Cultivating a network of professional contacts is arguably one of the best things you can do for your business — and for yourself. Working in real estate, my sphere of influence is what drives my business. Whether you are a wholesaler, flipper, or buy and hold landlord, the better you are at networking, the more your business will thrive.
Here are some tips I’ve put into practice to build my network. As with anything worth doing, it takes time, but you will begin to reap the benefits before you know it — I definitely did!
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10 Simple Actions to Substantially Build Your Network
You know you’ve reached a turning point when you go somewhere, and people you don’t know recognize you from previous events you’ve attended. Just because you can “work from home” most of the time as an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you should stay at home. Meetup.com is a great place to start.
Go to at least one event per week where you don’t know anyone.
I used to invite friends to events with me in order to use them as a crutch (i.e. have a default person to talk to). I’m already socially awkward enough without showing up somewhere where I don’t know a single soul.
But I force myself to be uncomfortable sometimes, and when I do, I usually end up making new friends with someone else who is there alone (or I run into someone I know that I didn’t think would be there). It’s definitely not fun being uncomfortable, but you won’t be worse for the wear.
When in doubt, reach out!
Ever heard of analysis paralysis? For many people, too much thought tends to lead to inaction. This is why when it relates to meeting new people, you should act first, and then think later. Don’t weigh the pros and cons. Don’t look at the opportunity costs of having a conversation.
Reach out, whether it’s to introduce yourself or ask someone what they do — and do the thinking later. Blatantly putting yourself out there can be terrifying at first (especially to those for whom networking seems unnatural), but trust me, it gets easier the more you practice.
Introduce yourself to the person next to you.
I admit, I’m terrible at this one. Most of the time, I’m in my own world, thinking my own little thoughts. And you know what? Sometimes, that’s OK. You don’t have to be “on” 100 percent of the time. But if you’re at a networking or social event to meet people, it’s safe to assume that your neighbor probably is there for the same reasons. Start with a friendly, “Hey! I’m Tiffany,” and go from there. They’ll likely be grateful to you for starting the conversation.
Strike up a conversation at a coffee shop.
I once met someone very skilled at this. I originally went to the coffee shop to indulge in a mocha and escape the realities of life with a good book. OK, so it was Rick Ferri’s All About Asset Allocation — a little bit of a different “escape” than what works for most people, but it led to a conversation with the guy in the chair next to me.
Three hours later, we were still there talking about the intricacies of intelligent portfolio construction — nerd bliss, I tell you. I learned so much and met another contact I was able to add to my database.
Ask to buy a successful person coffee.
Not many people would say no to a free cup of coffee, though I’ve had a few people artfully decline. You know what I did? I went out and asked five more. Anyone who turns that amazing offer down is missing out big time, so don’t even sweat it. Regardless of how rapidly technology changes and robots start replacing jobs, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that will replace an honest to goodness one-on-one conversation. So get out there!
Look for common ground.
In the process of getting to know someone, you should be asking questions and learning more about them. This will help you identify what you have in common and give you the opportunity to build rapport. Once you do identify this, bring it up!
People feel more comfortable around others who are like them, so even if you, for example, don’t know the first thing about organic chemistry, mention your brother who does. This is why it’s also valuable to cultivate an interest in various topics. You don’t have to be an expert by any means, but being able to converse intelligently about many different things is a great skill to keep sharp.
Make an introduction (or three).
In order to get, you must first give. Offer to connect two people who may otherwise not know each other, and do it with the expectation of nothing in return. You’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you are helping your friends, and you will start to become known as the “connector.” This will enable you to attract people to you, rather than chase them (a big philosophy of mine). Pretty soon, people will come to you to ask for a referral!
Ask a contact for a specific introduction.
Most people are happy to connect two people they know, especially if they are already themselves well-connected — so don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction. However, make sure that you are also returning the favor in some way and not asking for a connection every week. For example, taking a super-connector friend out to lunch or coffee will be an investment in the relationship that pays dividends.
Say thank you!
Better yet, send a personal or handwritten thank you note. Expressing your appreciation when others go out of their way to help you is not just good business, it’s just good — period. Deep down, everybody likes to be acknowledged, so the very least you can do is thank them.
Investors: What actions do you take regularly to build your network?
Leave your comments below!