sharing a trusted resource, they will remember me when they're contemplating a move. Absent that capacity to connect people, missed opportunities pile up.
Given how rarely a buyer or seller transacts, the only way to remain top of mind for our prospective clients is to furnish them with value through regular contact without fading into the background as white noise.
This is where the long game of networking becomes crucial. I find one of the most important parts of networking is not simply soliciting referrals. It is collecting a Napoleon Hill-like mastermind directory of trusted resources that make me indispensable to my prospects and clients.
Making those connections and introductions, and making myself known as a resource for even obscure needs, makes my value skyrocket — the holy grail of being top of mind. I'm no longer soliciting business; I am sought out for my stuff.
That is the under-discussed component of networking, and whether or not you get referrals from your efforts, your value — and your long-term snowballing of sphere business — will grow if you focus on expanding your list of resources. As Ivan Misner, founder of Business Networking International, has said for decades, "givers gain."
J. Philip Faranda is a manager and associate broker at Howard Hanna | Rand Realty serving Westchester and Putnam Counties, just north of New York City. He was previously a broker-owner at J. Philip Real Estate, the top independent brokerage in the two counties by transaction sides, which he founded in 2005. He also writes a real estate blog which has been cited by major media outlets. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.