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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   July 2008

Time Spent Networking is Time Well-Spent

Industry events offer great opportunities to make new friends and partners, even with competitors

Most people who attend mortgage conferences, conventions and seminars plan at least to garner information from these events. Many people, however, often overlook the prime networking opportunities they offer.

But when you recognize that any chance you have to make new contacts or to get your name out there is valuable, you can then use these events to learn new information and to network for business growth.

Here are some ways that attending conferences, conventions and seminars can enhance your networking efforts.

Make new friends

Conventions, conferences and seminars provide a great opportunity to make new friends in the industry. But you need to seek them out.

If you attend a conference with friends or colleagues, be sure to distance yourself from them at the event. If you only talk with the person with whom you attend the event, you will close the door of opportunities to make new friends.

To avoid being seen as standoffish, challenge each other to a friendly competition. For example, if you are at a seminar on how to maximize the tax benefits of a mortgage, try to see who can meet the most accountants. Or challenge each other to meet the greatest number of first-time homebuyers at the seminar. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you don’t just mingle with people you already know.

Also, try not to sit by anyone you know. Even if you have only met people once or just met them before the conference started, don’t sit with them. You can speak with anyone you’ve already met at a later time. On the other hand, if you sit with new people, you get a chance to meet them. Consider changing seats after designated breaks, meals, etc. This will maximize the number of people you meet at  the event.

Of course, sitting near someone new won’t make you friends with them unless you introduce yourself. This will require a bit more effort than merely nodding and smiling, but it will be worth it. Take your seat and immediately introduce yourself with a friendly handshake. Also, try to get a business card from each person on either side of you. You’ll need it to follow up with them later.

Meet your competition

Industry events also allow you to meet your competition. This may sound counterintuitive, but getting to know your competitors can be a coup.

By meeting others in your field, you’ll hear their elevator speeches. You’ll also be privy to their specialties and thus will be able to distinguish yourself from them at this and future events. And that’s the worst-case scenario. In best-case scenarios, you may meet a friendly competitor who happens to specialize in an area of mortgage brokering that you don’t.

Consider a situation in which you meet a fellow mortgage broker while in line for coffee. Don’t shy away from maintaining a conversation even after you find out that, like you, this broker specializes in working with first- time homebuyers.

Although, technically, you work in the same market, if you continue your conversation, you may learn that this broker also specializes in commercial property loans. If you don’t have any experience in that area, you may have just met a great contact to whom you can refer your clients for assistance with commercial loans. Moreover, you may find that your new friend is desperate to find a broker with Federal Housing Administration lending experience, a service you would gladly supply to their referrals.

Make your voice heard

Networking at conventions, seminars and conferences helps you get your business message out there. While you can’t view every person you meet as a potential client -- as many will be direct competitors -- you should consider every person as a potential public relations agent for your business.

By delivering your core business message, mission or motto, you increase your brand awareness. Each person who receives your message can then share your message with others, acting as a de facto publicist for your business.

Sharpen your skills

The more you network and become comfortable with socializing, the better you’ll become at both. You’ll learn what works and what methods for striking up conversations are most comfortable for you. Sharpening these skills will make you a better -- and more successful -- mortgage broker.

No matter how you slice it, when you recognize the value of networking in all situations, you’ll realize just how many opportunities to do so abound. Understanding that networking, even with competitors, is one of the best ways to further your career as a mortgage broker will help ensure your livelihood in the mortgage industry. 


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