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How to Supercharge Your Network/Users/adamp/Desktop/May Mag Images/RealtorAdvantage

Follow this sales associate’s tips to maximize your networking efforts and create long-term benefits for your real estate career.

Every big real estate transaction I’ve closed since getting licensed three and a half years ago has come as a result of networking. I’m a social person who isn’t afraid to introduce myself to strangers or to speak in public. Those things spell opportunity for me, particularly in the current market, where you really have to push yourself out there to grow your business.

Take the customer whom I just met a month ago. A well-known local businessperson, he was in a local eating establishment one evening when I started talking to him and discovered he was interested in commercial real estate. We exchanged business cards and, wanting to know more about him and his business, I e-mailed him a few days later and set up a lunch meeting. At that meeting, we discussed his real estate goals and how I might be able to help him reach them. We had a lot in common, and formed a business relationship as a result of these interactions.

One week later, he called on me to help him put a letter of intent on a $100 million hotel property. I made a single phone call, found the source (who was accepting the offers) and submitted the letter of intent on his behalf.

Whether you’re already networking or ready to start benefiting from proactive relationship building, here are three key strategies to follow.

1. Start a Networking Group
Two years ago I started the Oasis Group (formerly known as the Young Uprising Professional Referral Organization), a networking organization for working professionals in my community. I didn’t limit membership to one person per profession (as many networking groups do), and instead opened the organization up to business owners and entrepreneurs across a range of industries. There were nine of us at the beginning, and we started by meeting for dinner at local restaurants, where we discussed our goals as a group and as individuals who were looking to expand their networking opportunities. 

Today the dinners take place at different establishments on the second Tuesday of each month. During the gatherings, we discuss what’s been going on with our businesses and serve as sounding boards for one another. As the group began to grow, we limited membership to “invitation only” and created a four-person membership committee that reviews and approves potential candidates.

We’ve also had guest speakers at our meetings. For example, one member invited a leader of a $150 million firm to discuss entrepreneurship. Another format we’ve used is the “bring-a-guest” approach, where every member brings someone. We’ve done cocktail parties this way, and maximized the networking opportunity by sending out the guest bios ahead of time to members, who knew exactly whom they wanted to meet.

Regardless of what format you choose, the goal is to assemble a group of professionals who can help each other grow their businesses with solid advice, information and social interaction. Start small, as I did, with less than 10 professionals (we’re up to 14 now), and see where it takes you.
 
2. Join a Networking Group
If you don’t have time to start a new networking group, there are plenty of options out there for you time-strapped real estate professionals who need a simple way to interact with potential customers. Many Oasis members belong to multiple networking groups. BNI International (www.bni.com), for example, touts itself as the largest networking organization in the world and offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and business referrals.

I’m also a member of Pillars, a networking group that’s run by my local Chamber of Commerce and geared toward creating socialization opportunities for executives. Check with your local chamber to see what kind of opportunities exist, and take advantage of them. This can be a great place to meet, greet and mingle with the local business community.

Finally, don’t overlook your local Realtor® organization, whose mission is to create business opportunities for its members.

3. Ask How You Can Help
When I meet new people, my philosophy is, “How can I help you?” The more I go out of the way for others, the more it comes back to me. However, I don’t live in the world of quid pro quo; I don’t keep a scorecard, and I have no expectations. I do, however, ask questions about the person’s business, and I keep track of what I’ve learned from these exchanges. It’s much easier to search for people by what they do as opposed to who they are (I will remember meeting a lawyer who specializes in zoning in Palm Beach, for example, but I may not always recall his name). 

If asking someone how you can help doesn’t evoke much response, try talking about that person’s passion. One of my personal passions is running, so if I meet someone who also likes to run for fun or competitively, we have an instant bond and something to talk about. Often, we’ll run together, talk business and start to work together.

Here’s further proof that commonalities connect people: at a recent Oasis dinner, we had a turnout of 40 people. Instead of having everyone stand up and say what they do for a living, I asked them what their passions were. One person stood up and said, “playing piano.” That simple statement led another professional to also reveal his love for piano, and now the two attendees (both of whom were guests, not members) are doing business together. These simple interactions can be very powerful, and beneficial, when it comes to creating long-term networking ties in your local community.

Rachelle Ginsberg is a sales associate with Douglas Elliman Florida in Miami Beach. She sold $17 million in properties in 2006 and was featured in REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in 2007. A lifelong runner and competitive marathoner, Ginsberg handles primarily commercial real estate transactions.