In real estate investing, success is as much about the quality of your connections as the quality of your flips. One of the best ways to get new connections – and maintain your existing ones – is to attend local networking events, or REIAs.
You can check for upcoming real estate networking events on sites like Eventbrite and Meetup, or you can check your local Real Estate Investors Association site for their schedule. Asset Based Lending hosts a Flips and Funding Networking event several times a year where investors can meet with our hard money loan officers as well as other professionals like contractors and wholesalers.
In addition to the open bar and hors devours, realtors and real estate investors have a lot to gain from attending these networking events. You have an opportunity to learn from experts, find new connections, get recommendations for contractors, lenders, and agents, as well as get answers to all of your burning questions about hard money lending and the nitty-gritty details of investing. Keep reading to learn four pro tips to make the most of your time spent at networking events.
Update your business cards.
If you don’t have business cards or they don’t reflect your real estate business, now is the time to make them. You want a business card that’s clean, professional, and memorable. Unless you have a background in graphic design, an online template is probably the best way to ensure you have a professional-looking presentation.
There are plenty of sites that offer templates, the best of which will also print and ship your finished cards to you. Two great sites are Vistaprint and Canva; Vistaprint charges $16 for 100 standard business cards while Canva charges $30 for 100 (plus a nominal design fee). The higher quality paper and finish you want, the more expensive the cards will be.
Vistaprint has simpler, more traditional designs of varying quality while Canva’s selections are more limited but more professional-looking and graphically heavy. On both sites, you can sort by industry and sort designs by industry or style.
Pro tip: At the end of a good conversation, trade cards and write down three things you talked about so you can send your new connection a personalized follow-up email after the event.
Dress to impress.
Wondering what to wear at a networking event? Before you show up at an event, make sure you know what the dress code is and act accordingly. You want to look clean, professional, and smart; you want to give the impression that you are capable and on top of your professional life so that the other attendees will view you as a valuable potential connection.
If the event doesn’t have a specific dress code, err on the side of caution. For most events in the real estate investing space, with the exception of occasional formal gatherings, you won’t go wrong with a classic business casual look.
Pro tip: It’s always better to look more professional than casual, especially if you are not yet established in your local real estate community.
Come in with a game plan.
Are you looking for properties? A mentor? A contractor? Before you step into the event, think about who can do the most for you at this point in your career and target these people. Often, attendees will wear name tags that will tell you what they do and make it easy for you to find the most valuable connections.
If the event has an RSVP list, you can even do research in advance and match names to faces. That way, you can figure out who you want to talk to before you go, and you can prepare questions to break the ice accordingly.
Pro tip: Refill your drinks strategically. There are two techniques you can use, both to start and end a conversation. If you want to talk with someone who would be a great resource, you can tell them you’re about to refresh your drink and ask if they want you to grab them something. On the other hand, if you’re stuck in a conversation with someone who can’t help you out, you can excuse yourself to grab another drink.
Pro tip caveat: Don’t chug your drink every time you want to exit a conversation or you’ll end the night unable to have one. Getting a drink isn’t the only way to end a conversation, it’s just one of many options.
Start the conversation.
A good conversation has a lot of back and forth, but a rule of thumb when you’re trying to get to know someone with more experience or influence than you is to get them talking about themselves. If you ask about the other party’s interests and experiences, they are more likely to engage in the conversation.
When you want to talk to someone, ask them about the projects they are working on and about their best past projects. Your goal at a networking event is not to show off your knowledge of real estate; it’s to learn from experts and figure out who might be a good connection. Be ready with some stock questions like “What’s the most interesting project you’re working on now?” or “Why did you decide to go into real estate?”. These will get the other person talking about their work, but generic questions will really only the break the ice.
As the conversation continues, tailor your questions to what your potential connection is saying by connecting with their responses and asking follow-up questions. They’ll be flattered that you are actually listening and interested in their experiences.
Pro tip: A popular sales/relationship building tactic is mirroring. When they finish talking about something, incorporate what they said into your response, and follow up with a tailored question. If you do this well, they won’t want the conversation to end.
Following these tips will help you ace the real estate networking event, but your work isn’t over at the end of the night. If you met people that you want to build real relationships with, you need to work at it. Send a follow-up email a few days after the event, using the topics you wrote on your connections’ business cards to draft personal emails and demonstrate that you value and respect the other person’s time and experiences.
Even if you aren’t working with the people you meet on projects immediately, you should check in a few times a year to see how things are going and ask about their latest activities. They will most likely respond in turn and you will have an opportunity to share your work with them, as well as ask for advice, assistance, or recommendations if you need them.
Networking events are a fun and effective way to grow your business as a real estate investor. These tips will help you get started, but the best way to become a pro networker is to just go out and network. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel; with time, you will build genuine connections with people in the industry who truly want to help you succeed.
If you’re looking for events to attend, you can check out ABL’s upcoming events as well as subscribe to our mailing list to be the first to RSVP when a new networking event is posted.