With the New Year upon us, take a minute and ask yourself – are you networking effectively? If you are merely running around handing out business cards you are selling yourself short. The term networking is a buzz word that just won’t go away, and for good reason, because the importance has changed very little over time. It is no secret that forming relationships is one of the most important steps to success in most businesses, so learning how to network is a key skill for any aspiring real estate investor. Here are some tools and tips for investors to increase the return on your networking efforts:
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The Japanese Business Card Method:
Business cards are still common today, even as technology evolves from paper to electronic, but in many cases the card ends up in a trashcan or used to spit out flavorless gum. I have had the pleasure of working with Japanese business people on several occasions and have come to love the way they handle business cards. The aspects of their card exchanges that I believe everyone can learn from include:
Provide a proper introduction: nothing means less than flippantly just handing cards to strangers. If you find someone you believe will benefit from having your card, introduce yourself first so they will be able to recollect who you are and why you contacted them.
Review the card: all too often the business cards go straight to the pocket or wallet, before being reviewed. If you exchange cards with someone, take a few seconds to review their name, title, and company…it could come in handy as you continue to converse with them or others.
Respect the card: business cards are usually the end result of design effort and production cost, so they should be shown respect (not to mention they represent the card owner). In Japan, cards are given and received with two hands, not whipped around like the ace of spades.
The business card is but one tool in the grand scheme of networking, but use it wisely as it can still generate connections that can fuel your business.
Make Networking a Lifestyle:
Too often, networking is thought of as an event, where dozens of people get together and mingle, exchange cards and tell industry specific war stories. This is most likely because industry specific conferences and meetings generally hold these networking events. While some effective networking can be accomplished at such events, I view networking a little bit differently. The most noteworthy connections I have made have come from discussing real estate and investing with others as often as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t typically walk up to strangers and start telling them about my latest project, but when I am with someone and the conversation gives me an opportunity, I try to take it. It is astonishing how many people are interested in real estate and often one quick mention of real estate leads to an entire conversation.
Networking on the Web:
The social media craze and ease of communication offered by the World Wide Web adds a whole new dimension to networking. I could dedicate an entire article on networking online but for now I will just mention a few things to enhance the online networking experience.
“You are always on parade:” This famous quote by General Patton’s perfectly describes the online world we live in. Every forum post you write, every blog you contribute to, and every status update you make is available for others to read- and they will undoubtedly use these to form an opinion of you. You never know who or when someone will come across something you have written so be cautious and take care in what you write. It is very easy to get caught up in a controversial topic, or respond to a person you fully disagree with, but remember, your comments could come back to haunt you.
Focus your efforts: What is the point in having thousands of contacts who will never use your services and whose services you will never solicit? While this goes for all networking, it is especially important online, where it is easier for frauds and fakes to target unsuspecting individuals.
Disclose, Disclose, Disclose: Nothing can ruin your online reputation quicker than failing to disclose important facts or connections when interacting online. We have all seen those people who show up to a forum and write rave reviews for a course or book, failing to disclose that they work for the book’s author…honesty goes a long way in building your audience.
So now that 2012 is coming to a close and 2013 is around the corner, re-evaluate how you network. Make 2013 the year you make game-changing connections that fuel your real state business growth, because behind successful businesses are people, and you cannot do it alone. Please leave your networking advice in the comments below, because I am always looking for ways to expand my networking endeavors.
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