If you’re like most real estate professionals, networking at meetings, ballgames or other events is a core part of your business. Typical agents pass out lots of business cards and seldom hear back from the people they meet. If you’re ready to change that, power networking is for you.

Passing out your business card is usually an ineffective way to prospect. Even if you use a digital version, people forget who you are or can’t find your card when they need your services. If you want to be more effective at converting leads from your networking activities, follow the eight steps below:

1. Your two most important accessories are a smile and your name badge.

Most networking events provide participants with name badges. This is not the case when you attend a sporting event, a luncheon or most social events. To make meeting new people easier at any event, wear your smile and your name badge. When you spot someone you would like to meet, smile and introduce yourself. If the person doesn’t have a name badge, ask, “And your name is?” Your name badge not only makes you more approachable, but it also helps people remember your name since they can see your badge throughout your conversation.

2. Target, question and connect.

Bob Burg, the author of “Endless Referrals,” suggests that you focus on meeting only five to six people at any networking event. Your goal is to build a connection with each individual by discovering what matters most to him or her.

Burg’s recommendation is to stand near where they are serving the food and drinks. Next, pay particular attention to the individuals who seem to be the center of a group. These individuals are usually the influencers in the room.

When an influencer eventually walks over to get more food or another drink, put a sincere smile on your face and introduce yourself. Ask for their card, but do not offer to give them your card unless the person asks for it. Follow up with a question about the person or their business. For example, if you introduce yourself as “John Agent from ABC Real Estate,” quickly follow up by asking questions such as:

  • “How did you get into your business?”
  • “How does your product (or service) differ from that of your competitors?”

This allows the person to talk about what matters to him or her. More importantly, you will stand out from everyone else whose sole focus is on themselves and their business.

If the person does express an interest in real estate, avoid pitching your services. Instead, turn the tables back around by asking Burg’s most important question: “How would I recognize when someone is a good client for your services?”

Burg’s philosophy is that you earn the right to receive referrals when you have established trust and have demonstrated a willingness to help others build their business first.

3. Meet the wallflowers.

If there are 40 people in the room, how do you determine which five or six you want to meet? Fafie Moore, co-owner of Realty Executives Nevada, is a master networker. Her strategy is to watch for the wallflowers, as well as those standing near the walls. Surprisingly, these individuals often prove to be the organization’s leaders or even the person who wrote the check for the event.

4. Break the ice at nonbusiness events.

If you find yourself tongue-tied about what to discuss, almost everyone enjoys discussing food. If the person cooks, ask about her favorite recipes. People also love sharing where to get the best pizza, burger or another special dish in town. Ask their opinion about what makes their choice the best.

5. Three is an opening; four is even better.

If two people are having a conversation, it’s wise not to interrupt. If there are three or more people in a group, they are probably more in networking mode and more likely to welcome another person to the conversation. If you are part of a group and you see someone standing near you, invite that person to join your conversation. Many people feel awkward about interrupting. They will appreciate your willingness to welcome them into your conversation.

6. Avoid the roving eye.

A major mistake many people make is becoming distracted while they are in a networking conversation. Make sure that your attention is 100 percent focused on the person with whom you are conversing. Avoid looking elsewhere in the room or on your mobile device.

7. Master the art of giving and receiving a compliment.

Whenever possible, give compliments to others. When you do so, dig deeper by asking more about what you complimented. For example, “That was an excellent talk you just gave. How did you become interested in that topic?”

When someone gives you a compliment say, “Thank you.” While this seems obvious, many people brush off compliments from others. A simple acknowledgment is usually the best approach.

8. Know what not to do.

When it comes to networking, keep your focus on others. Avoid telling people, “I’m never too busy for your referrals,” as that puts the focus on you rather than on the other person.

To be more effective in your networking efforts, be curious about what matters to others, strengthen your connection by laser-focusing your attention on your conversational partners, and use a “give-to-get” approach to earn the right to do business with them.

As Bob Burg concludes, “This is the secret of ‘endless referrals.'”

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Discover why leading Realtor associations and companies have chosen Bernice’s new and experienced real estate sales training for their agents at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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