YPN members share strategies for better networking

We’ve all been there. At a networking event, it’s easier to hang back on the edges of the crowd and be a “wallflower” than walk up to a group of people you don’t know to start a conversation.  

Networking, however, is an important skill to develop and strategy to use to grow your real estate business, according a recent member survey of the Illinois REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN). 

So, what are some strategies for getting off the wall?

Connie Vavra

“I’ve done my fair share of wall-sitting,” admits REALTOR® Connie Vavra with RE/MAX Professionals, Bolingbrook. “However, that is not why you came to the event. It’s not why you drove one-and-a-half hours in traffic and spent money on a ticket to attend the event.” 

“My advice?” says Vavra. “Meet three new people at every event and you will know you did something right.”

Like the wallflower syndrome, it’s also easier to hang with those you already know. But that’s not how to grow your business through networking.

Brian Kwilosz

REALTOR® Brian Kwilosz with Exit Real Estate Partners in Downers Grove, teaches his agents to read the crowd. 

“Don’t ignore the people you already know. Say ‘Hi’ but then move on,” says Kwilosz. “The point is to meet new people. So, learn how to read a room.”

Says Kwilosz: “If you have two people in conversation and they are close and facing each other directly, it will probably be harder to break into that. Whereas if they are angled out a bit more, that’s more of an open invitation for you to join that group.” 

Now that you’ve made your way in, what’s a good conversation starter?

From the survey, several said make the conversation about the person you’re talking with. People like to talk about themselves. Some basic principles of the Dale Carnegie classic How to Win Friends and Influence People include encouraging people to talk about themselves, being a good listener, showing sincere interest in their interests.  

Eddie Ruettiger

The F.O.R.D. method is a technique used by REALTOR® Eddie Ruettiger with Baird & Warner, Plainfield. Ask about their family, their occupation, what they like to do for relaxation and what are their dreams. Examples of dream questions include “What have you always wanted to do?” and “If you could travel anywhere, what place would you visit?”

“I always ask potential clients ‘What do you do?’ as this almost always ends with the question ‘What do you do?’ from them,” says REALTOR® David Bovyn with Exit Real Estate Partners, Downers GroveDavid Bovyn. “So I now have my in to talk real estate.

He adds: “As far as peer networking, I like to ask personal questions to get to know someone rather than just business. Where are you from? Are you from here originally? What’s your favorite band?”

Vavra’s networking strategy focuses on building her referral base through peer-to-peer networking at REALTOR® events. There she uses the conversation starters related to the latest business tool, app or program they are using in their market. 

Says Vavra: “I also tend to ask what challenges and successes they face in their business. This question works for REALTOR® events or anyone new you are meeting. People are surprised by the question. I think they are waiting for the typical comment about the weather or a sports team.” 

REALTOR® Jayme Ahlden Fay

REALTOR® Jayme Ahlden Fay with RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign, wears a pair of attention-getting shoes. For her, it’s custom-branded “chucks,” the shoe popularized by basketball star Chuck Taylor in the 1920s. 

Says Fay: “I will often wear those to networking events as they are a natural conversation starter.”

Instead of the predictable “What company are you with?” or “Where are you located?” questions, REALTOR® Gibby Kirby with Realty Executives Success in Shorewood, uses kindness.

REALTOR® Gibby Kirby

“A genuine compliment can be one of the best ways to create a personal connection and to then get the conversation going in a less business-like fashion,” says Kirby. 

Now that you’ve finally got into the conversation, how do you get out of it? After all, you’ve met at least one or two new people, but the goal you set for the networking event was three. Time to move on.

“Saying ‘excuse me’ is still important,” says Kwilosz. “What we learn growing up about being polite and saying ‘excuse me,’ is a great way to break into a conversation and, just as importantly, a great way to get out of a conversation.” 

He adds: “I’ve been there, our seasoned networkers have all been there where you get into a conversation with a couple people and you’ll be there forever. You need to be able to break away from that but in a polite way.”  

What’s a common networking mistake?REALTOR® Rasheed Schofidiya

“When you turn it into a card giveaway. Networking is about exchanging value. Some people try to make it a sell without even building a positive conversation.” – REALTOR® Rasheed Schofidiya, Kale Realty, Chicago 

“Sometimes people come to networking events trying to sell something when in turn they don’t want to be sold to. Make a personal connection if you can, maybe you support each other’s businesses in some way.” – REALTOR® Jayme Ahlden Fay, RE/MAX Realty Associates, Champaign REALTOR® Fred Zeilner

“Just put your name out there and hope that all members will reach out to you.” – REALTOR® Fred Zeilner, Coldwell Banker Residential, Flossmoor 

“Spending too much time with one person or group. Sometimes at networking events I will find myself meeting new people but staying with them for a while rather than breaking off to meet other people. I think it would be more beneficial to know when to find a good end to the conversationREALTOR® Megan Beechen so that I can make other relationships too.” – REALTOR® Megan Beechen, Realty Executives Elite, Lemont

“I think one of the biggest mistakes is to think that every interaction should be used solely as a chance to make a referral source. While this can be a great outcome of networking, no one really likes to feel they are being ‘sold’ to, especially salespeople. It’s better to go in with a desire to make a genuine connection.” – REALTOR® Gibby Kirby, Realty Executives Success, Shorewood 

Tricks for remembering names

According to Dale Carnegie’s classic best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People, saying a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to the person you’re talking with. Here are some techniques for remembering names from members surveyed in the Illinois YPN Network survey on networking for business. 

REALTOR® Natalee Barracks-Dismuke“I associate names with actors or colors.” – REALTOR® Natalee Barracks-Dismuke, Century 21 Affiliated, St. Charles 

“I always ask for a phone number and I also ask for their Facebook info so I can add them to my real estate page. This way I can view their profile and once I have connected in that fashion I tend to remember. I also keep good notes in my CRM” – REALTOR® David Bovyn, Exit Real Estate Partners, Downers Grove 

REALTOR® Christine Coleman

“I have to repeat their name out loud as I shake their hand otherwise my mind goes blank. Using their name throughout the conversation helps reinforce it.” – REALTOR® Christine Coleman, Coleman Land Company, St. Charles

“Normally, if you have a second party with you and they give their name, the person will give their name. Otherwise I just keep saying the name with the face until it sits in my head.” – REALTOR® Eddie Ruettiger, Baird & Warner, Plainfield 

Listen Now

Learn more tips for success in your real estate career by tuning into Illinois REALTORS® YPN podcast episodes. 

And you can learn more about YPN by visiting the Illinois YPN page on the Illinois REALTORS® website and connect with us on Facebook @IllinoisYPN.

>> Listen to the networking episode of the Illinois YPN podcast for tactics to move you from wallflower to conversationalist. And build that referral base. 

>> Related blog post: 4 Takeaways from the YPN Networking Podcast

Listen Now