Stop Ineffective Networking: Tips for Investors on Making Connections in 2013

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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.

Happy Holidays!

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Author

James Vermillion

James (G+) is a Principal Member of K&V LLC, a real estate investing company in Lexington, KY. His firm focuses on distressed property rehabilitation in the Bluegrass Region. He is also a licensed real estate agent.

19 Comments

  1. Good tips. It drives me up a wall when someone hands me their card without even asking a single thing about me. I’ll never forget this lady at a local networking lunch who gave me her card without even asking my name! That card always ends up right in the trash can. The Japanese way is, indeed, very nice and conveys respect, which is never out of style.

  2. “You are always on parade”, I love that – so true.

    It’s amazing how helpful or hurtful our online interactions can be. Even in the online world, every comment, post, tweet and status update is important and can go a long way. This is a great reminder for us to think things through, leave thoughtful/helpful feedback and ask good questions in the first place. Flippant responses aren’t a great service to anybody.

  3. I think a big component of effective networking is referrals from people you trust. The two components of this are:

    first, the person giving the referral. You should consider your ,confidence level in the person giving the referral, the more you trust that person,the higher credence in the referral.

    and second: whether the referral is given with a strong recommendation or simply a name. I’m very careful when recommending people. If that person turns out to be a flake, or does poor quality work, or is unreliable, it reflects poorly on me

  4. James, I never knew that about the way the Japanese network and exchange cards, I love it. Deeply respectful and an excellent way of introducing. I agree, the best networking usually comes naturally in casual conversation and especially now with real estate, house flipping and headlines capturing people attention, its always an easy lead in. Excellent post, James!

  5. Ali Boone

    I’ve learned that you just never know who you may be talking to, so follow all of this advice in front of everyone! My favorite example is flying on an airplane. If you want to network and end up giving out your information, you are scanning the plane (at least if you are flying Southwest and can pick where you sit) for who the most promising candidate may be. However, I’ve quickly learned that your next best connection is far from the person you would guess on that plane. So treat everyone as if they are your next big connection!

  6. Well done James! Great comments. I too did not know that about business cards. I will make a more conscience effort to follow the advice when exchanging BC’s with others.
    Great to see you moving up in the world. I look forward to hanging out with you again at the next BP Summitt!

  7. Hey James-
    I had to share this with you. I was at a real estate investing networking event last night and part of it was a sit down at round tables with about 7 seats. Well needless to say I started chatting with a few people at the table and started to exchange business cards. As I put the cards down and continued to talk I noticed one of the guys happened to be holding it with 2 hands and looking at it & proceeded to ask me questions specific to what I had on my card. I immediately thought of your blog & picked up his card again and put your plan in place with out being obvious. He NOTICED with out making it obvious as well. Well later during the networking session he asked me if we could talk privately downstairs where it wasn’t as loud. He turned out to be a hedge fund broker with a fund in the hundreds of millions …… and some business may just come out of it. He happens to be Korean but works with investments outside of the US so my guess is he know’s the Japanese business card theory and uses it. Thank you for sharing that & sometimes the little things make the big difference.
    Thanks for giving me a new kind of respect for how I will handle business card “trading” in the future.

    • James Vermillion

      Mike –
      Thanks so much for sharing, it is always great to hear real life experiences, I am glad the method was able to be tested. I think the ultimate lesson was stated in you comment “the little things make the big difference”. I have always felt if you focus on doing the little things right, the big things will be easier to handle. Thanks again, I really enjoyed reading that!

  8. I learned this quite awhile ago: when handing someone a business card always express how that person can help you. I learned this at a chamber of commerce meeting. At my last networking event as I handed someone my card id say, “I am trying to build a my team, I am looking for contractors, agents, and other people who can help me grow beyond my current properties.”

    When I receive a card I always ask, “What kind of contacts are you looking for?” And then I not on on the back of the card a physical feature, and a summary of their response. This allows me allows me to provide instant feedback and give me a resource so that before I plan to meet them next be able to identify them and generate conversation with them

  9. Daniel Mohnkern

    I see that I am reviving something from years ago by posting this, but I was just searching the site for advice as a newbie concerning connecting with people. Having a bit of experience in Facebook, I want to make sure that I am not going hog wild with my connections like that stranger who “friends” everything that breaths. Your blog came up and I see why. It reminded me of some of the sage business card advice I received a few years ago; if you are handing your business card to someone who doesn’t even know what you do and how you can help them, or if you are handing it to someone who never asked for it, it WILL be thrown away at their earliest convenience. After reading your very informative blog, I think it would be wise to treat my “connecting” in the same manner. After all, I don’t want to become that “newbie” everyone wants to throw away. 😉

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