Finding the best opportunities for global networking is an important first step. However, truly capitalizing on these events requires additional planning before, during and after each meeting. Follow these tips, and it’s much more likely that your investment of time and money will return dividends, several times over.
Research is essential, starting with understanding the flow of global transactions into your market “Unless you know where your business originates, it’s impossible to know where you should go to capture a greater share of it,” points out Brett Brown, ABR, AHWD CIPS, CRB, CRS, e-PRO, RSPS, SFR of Fiddler’s Creek Realty in Naples, Florida. To that end, for example, the Naples Area Board of REALTORS® determined that 90 percent of its foreign investors were from Canada, making it a ‘no-brainer’ to focus on that market.
But you also need to research what’s happening on the other side of the equation. Do some homework on your target market and what’s important to buyers there. “NAR statistics are useful, but look at other websites and understand things like economic drivers, population, investment trends... anything that might create buyer motivation,” explains Patricia Tan, CIPS, GRI of Coldwell Banker in Sarasota, Florida.
In terms of presenting yourself at various shows, including any prepared pass-out materials, keep your focus on representing your immediate area. Buyers and agents from other parts of the world think in terms of geography and want to know they’re dealing with an expert in a particular market, rather than a generalist with minimal knowledge of a much larger area.
To the extent you’ve already done referral business with someone in another market, make plans to connect with them personally if you’ll be traveling to their area. Perhaps you’ve only communicated with them previously by phone or e-mail. But face-to-face contact, along with a heartfelt expression of thanks, can go a long way towards cementing future opportunities to work together.
Once you arrive at a networking event, whether it’s a trade show, a reception, or some other format, you may be talking with real estate professionals who could be potential resources of referral business, or consumers who are looking to purchase property. Prepare your “elevator speech”—a short summary of what you do and the value you provide. Avoid any jargon or colloquial phrases that won’t “translate” to someone from another culture or someone unfamiliar with the real estate industry.
Patricia Tan has attended numerous shows in the U.K. and, more recently, in Singapore. Her advice:
- Listen more than you speak. Use this as an opportunity to get to know other professionals— what is important to them and how you can best assist them.
- Don’t sell listings. Engage other professionals in conversations and find out what information they would be interested in—your market statistics, some of the typical pitfalls their clients may encounter when looking to invest in your country and how you may be able to help avoid them.
- Be ready to answer questions. What typical questions are their customers asking about buying property in your market and how can you help them answer those questions? A good example would be, “How will my customers be taxed on rental income if they buy an investment property?” You need to prepare answers to questions like this in order to establish your personal credibility.
- Don’t assume other real estate agents share your understanding of referrals. Every country is different and the way business is done in the U.S., for example, may be new to them. Assure them that you are willing to pay referral fees, and make use of the CIPS Referral Contract form that will help set expectations and ensure transparency in the transaction.
- For U.S.-based transactions, explain the MLS system and how they do not need to send their customer to more than one agent in a particular area.
Of course it should go without saying that a large stack of business cards will be one of the most important items in your briefcase. Check into whether the prevailing customs for exchanging cards are any different from your own—and have a system for taking notes on topics discussed, plus any particular follow-up items.
What happens after you return home may be the most important element of success or failure in your global networking efforts. Contacts made while attending a meeting will go nowhere if follow-up doesn’t occur. Be sure to respond promptly to any specific requests. But also have plans in place to nurture new contacts so they have a chance to grow into future opportunities. This is where contact management systems, social networking and content marketing strategies can play an important role.
More Ways to Make Global Connections
One of the best ways to improve your networking opportunities is to get involved! Agents who join, or better yet assume leadership roles on various committees at the local, state or national level are often called upon to participate in various meetings where foreign representatives are present. In this way, one opportunity to connect with global business representatives can easily lead to another.
Sometimes local or state associations participate as exhibitors at cross-border events and seek out members of their association to help staff their booth. This is one way you can participate in global networking events and represent your local market without committing to exhibiting on your own.
Trade missions are another way to venture into new global territory. Several local REALTOR® associations, especially those holding Ambassador Association relationships (think “Sister City” programs) host trade missions, either playing host to groups traveling from another country, or organizing overseas trips for U.S. representatives.
Another way to gain exposure and global networking opportunities is to offer to present information on a topic at an international real estate event. Many conferences include a call for presentations/ topics. Acting as a subject matter expert is an excellent way to showcase your knowledge and connect with real estate professionals in other countries. This is best accomplished, however, by working through official channels and being introduced to the primary event organizers.
These are just a few of the ways in which global networking can be accomplished and success can be assured. In any case, meeting and learning more about peoples’ interests in global real estate is one of the many rewards of participating in networking events. If you aren’t already taking advantage of these opportunities, perhaps this is the time to investigate them further.