Saturday, February 01, 2014

Networking Etiquette

I have been debating topic for this blog all week. Selecting and dismissing different ideas a few times a day. Until I talked to a fellow real estate investor who is currently attending an advance real estate class. A big part and advantage of taking the class is to network with all the other investors attending. The instructor actually strongly suggest that all attendees network with each other.

I asked how the networking was going, I was interested to know what that particular group concentrated on style of investment and how active they were with investing. Our conversation diverted to networking strategies and she pointed out one encounter in particular that turned her off future prospect to deal with a particular investor.

EUREKA!!!

There! This is what I should post about in my blog (which is always a topic that I could personally have brushed up).

Picture from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Network?

Why should we concentrate on networking at all. In fact, I'm a mother of young children, living in a fairly remote area. In order to attend Networking Event, it requires traveling, planning and often a babysitter. It would be so much easier to simply stay home. If I was only investing in the stock market, networking would be almost useless. But Real Estate Investing, is a team sport. You cannot invest in real estate on your own. In fact even the simplest of  deals include a buyer, a seller, a lawyer, a lender (institutional or private) and most time a realtor.

So in order to facilitate current or future deals, it would be helpful to have an existing form of relationship with buyers, sellers, lawyers, lenders and realtors.


When Am I Networking?

Whenever you are interacting with someone who could hold the position of buyer, seller, lawyer, lender and realtor, you are networking. Every time some one asked you "What have you been up to?", or "What do you do?", include in your answer something about your real estate business. Don't overwhelm everyone you meet with offers or request for money so that you develop a reputation and that people in your surrounding starts trying to avoid you. But if they show interest, by all means, elaborate more. Most of those encounters may not result in a deal but you never know who may end up having a role in your real estate business.

There are also, more organized event with the intention to network with a specific group of people. Such as a Investor Cashflow Club event, or a Canada REIC event, etc. The benefit of these event is that the other attendees are also there to seek out a role in a current or future investment opportunity. The likeliness of finding someone that could benefit your real estate business is now much more likely. You may have to try out a different events/groups to see which one will offer the best value. Does the event include an educational portion? Is that educational portion supporting your business? Let me elaborate on this. I once attended an event that was organized by an investor group that included a presentation. The group's vision was very limited, mostly when compared to my goals. They only entertained renting single family home, evaluated their deals based on the appreciation over cashflow, they turned their nose to more creative arrangement and as investors didn't seek out any protection or tax benefit a corporation could offer. So their loyal attendees where "brain washed" against my particular kind of investment. They could prove useful if I wanted to get rid of a deal I deemed unfit for myself however. Also be careful for tire kickers. Some group may include investor fans more then investors. They are on the sideline and have yet to have the opportunity or the courage to jump on board. Again, some of those people may become first time investor with you, but there is also a high likelihood that they wont.

It's important to understand that I am not suggesting you do not attend such events, but if you do, take your time and money commitment vs. result into account. You may still find it advantageous to you.



Networking Dos and Don'ts!

Don't Be Shy:

You may be shy. And that is completely okay, in fact I do not suggest that you change yourself at all. That being said, if in a crowd, you prefer to stay seated away from the crowd and to keep your eyes on the floor/phone/papers; you might as well have stayed home. You will have end up accomplishing just as much in the way of network. Some people have the self confidence to walk into a crowd wearing an outrageous outfit intended to draw attention. Some can have an outburst declaring they have a deal looking for a buyer/seller/investor. That may not be you; it is not me and it's definitely not my husband. But you need to be able to approach individuals to introduce yourself and spark up a conversation. If you know that you can not accomplish that, then seek out the people in the crowd that you know and join their ongoing conversation or attend an event with someone more outgoing that will be the ice breaker for you.

Have Business Cards, Many Of Them:

You should always have business cards with you, but if you are attending an event with the intention to network bring many business card. Do not use the excuse of not having a business card design. I have sometime people not produce a business card and say I'm still working on my logo. Please! I don't want to invest with your logo, I'm considering to invest with you. If you can not produce a business card to me, I automatically associate you to as a amateur. That may be what you are, and that is fine, but that is NOT what you want me to think about you. Have a business card. Even if all it as on it is your name, phone number and email address. In fact that is all I have on mine. I also do not accept the excuse "They have not arrive yet". If you know you have a network event coming up, order some cards the minute you start thinking about attending. If it was a last minute thing, print some from home. They may not have the same professional look but it's better then nothing. If you think you can't afford them, Google free business cards. Vista print as been know to offer that.

Business Cards Turn Off:

We have being advised to have bright and flashy bird dog cards. A bird dog card should not be your business card. Although you should do something to have an appealing and memorable business card, I don't recommend making it neon coloured. Make sure your card is easy to read. Do not make the font too small, blurry or hard to read against the background. Unconsciously, if reading your business card is "hard maintenance", that is the sentiment I would associate to you. The same if it was rude, unprofessional, or boring.

Be careful of the information provided on your card. If you are in the construction business and are also looking to network for growing your client database for that business, please go ahead and hand out that card. If you give me a dog grooming business card, expect a call about my dog, not my real estate deals. If you need to have more then one kind of business card, so be it. Do not have a multipurpose card with both dog grooming and real estate investing on it.

Email accounts are free. There is no reason why I should receive a business card with an email that includes any of these words: cutie, sexy, hottie, biker. I even once saw one that included huggies, like the diapers.

There are some techniques on handing out a card that will draw more attention, as well as ways of designing a card. I won't get into this much details about those in this particular post. I'll save it for a later date.

Don't Drop/Grab And Go:

In a large setting, during an event with a lot of attendee, I will often come across people running around from person to person saying "Here is my card", "Here is my card", "Here is my card". That doesn't give the time to establish a positive first impression. It is true that to get the most of such a large event you may not want to dedicate an hour per person, but take the time to have a conversation, get a sense of what kind of investor they are. If there is an interest for future deals together, arrange to reconnect to talk or meet again at a later time.

Smile:

Smile! Be approachable, courteous and friendly. I would probably not approach someone who seems to be frowning at me. I would have no interest in dealing with someone who could not be friendly with me, but not only that if they are being rude to others. Also be positive. I have had friends that as soon as we get together they start numerating all the negative things going on in their lives. Or they will point out all the negatives in any situations or people they come across. Those friends would leave me feeling drained and ruined my good mood. As a result, I started avoiding them. If, on the other hand, I come across someone that is positive and uplifting, I tend to seek them out.

Include Those Around You:

When you are in a conversation with someone and someone approaches, re position yourself to include them. Don't keep your back to them but I don't think you should end your conversation mid sentence. When there is a break in the conversation, introduce yourself if you don't know them, if you do know them introduce them to the person you were conversing with. You shouldn't use a large network event to discuss details and try to close a deal in a private conversation. Reschedule a better time to have a meeting.

Have A Story:

If someone approach you in a network situation and ask what you do, do not reply "I'm a real estate investor". Your answer should give an sense of what you try to accomplish. You could say "I've been concentrating on Buy-Rent-Hold and starting to include Rent-To-Own" Or "I've invested in Ontario and looking to expend into Alberta". Someone once handed out a card and answered "Go see my website". For once the delay in explanation and the promise of a presentation screams Multi Level Marketing, not investor. Also, your story and personality needs to give me an incentive to visit that website.

Follow Up:

After the event, follow up with the people you have networked with. Depending on the conversation that took place have the appropriate follow up. Everyone should get an e-mail expressing your pleasure of making their acquaintances or for seeing them again. If they use and investment strategy that matches your expertise; ask for permission to send them details on current or future deals. If you had discussed getting together in a near future you could follow up with a phone call. But when someone who took my card in passing, calls me asking me bunch of questions on my business I can feel a little violated. It can be done, but do be tactful. 
Also do not wait so long after the event that when you do touch base again they have completely forgotten you. Always help them remember you by telling them where you met "Hi Jon, Melanie here. We met last week at the Investor Cashflow supper..."
How do you keep track of that yourself? Well you don't have Pip's amazing memory, keep a database with those details in your network database.

Do Not Turn Other Events Into Your Personal Network Session:

Don't attend any event handing out cards right, left and center. Attend for it's true purpose. As an example, if I host a Tupperware party, don't show up with posters and pamphlet for your own business. But if a conversation with an other of my guest develops into asking more, by all means present your card and offer to discuss further at a later date. Show me some respect. The same goes for bigger events hosted by a group or a business. 

Appearance:

By appearance, I don't mean you have to go out and buy a three piece suit. But do dress professionally, business casual is fine as well. If I showed up in my coverall from my farm life, I am not going to inspire others to view me as a serious investor.


Conclusion

Real estate investing is about relationship. The purpose of networking should be to form and nurture those relationship. Be sure you have something to offer the people you network with as well as making sure they have something to offer you in return. The relationship you create may not be limited to only real estate. Take an interest in the people you meet, form friendships.