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Georgia industry appointments update - 11/13/2006

Nov 12, 2006

The top three mistakes most originators make while networkingBrian Hilliardmarketing, leads, networking Over the past few months, I've seen a developing trend of more and more originators using networking as a viable means for getting more business. And I don't know if the death of the refi market had anything to do with it, or maybe it was the growing public skepticism as it relates to mainstream marketing. Either way, it seems like the folks I'm talking to are getting out of the office, signing up for some networking events and meeting new prospects. So if you're new to the world of networking or have tried it in the past, but it just hasn't worked out as well as you'd hoped, here's a quick little primer to help you avoid some of the more common mistakes I see most originators make. Networking mistake #3: "Hunting" for new business Dr. Ivan Misner, president and CEO of Business Networking International, made a great point during a presentation when he said, "Networking is about farming for new contacts - not hunting them." Throughout his speech, he said that most people go about networking similar to the way our cave-dwelling ancestors did when hunting for food - aggressively and carrying a big stick. And I'd say the same is true of originators. In other words, most loan officers are so busy looking to make the big sale or meet the right agent that they approach networking simply as an exercise in sifting through enough people until they find the big score or the perfect client, the ideal prospect or agent who can literally turn their business around. They don't have time for regular people like you and me because they're too busy looking for the person who's ready to finance their home right now. This is what Dr. Misner referred to as hunting for business. On the other hand, farming for contacts requires a much different approach for building your business. These folks aren't looking for the right person at any one event, but instead are eager to plant a relationship seed with anyone they meet. It's great if that relationship grows into a deal, but if not, then that's fine too. They know that building their business through networking is like planting a garden and waiting to see what develops. They recognize that hunting might be a faster way for the quick kill sale, but in the long run, people aren't going to trust the financing of one of their largest personal assets to someone they met one time. And believe me, if you're an originator who is looking to get more business while networking, making this distinction is absolutely crucial. When you network and meet people for the first time, you want to plant the seeds for an ongoing relationship. You shouldn't be interested in whether this person is ready to finance their home right now, but instead, remain focused on what you can do to develop a rapport. Maybe it's a quick piece of advice for someone who's not actively in the market, but is open to new ideas on how someone with past credit issues can still get a home. Or maybe taking a minute to learn about this other person's business and then pointing him in the direction of someone who could move him forward. In other words, you want to become more people-focused as opposed to being sales-driven when networking and making new contacts. That's the difference between the originator who's hunting for a potential customer and someone who's willing to let the relationship grow. And don't worry, farming for contacts doesn't mean we lose track of revenue or how we can get more business. As a matter of fact, it's quite the opposite, because when the event is over and you're back at the office, you'll have plenty of time to shift gears and prioritize your new contacts into two groups: - People who are legitimately interested in using your servicessay over the next 90 days (and therefore warrant more of your time); and - Those who receive a nice little e-mail saying it was good talking to them and if you can ever help them out in the future to please let you know. Networking mistake #2: Lack of a solid networking strategy How does the saying go? "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." And believe me, when it comes to networking, not having a strategy is like shooting in the dark and having no earthly idea where your target might be. But by having a game plan of where you network, you eliminate the risk of just spinning your wheels at the wrong events since you've predetermined your prospects and where they're most likely to be. As an example, let's say you wanted to meet more Realtors? A great place to start would be your local chapter of the Women's Council of Realtors (WCR). Not only do these chapters meet each month, but they're not as well known by other affiliates who might be trying to meet the same agents as you are. Another good place to network is your state affiliate of the National Association of Realtors. I prefer the WCR to the state affiliate just because there's a lot less competition for the agents, but these venues are a virtual hotbed of Realtor activity. On the other hand, let's say you're trying to meet more retail clients before they've hooked up with an agent (and another loan officer). Then your network strategy would lead you to the Chamber of Commerce, local business associations and even political fundraising events as the elections grow near. Either way, you've identified the prospects you want to meet and put yourself in an ideal position for meeting more of those people. And take my word for it, that's a much easier way to build your business than just chasing your tail, hoping to find the next right prospect. Networking mistake #1: Viewing networking as a one-time event Part of the challenge is the misconception that networking is about meeting a bunch of new people. In other words, I've seen originators who are more concerned with how many business cards they collected rather than the number of contacts they followed up with after the fact, which is the exact wrong approach to take while networking. You see, if you meet a bunch of good contacts but you don't follow up with those folks after the event, then I'd say you didn't really network. You got out of the house. You met some nice people. But in terms of networking and creating valuable referral partners down the road, no, you didn't really network. I don't know about you, but I'm not referring (or giving) anybody any business after meeting them just one time. That's why you hear about people who go out networking one or two times, work the room, and then when no business comes out of it, they say that networking isn't for them. But in truth, they didn't actually network the right way. You see, networking is about giving yourself an opportunity for a lasting business relationship. It's about giving yourself a chance to get (and give) some referral business. It's not a one-time, shot-in-the-dark deal where you hope to find the right client, which is where I see a lot of less successful originators make their mistakes. So if you're new to the game of networking or haven't had it work for you in the past, I'd encourage you to take a look at some of these mistakes and see if you weren't inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot. Because once you're able to iron out a few of these areas, I think you'll find networking to be one of the most profitable and rewarding ways to build your business. As a motivational speaker and author of the book "Networking Like a Pro!" Brian Hilliard is recognized as an authority on showing busy originators how to get more business from everyone they meet. He may be reached at (404) 434-2826, e-mail [email protected] or visit
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