Learn the Art of Schmoozing for More Business

Networking is a big part of real estate success. Do you know how to “talk the talk” in a way that can win you a new business ally in the end?

September 30, 2013

You’re at an event in a room crowded with other real estate professionals. There’s the potential for a flood of referrals. So, how do you work the room? Do you complete the 200-yard business card dash, whizzing around, passing out your card to as many people as you can?

Flashing your business card too soon is one of the biggest and most common networking mistakes, says Leil Lowndes, communications expert and author of 10 best-selling books, including How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships (Contemporary Books, 2003). Dispersing your card as if you’re dealing a deck of cards will almost guarantee it gets shuffled away in a pile, forgotten.

Networking should be more methodical, yet personable, and a business card should never be drawn until a relationship has been established, communication experts say. So let’s cover some ways you can improve your networking skills.

Do you try to blend into the crowd? Or maybe you’re the gabber at networking events, holding others hostage with nonstop chatter all about you? Or, the weather guy—boring others with mundane topics of conversations? You don’t want to be “that person.”

We all have networking personas. The social network Bizzabo recently highlighted a list of personality types you’re likely to encounter at a conference. The bottom line is that not every persona is good at getting to know others. For example, there’s the “social media addict” — you know, the person who barely bothers to look up from their phone and adds you to their Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook account in a flash while they Instagram your face with a nice Valencia filter. Then there’s the entrepreneur, who always has something to pitch or a demo to show you. Or the “suit/corporate” type, who may be overly formal. There’s even the “stressed-out guy,” who always seems preoccupied. Are you one of these folks?

Claudia Jonczynk, an associate professor of organization behavior at ESCP Europe in London, has studied different networking personas, helping her to identify three successful networking styles.

The game player: These are the “master networkers” who seek out and attend events regularly and boast a high number of external contacts. They form strategic relationships with everybody, no matter what they do.

Trade-off makers: They have a more focused networking style, honing in on an internal network and forging partnerships with a couple of key people. They may be more apt to network with the personal assistants as way to get to the CEO, for example.

Low-key: They tend to be more skeptical about what they believe is a falseness and hypocrisy to networking at times. Their goal is not to collect a maximum number of business cards, but to spend more time focused to a specific group or team of individuals and they strive to build stronger relationships within that small group.

Jonczynk’s research found that, in fact, all three styles of networking are effective in leading to greater business success and promotions, but the game players tended to get there the fastest, roughly 12 to 18 months before the other two groups. Plus, the game player networking style tends to result in higher social integration with clients, and these individuals show more enjoyment throughout their career path.

It can pay back to be a master networker in real estate, in way of more referrals. Here are 10 networking tips aimed at forming stronger relationships.

10 Ways to Schmooze

1. Plot your approach: When networking, don’t leave anything to chance, says Lowndes. If you’re attending an event, try to find out who will be there beforehand and make a list of the people you most want to meet. Find someone you know to make an introduction to those key people you identified. Or, if you’re flying solo, have a reason for your approach, such as something you have in common or maybe it’s a question to ask about their location, Lowndes says. Example: “So you’re from Seattle. I had a client recently who was moving to Seattle, and I wanted to tell them about the city.”

2. Be the early bird: Get to the event early when there are fewer people there. This gives you a head start: You’ll already know a few people in the room before the rest of the crowd shows up, Lowndes says. If you arrive late, you’ll see other people already partnered up chatting, and it may be more difficult to break into the conversations.

3. Form an alliance: Lowndes refers to a “cross-introduction contract approach” as one of the most effective in meeting new people. Have a “wing man” — a fellow colleague, for example, or an instant ally you may have just met. Agree to go around the event together and introduce each other to one another’s sphere. It’ll go a long way in giving you an instant connection with another person and is less awkward than having to step out on your own.

4. Get personal: Don’t talk too much about business, but try to make conversations as personal as possible to build stronger, more memorable relationships, Lowndes says. To get there, you might lead off with a business question that ultimately can turn more personal, such as “What drew you to the real estate business?” If there’s a spouse, ask how they met. “People love talking about that,” Lowndes says. “And it’s good to show an interest in the spouse because they often feel neglected at these events.” Ask questions about similar interests you share, how they happened to be at this event, or about their area if you live in different regions.

5. Be a listener, not the talker: Find yourself talking for one minute straight without anyone else jumping in? Then, you’re talking too long, Lowndes says. Also, the fewer times you use “I,” the more relevance the conversation will have for the other person. “Try to keep the spotlight on the other person,” Lowndes says. “The more they talk about themselves, the more they’ll remember the conversation.”

Try the parroting technique to keep them talking. This is a communication technique of repeating the last few words the other person said to put the conversation back in their court. Example: “I wish that transaction had gone smoother.” You: “Gone smoother?”

This invites the other person to reveal more, thereby making them feel closer to you. Be careful not to overuse “parroting” because if they catch on to what you’re doing, the technique can feel manipulative.

6. Watch your nonverbal cues: Your body language can send thousands of subliminal messages to the other person while you’re talking, Lowndes says. Here are some of her tips:

  • Hold your head high to exude self-assurance and energy.
  • Nod to show your agreement when the other person is talking.Nodding tip: Nod your head up from neutral, then back down to parallel. It’s a more confident way of showing agreement than nodding your head down.
  • Make eye contact. Offer up warm, respectful gazes of three seconds. Avoid glances to your phone or looking around the room, which can make you appear bored with the conversation.
  • Have an open body posture. This also allows others then to join the conversation.
  • Project positive thoughts. Think of the nicest quality of that person. Your body language will, in turn, show more respect and admiration for that person. “If you are thinking anything negative, they will pick up on a negative vibe,” Lowndes says. “If you really are thinking nice thoughts about them, it’ll show. Everything you feel shows.”

7. Exchange a business card respectfully: Don’t draw your business card out too soon. It’s not a like a gun fight in an old Western movie, as some treat the exchange. Let the conversation come to a close and then say, “Oh, before I forget. Let me give you my card.”

“You are giving someone a representation of yourself,” Lowndes notes. “When you handle your card with reverence, it shows you take pride in your profession.” Here’s what she suggests: Remove your card from an attractive carrying case and present it horizontally with the script facing the other person. Write something on the card that reflects your conversation. Example: “Fun time talking to you about being a relocation expert!” You’ll no longer just be a face in the crowd when they go back through their cards later on, Lowndes says.

8. Receive a business card respectfully: When someone gives you his or her business card, treat it with the same reverence. Don’t just give it a quick glance and tuck it away in your pocket or purse. “Hold it in your hand while you talk to them,” Lowndes says. “Treat the card like it’s valuable. Comment about it, like what a nice logo or photo.” You’ll make the other person feel more valued.

9. Leave a good last impression: First impressions count, but it’s the last impression that will stick with people the longest. “If someone gives you a big hearty ‘hello,’ you feel great,” Lowndes says. “But later if they lethargically mumble ‘good-bye,’ you can’t help but subconsciously think they like you less now.” Ultimately, disappointment over the entire encounter then settles in.

End your conversation even more upbeat than how you started it. Examples: “I’m so happy I met you, John!” or “I always enjoy our conversations, Sophia.” Make the last word they hear you say be that person’s name. It’ll create a deeper bond and feel like a warmer farewell (e.g., “It’s been wonderful talking with you, John!”)

10. Don’t forget the follow-up: You laid the groundwork for a relationship. Now strengthen it by following up, which is key if a meaningful relationship is going to emerge.

Make contact again a week or so after the event. Don’t wait too long. You want to stay fresh in their memory, Lowndes says. Send an e-mail about what a pleasure it was to meet him or her, or send a link to an article that made you think about the person. Is there a way you can assist the other person? Offer up other connections, resources, or possibly even a referral. He or she will feel gratitude, and gratitude is a powerful emotion that will make them want to return the favor one day.