Whether you are a partner at a law firm or you own your own practice, you can’t underestimate the value of networking. Networking with real estate agents can help you build your book of business, broaden your professional skill set, and most importantly, build relationships that are critical to career growth and success.
The problem is that it can be difficult to ascertain when a networking event will be truly enriching and valuable, versus finding yourself in a low-energy room with limited prospects, drinking bad coffee while attempting to make small talk.
But guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way!
Whether you are staring down a full holiday season social calendar, or have simply committed to do more in-person networking this year, we have some tips to help you make the most of every networking event that you attend.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Networking Events
When you attend networking events frequently, you will undoubtedly encounter a lot of different types of personalities. Ideally, business networking should be a two-way street, or as the New York Times states, a mutually beneficial meeting for both parties.
However, all too often, you will meet “networking parasites” — people who want to meet you specifically to glean free information or advice about your business area or practice specialty.
This is not exclusive to lawyers — doctors, accountants, publicists, financial advisors and even psychotherapists all deal with people shamelessly asking to “pick their brains” without acknowledging that these professionals actually earn a living by selling their knowledge.
On the communications blog Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich shares a great anecdote about someone who spends entire networking events on the bar line, having short but meaningful conversations with individuals while they wait for their drink orders.
While unconventional, it’s definitely a way to meet numerous people and avoid getting trapped against a wall while someone you will never see again pumps you for free intel.
Whether your networking event is more social, like a sponsored after-work happy hour, or professional, like a panel discussion or even a multi-day conference, make it your business to meet as many people as you can and keep some of our networking event tips in mind.
Create the Networking Events that You Want
We all know that networking events are not all created equal. With so many events out there, it is hard to know what will be worth your time. So our advice? Create your own! If you are planning an event, not only can you choose an activity that you will enjoy, but you will be able to pick your attendees and invite people that will be meaningful contributors to the group at large.
- Breakfast Meetings: If you are a morning person, book a private room at your favorite breakfast joint and invite a group of real estate brokers that you have been wanting to get to know. Encourage each to bring a guest so you can meet twice as many people! Bonus: if your work day starts at 9:00 a.m., you won’t have to take time away from your billable work to start schmoozing. And of course, always pick up the tab!
- Industry Speaking Engagements: Get yourself in front of a group of brokers by teaching them a little something about what you do best. Teach a continuing education course, offer to speak at a local brokerage about the impact of a new law or legislation, or apply to speak at an industry conference where you know you’ll have a captive audience of real estate partners.
- Throw a Happy Hour: We recommend happy hours as a great place to work the drink line. Real estate agents are a social bunch and happy hour environments tend to be more relaxed and convivial; a great place for meeting people and building relationships. If you’re ready to get down to business, that is when it’s best to schedule follow-up meetings or conversations.
- Do a Lunch & Learn: It’s universal: people love free lunch! Grab a platter of your favorite sandwiches and set up shop at a real estate office. Offer up a raffle item so that you can collect business cards and follow up meaningfully after the event.
Have a Clear Goal in Mind
No matter what event you are hosting or attending, focus on getting one thing out of it. Examples may include: meeting with new real estate agents, connecting with an interesting vendor, or bantering with like-minded professionals to learn something new.
Going in with a clear focus will help you maximize your time and keep you from aimlessly working the room or getting stuck in lengthy, but fruitless, conversations.
Many real estate agents are, by nature, social and extroverted. If you have a specific goal, hone in on it right away to keep the conversation focused. For example, you want to talk to Joe about his social media marketing. There is no need to spend ten minutes talking about the weather or the appetizers.
Approach Joe and say, “Hi, I am a big fan of how your team is leveraging social media and digital marketing. Do you have a minute to tell me more about it?” Joe will appreciate your straightforwardness and you can avoid unnecessary small talk.
This is also a way to break-ice. Show the agent that you are truly interested in him, and not just adding another realtor to your prospect list. Demonstrate that you’ve spent time learning about Joe, and appreciate the effort he’s made in promoting his business.
Don’t Forget the Follow Up
Whether you are hosting or attending a function, you’re in it for the long-haul if you do it right. After an event, the hard work is far from over. An event is a great place to meet new people and initiate relationships. Once you leave the event, you need to nurture those relationships into potential partners.
When you follow up, be natural; don’t come across as over-eager or desperate. There is nothing more off-putting than bad follow-up form. An example? Attending a networking event only to receive a lengthy email the next day from someone listing out partner propositions that don’t add value to your business.
Make Your Follow Up Count
When you meet a real estate agent at a networking event, find out what is important to them and get their business card. Send them an email within a few days, or even the next day, if they expect your follow up.
Let the agent know you listened. Outline what is important to them and how your practice can fulfill their needs. Listen to the agent closely, whether they are looking for a bi-lingual lawyer, a lower cost alternative to their attorney, or a partner who consistently answers their texts. It is possible that you can’t fulfill their needs, and that’s okay too. Just email a nice note recapping something you discussed. Let them know it was a pleasure connecting and you’re open to working together.
If you mention something from your meeting or conversation, it will remind that person that you are genuinely interested. If you don’t, they may think you are mass-spamming or worse, adding them to your email list without their permission.
Don’t give up if you don’t hear back right away. Just like you – agents get busy. They might not respond for awhile or possibly they don’t want a new lawyer just yet. It is important to be in front of them when they do. Continue to check in periodically. You never know when circumstances might change. The agent you met might eventually remember that great attorney they met at that networking event.
Set up a 1:1 meeting in-person, over the phone, or as a Google Hangout, to talk about the next steps. A LinkedIn connection is also a way to stay connected.
Are You Ready to Up Your Networking Game?
Are you a Chicago real estate attorney ready to up the ante on professional development? Grow your business through our attorney-agent program. We can help you create your own networking event or invite you to one of ours. Simply contact your account executive or email us at [email protected].